Dr Bird with his three sons
image: Godalming Museum, ref B983.3.1
 
 

Gerald Francis Bird (1878-1940) was the Medical Officer of Health for Godalming 1909-1923. He was born at 61, Belsize Park Gardens, the son of Gerald Francis Bird, a solicitor, and Jane Mary (née Shepheard).

In 1892 Gerald went to Harrow and in 1897 to Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1900 he gained his MA and in 1905 qualified as Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (MB and BChir) and was a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons (MRCS) and Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians (LRCP). He worked at the London Hospital in Whitechapel as house physician and house surgeon (1899-1906), and clinical assistant at the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street.

In 1906 Gerald came to Godalming to join Dr Bertram William Bond’s medical practice at The Square as a partner in the firm of Bond & Bird, surgeons. Dr Paget Dundas Minchin who lived at the Old Croft (now Café Nero) resigned as Godalming’s Medical Officer of Health. On the 3rd February 1909 Gerald was appointed to the position at a salary of £75 per annum alongside his private practice. He was medical officer for the Meath Home.

On the 12th January 1910 at All Saints Margaret Street, Marylebone, Gerald of 74 Wells Street married Madeline Bullivant, only daughter of William Pelham Bullivant, director of Bullivants, makers of wire rope. They moved to the Old Croft and their first son, Gerald Pelham Bird, was born there and wrote, A Childhood Memory 1910-1920.

In 1910 Gerald gave his first annual report. He noted a remarkable absence of infectious disease, below average births and infant mortality, and longevity of the inhabitants. The water supply had a high degree of purity, milk supply was satisfactory, sewage was dealt with efficiently, but overcrowding was the principal nuisance and there was only one fully certified midwife. In 1915 he gave his sixth annual report. He listed notifiable diseases; scarlet fever was prevalent; a chickenpox outbreak in Farncombe meant he had to close the school for a fortnight. The water supply was affected by high floods and increase in population due to the War. There were two registered cow-keepers, five registered milk shops, 12 slaughter-houses, 14 bake houses and 90 registered workshops all requiring inspection. There were 2,013 houses with no further room for building on a large scale.

 

Dr Bird with the staff and patients at the Red Cross hospital in Charterhouse Sanatorium:
He was the local Medical Officer of Health and was in charge of the sanatorium
image: Godalming Museum, ref B983.3.3

 

In 1914 he was Officer in Charge of the military hospital set up by the British Red Cross at Charterhouse School Sanatorium and their first wounded men arrived in October. In 1915 Gerald, due to lack of military medical men, applied for a commission in the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC). He carried out desert water reconnaissance in Egypt (1916-17), as he had previous experience “for the excellent standard of purity in the water supply (Godalming was one of the first to own its own water supply)” and for this work was awarded the Military Cross (MC) in 1918. He was posted to Lord Allenby’s staff (1917-18) as Deputy Assistant Director of Medical Services (DADMS) and promoted to Major.

 

Dr Bird in the RAMC
image: Godalming Museum, ref B983.3.7

 

In 1919 Gerald resigned as Medical Officer of Health as he was moving to Basingfield, Basingstoke. Dr Bond took over but ill health caused him to resign after a year and Gerald’s share of their practice was sold. In 1923 Gerald’s son, Thomas Arthur Bird, died aged 10. Gerald travelled abroad c.1925-34 and in 1925 a daughter, Elizabeth Mary, was born after four sons. In 1938 his son, James Bullivant, died, aged 16. Gerald died on the 19th June 1940, aged 61, and his wife died in 1941.

Godalming Museum © 2014

 

 

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