History of the SPS - 1922-1962

The Scottish Paediatric Society arose logically out of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Paediatric Club, which was founded in July, 1922, by ten medical men in Glasgow and Edinburgh, whose main interest was in diseases of children.

Stanley Graham

The following is reprinted from the 1962 Booklet. Stanley Graham was a guest at the First meeting of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Paediatric Club in July 1922.

The Foreword, contributed by the two surviving members of the original ten, explains the objects of the Club and the nature of the meetings. These were held twice yearly, alternately in Edinburgh and Glasgow. Minutes were kept by the Secretary, but there were no formal speeches, and the chairman, usually one of the hosts, was appointed at the beginning of the meeting, his only duty being to announce the next speaker. Cases of unusual interest were shown before tea, followed by two or three short papers on current research given by members or guests. Rickets and marasmus were the major problems of the day and, at the early meetings, one or other was sure to be on the agenda.

Discussion was often vigorous, and for the guests and the junior staff (who were allowed to attend) it was a rewarding experience to listen to the quiet hesitant voice of John Thomson in argument with the more aggressive members of the Club. Reports of laboratory tests and biochemical confirmation of the clinical diagnosis were conspicuously absent. In the early twenties most of the tests used today were not yet known; even the erythrocyte sedimentation rate was not in clinical use and micro-chemical methods were in their infancy.

For the first few years, the members and their guests dined in the homes of their hosts – John Thomson, Charles McNeil or Lewis Thatcher, in Edinburgh, and Leonard Findlay, Geoffrey Fleming or James Greenless, in Glasgow. Soon the increasing number of guests and the social revolution, which had begun at the end of the First World War, made this impossible and, beginning with the summer meeting in 1927, members and guests dined at an hotel, as in the custom of most societies today. Meetings were held regularly, except for a few occasions during the Second World War when, for obvious reasons, they were either curtailed or omitted altogether.

As the years passed, paediatrics became established as a special branch of medicine worthy of a department of its own in the medical schools of the country. In 1924, a chair of Medical Paediatrics (later changed to Child Health) was founded in Glasgow, with Leonard Findlay as the first professor. Charles McNeil was appointed as the first holder of the newly created chair of Child Life and Health at Edinburgh University in 1931. The other two Scottish universities soon followed, John Craig being appointed to the chair in Aberdeen in 1947 and John Henderson at St. Andrew’s four years later.

In 1942, at the summer meeting, the future activities of the Club were discussed, especially methods of securing wider recognition of the importance of paediatrics, not only in academic medicine, but in general practice as well. It was suggested that they should be extended to include all aspects of the health of children, and closer co-operation with the Child Welfare Departments of the local authorities was envisaged. A memorandum was drawn up for the Chief Medical Office at the Department of Health for Scotland, who was to be consulted about its distribution.

According to the minutes of the meetings at that time, nothing further was done. In retrospect, submission of such a memorandum would probably have been ill-timed, for the dark days of war were still upon us and post-war planning had yet to come. Special mention is made of this, however, because it is the only excursion, into the field of administrative paediatrics initiated by a Society whose activities have always been confined to clinical paediatrics.

In 1945, at the end of the Second World War, there were twenty-three members, including three from Newcastle – James Spence and Glen Davison, who had been invited to join in 1924 and later, A.G. Ogilvie. After the war, these three members helped to form a local society of their own. Of the original ten members of the Club, only two were still engaged in the practice and teaching of paediatrics – Geoffrey Fleming and Charles McNeil. It seemed obvious that in the post-war years, as the staff of the hospitals increased, so also would the potential membership, and in the four university centres were was an increasing number of men who were devoting their time exclusively to paediatrics, either as teachers or in research. The meetings were well attended and often there were almost as many guests as members. Some change seemed imminent.

Although life in general at that time was far removed from normal, and severe restrictions were still in force, the members of the Club thought it wise to extend the membership and at the same time establish the Club as a society with a constitution and office-bearers. Accordingly at the summer meeting on 7th June, 1946, it was suggested that the name be changed to "The Scottish Paediatric Society", and that a constitution be drawn up for discussion at the winter meeting. This was done. On 29th November, 1946, the new constitution and the change of name were approved. The membership was limited to thirty. Geoffrey Fleming was elected as the first president, and George Montgomery (now Professor of Pathology at the University of Edinburgh) the secretary and treasurer.

The first meeting of the new Society (the 41st of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Paediatric Club) was held in Edinburgh on the 27th June, 1947. It is sad to have to record that one of the first duties of the new president was to announce the deaths of Leonard Findlay, a founder member of the club, and Noah Morris, a member since 1927, both of whom had done so much to further the interests of paediatrics between the wars. At this meeting it was also decided to admit paediatric surgeons to the Society, but it was later learned that the surgeons were forming a club of their own on the lines of the old medical club.

The meetings of the Scottish Paediatric Society still follow the same pattern as those of the Club and are now held in the four university cities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee. On two occasions special meetings have been held in Inverness by the courtesy of Patrick MacArthur, who is paediatrician to the Northern Regional Hospital Board. The popularity of the Society is indicated by the fact that, in 1952, the membership was increased to 40, in 1955 to 50, and in 1962 to 60. Membership is still eagerly sought, and the members profit not only by discussion of clinical problems, but also by the friendly relations with their colleagues from other centres.