Doctors at the Old Hall

Dr. Robert McFarlane, and other Doctors at Byers Green Hall

Robert McFarlane appears in the first census of 1841aged 20, living at Byers Green Hall (now The Old Hall) with Robert & Charlotte Newcombe, both in their 60’s. This census did not require occupations to be given so there is no way of knowing whether the Newcombes were involved in medical practice, or even Robert at this time. His place of birth is given as Scotland, theirs as Durham.

By the 1851 census the occupants are Dr.Robert McFarlane, his older sister Jessie, and a lodger Henry George HARDY , assistant surgeon, who although termed British, was born in Frederickton, America.

In August of 1854 Robert suffers fatal injuries on a journey back from Durham ,falling from his dog-cart when the horse shies on the road through Spennymoor. His standing in the community is evidenced by a beautiful stained glass window in St Peter’s Church, Byers Green.

Dr. Hardy must have taken over the practice following Robert’s death and is shown in the 1861 census with his wife Anne Elizabeth and 4 children.All survive and 3 additional children are born by 1871; the household now includes George Oliphant McKANE, born in Hexham, as a non qualified assistant.

A memorial stone to Dr Hardy, his wife and son William Henry lies near the South gate of the St Peter’s churchyard .William died on the West Africa coast in 1884. Two other sons followed a career as doctors- John George was assistant medical officer at Durham Asylum, Sedgefield in 1881; and Charles a G.P.at Heighington in 1891 & 1901 Census. Another son Frederick maybe chose a different path, in the 1911 Census he is a motor & cycle dealer in Romford Essex.

By 1881 George McKANE is the resident’ physician and surgeon’ living with his wife Catherine (nee Watford) a local farmers daughter, and their daughter Ethel and son Rudolph, along with James Smith a medical student. In the Medical Register for 1913 George McKane is a G.P. in Lincolnshire; with sons Rudolph and William Oliphant G.P.s in Cleethorpes.

Thomas KANE, born in Ireland is Byers Green’s doctor in 1891, he remains till at least 1911; a widower who had married Lucretia Lockwood in 1893. Her death in July/Aug/Sept quarter 1894 sadly corresponds to the birth of a daughter Lucretia in the same quarter of that year. Dr. Kane died at Bishop Auckland in 1938.

In 1901 Thomas PICKEN is assistant medical practitioner with Dr. Kane; and in 1911 Bruce Edgar EDGE is assistant.
Things get more hazy after the Census information ends, but during the 1930’s , in living memory for some , the local doctors were Dr. A.C.Farquharson; and Dr S.D. JOUHAR probably the last doctor to live in The Old Hall .Dr. Jouhar was born in the Punjab in 1901and came to England in the 1920’s, qualifying as a doctor in 1931, Byers Green was probably his first practice.