Aegophony: a curious quest

Medicine Matters
Jul 5 · 3 min read

Trying to find out more about a pamphlet I discovered in a charity shop in Nailsworth, Gloucestershire, in September 2018, I came across a reference to Medicine Matters from 2013. An article drew attention to a curiosity, the very same publication, Aegophony, described as ‘a collection of verses in a 19-page printed pamphlet’.

I was intrigued by Aegophony, its fragile condition and the not everyone’s cup of tea nature of the poems that medical students or junior colleagues might write in connection with a rag week publication or similar in-house magazine.

The interesting aspect of the copy found in a charity shop are is its annotations. These shed light on eminent surgeons, physicians and others who were at the Leeds School of Medicine at the time of its publication (possibly between 1920 and 1923) and who may feature in the poems.

There are 11 annotations, the first, the name Allan Downie, inscribed in the top right hand corner of the front cover, above the striking image of the goat in silhouette. I have been unable to identify an Allan Downie linked with the School but wonder whether he may be G.A.D, the author of most of the poems.

All annotations, generally a name and the person’s role, are in blue ink and in the same hand and, other than Allan Downie’s, are located next to specific poems. Some have the dagger symbol next to the name which suggests that the person was deceased at the time the annotation was added. The dagger symbol applied to Braithwaite, Dobson and Richardson shows from the obituary data given below that the annotations must have been added between 1942 and 1967.

From sources such as the Royal College of Surgeons’ Plarr’s Lives of the Fellows Online and the Royal College of Physicians’ Lives of the Fellows, I have identified six of the surgeons and physicians named in the annotations and have listed them below together with the poem linked to them:

Leonard Ralph Braithwaite (1878–1942): Eructations, verse 2 (page 9)

Joseph Coy Le Fleming Burrow (1888–1967): A cautionary tale (page 18)

Joseph Faulkner Dobson (1874–1934): Surgeons at play (page 3)

Alfred Richardson (1884–1934): Riches (page 15)

Charles Wilfred Vining, paediatrician (1883–1967): Laments, (page 17), verse 4, an extract below:

Two million surplus babies,

Two million crowded seats,

Four million surplus sticky lips

Still sucking surplus teats…

The sixth may be George William Watson (1877–1956): Eructations, verse 1 (page 9), the annotator adding ‘emphasis on the ā in — ātion’. Every line of the 33 ends with a word ending in — ation, from desperation to innovation but not annotation. Another is almost certainly Dr J.P.Bibby; Who? (page 10), Physician-in-Charge of the Venereal Diseases Department.

Fred gains the epithet O.P. [Outpatients] chief clerk: Hymn No. — — (page 14), and Horace Broadbent: Blood and sand (page 10), gets a mention as Post-Mortem Room porter, a verse beside his annotation attributed to Horace:

Ere’s ‘is bleedin’ ‘eart!

An’ ‘ere’s ‘is bleedin’ brain!

Well! Ah’ve stitched ‘is bleedin’ body up

So chuck ’em dahn’t drain!

One annotated name or set of initials is undecipherable but the workplace is clear: ‘in the P.M. room’: ‘Ad nauseam’ (page 5).

John Tuck

Medicine Matters — Leeds School of Medicine

News from our School of Medicine

Medicine Matters

Written by

Stories, news and reviews from the Leeds School of Medicine at the University of Leeds

Medicine Matters — Leeds School of Medicine

News from our School of Medicine

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade