Saturday, January 12, 2013

Who Was Your Ancestral Doctor?
Link courtesy of:

I have a cousin in Scotland, who contacted me because of this blog.  When she first contacted me, we weren’t cousins, but we quickly became friends looking to be cousins.  She still lives in the town that our ancestors came from in Scotland and, due to her research, now we are cousins, too.  When my dad passed away, she sent me sweet notes and links and pictures of the town in Scotland almost every day.  It helped tremendously- more than she will know.  A couple of weeks ago she sent me the link below.  It’s a website dedicated to the town of Carluke, Scotland.  This link in particular is about the town doctor, who also was a geologist and paleontologist.

Since our Connor family lived in Carluke during the time of the doctor, it’s rather likely that he called on them.  While there are no records of our direct coal mining family’s daily doings, it sure is fun to read about the time and the town from which they came.  In reading about Dr. Daniel Reid Rankin (born 1805, died 1882), I enjoyed thinking that our Connors knew him and wondering what their opinions were of the wonderfully strange old fellow.

Dr. Rankin was described as humble, honest, brilliant and unfashionable.  He didn’t like to be the center of attention, never even bothering to pick up awards or have his name on a book he authored.  One time, he had a “hemorrhage” over being asked to instruct a class.  He lived in a small run-down thatched cottage at the corner of Market Place that is now the health center of Carluke.  He began his carrier intending to be a lawyer, but quickly changed to the study of medicine, obtaining his degree in 1829.

Handsome with long red hair, big bright blue eyes and an athletic frame, he was tall and wore tight-fitting coat with a flowing skirt, tight knee pants and riding boots.  Often, he wore a silk hat.  Dr. Rankin wasn’t religious- in fact, he was openly not religious. He loved to dance and loved to (yes, you are reading this right) stand on his head.  While it’s said that he lacked ambition, from reading about him, I think it’s more correct to say that he longed for learning, but not necessarily documenting that learning.  He didn’t care for formalities and, when faced with something he disagreed with, (here it comes…) he’d stand on his head.

Did our ancestors ever witness his head-standing?  Were they shocked and tsssking or did they applaud and laugh, egging him on?  When Dr. Rankin came for a house call, he would soar his horse right over the wall into your garden and soar back out the same way.   He would walk right into your house- no knocking.  If you weren’t home, he’d move all your chairs to the middle of the room and tell you later that you weren’t home so he left his calling card.  Did our Connors every have their furniture “Rankin-ized”?  

He had a great sense of humor, teasing those praying, headed to church, or gossiping about their neighbors.  In addition to a sense of humor, he also apparently had a live crocodile as a pet.  A pet that would escape and terrorize the neighborhood.  Did the crocodile ever bug our ancestors?  Did they shoo it with a broomstick?  Did he ever tease our ancestors about their gossip or anything at all?

As a doctor, he had the foresight to hate smoking and excess drinking.  He also didn’t care about money, often not billing at all even for the wealthy in town.  If they remembered and insisted, he’d ask for some produce and have it delivered to a poor patient of his. Did our really great grandparents ever get a basket of fruit?  Did they ever give one?

His collection of fossils sounds like it was better than any others of the time.  It truly sounds like the famous geologists of the time, including Charles Darwin, were literally drooling over his collection.  Darwin’s friend Dr. Huxley (“I’d rather be descendent from an ape than a bishop!”) actually came to Carluke to see the fossils, but arrived too late and then got food poisoning and never did see them.  Did our great great great greatgrandparents ever see those fossils?

Doctor Daniel Reid Rankin died in March 21, 1882 and had strict instructions that it was to have no ceremony and no headstone (although no one listened to that part and they did erect a headstone).    There is a granite plaque in Rankin Square with fossils carved into it in his honor.  I hope to see it one day.  Maybe stand on my head next to it.

1 comment:

  1. Debiie, love it, love it, love it you make him sound so real, Jackie H x