AFTER TRINITY, BEFORE KATE FERDINAND RICHARD HOLMES MERRICK/MEYRICK
PERTH, SCOTLAND THEN BACK TO DUBLIN 1898-99
The Medical Directory of 1899, the year after he graduated, still has Ferdinand living at home at 3 Palmerston Road, where he probably lived throughout his time at Trinity. After all if you live in such a privileged environment why would you swap it for more meagre student dwellings? By 1900 though, he had his first job as an assistant medical officer, in Scotland, which is a long way away from Dublin. Was he running away, was this anything to do with Kate’s engagement, or was it the only job he could get? It is certainly possible that he was still seeing Kate at this time, her vagueness about dates, and the nature of the attachment, would make this highly possible. Maybe he left when she became engaged.
Whatever was going on (or not going on) with Kate, his first job was at the James Murray Royal Asylum in Perth in Eastern Scotland’s Tayside, up the Firth of Tay from Dundee. So much for all that gynaecology and obstetrics, that Trinity College insisted upon. The hospital had been founded in 1829 by James Murray, a labourer who came into a large inheritance, which he left for the setting up of the hospital. When Ferdinand was there the hospital was under the direction of A. R. Urquhart who seems to have been a leader in his field - so a good place to start a career. Ferdinand worked all of his life in the field of mental health, so whether this was a direction that he took because this is what he wanted to do, or whether, like many of us, the first job he was offered just led him that way - we shall never know.
However, within a year Ferdinand was back in Ireland. Later in the 1900 Medical Directory, he is an Assistant Physician at the Hampstead and Highfield Private Lunatic Asylum, Glasnevin, Dublin. The hospital was run by the Eustace family. A 1928 obituary of one of them describes the hospital thus:
“Near Glasnevin and Drumcoodra, in Co. Dublin, there is a happy colony for mental patients at Hampstead and Highfield. The latter especially has an extensive view of the beautiful Dublin Bay, with the Co. Dublin and Co. Wicklow mountains for a background.
Villas, bungalows and dainty cottages are to be found in an extensive demesne, and near them are artistically laid out gardens and a large, well-stocked farm with the most modern farm buildings.
In the self-supporting, well-managed and delightful estate, where Sir Robert Steele, the author of the Tatler, resided, and which Dean Swift often visited, three generations of the Eustace family have devoted themselves for a period of more than 100 years to the treatment of mental patients of the private class.”
Although it’s an obituary, this first part reads like a glossy advertisement. There were beds for 40 male and 20 female patients, so it must have been pretty exclusive, and no doubt, expensive.
Did he come back to Ireland because he missed Kate? Did she write to him? Again we shall never know. What we do know is that after their first meeting at the Trinity College races, Kate became engaged to a very rich man, somewhat against her will, and Ferdinand went to Scotland. Kate talks about the misery of the days of her engagement, but actually it must have been at least a couple of years, or else she became engaged well after she and Ferdinand had met. Maybe the engagement is what brought him home, maybe it’s what sent him away. Whatever the reason, she writes in her autobiography, “No sooner did my medical student come back to Ireland - he had blossomed out now into ‘Dr. Meyrick’ - than I poured out the whole wretched story to him. His reply took the form of a simple invitation to marry him instead. Amid universal protests I broke off my engagement, and in six weeks I was married and on my way to England with my husband.”
What she omits to mention is that she was very possibly pregnant. Without getting her first child’s birth certificate, I cannot be sure, but going on the age (10 months) she is given in the 1901 census which was taken on 31st March she would have been born in May/June 1900 - six months after her parents’ wedding. They married in haste, by licence and no doubt they left for England to get away from prying eyes, although the family obviously caved in as the witnesses were his father and her grandfather.
James Murray Asylum, Perth
Corny I know, but that’s how Kate’s memoirs read!