Barbers Company Crest
The Barbers' Company

On this Day – 4 January 1924

On this day in 1924 Sir John Tweedy F.R.C.S. Master of the Barbers’ Company 1908 and first Vicary Lecturer in 1919, died at his London home on Harley Street. Born in Stockton-on-Tees in 1849, he studied medicine at University College Hospital, qualifying in 1872. Frail health led him away from general surgery to decide upon a career in ophthalmic surgery. In 1873 became a Clinical Assistant at the Royal London Ophthalmic Hospital, Moorfields, progressing to Consulting Surgeon in 1900.  On his retirement he was elected Emeritus Professor of Ophthalmology at the College.

President of the Royal College of Surgeons from 1903-1906, he was admitted to the Freedom of the Worshipful Company of Barbers in 1905 and knighted in 1906. In 1908, when the Company celebrated its sixth centenary, Sir John was elected Master. His obituary in the British Medical Journal indicated that the “history of medicine was one of Tweedy’s hobbies, and he undoubtedly enjoyed the compliment thus paid him.” It is thought that Sidney Young, Master in 1894 was responsible for Sir John joining the Company, thus bringing about the rapprochement between Barbers and Surgeons after they had split 160 years prior.

With interests in history, politics and journalism Tweedy was a regular contributor to The Lancet, and happily for the Company his wide-ranging skills extended also to public speaking. His BMJ obituarist wrote that:

“Very appropriately, when the Barbers’ Company founded at the Royal College of Surgeons the Thomas Vicary Lecture Sir John Tweedy was appointed to deliver the first lecture in December, 1919. His subject was The Surgical Tradition.

…Tweedy was an excellent speaker whether in a set oration or after dinner; he was always clear and logical, rather slow and precise in utterance, making his points deliberately – very pleasant to listen to. His speeches were imbued with kindliness, full of sweet reasonableness, redolent of the learning his modesty seemed to wish to conceal, animated by quiet humour, and revealing a mind self-contained, broad, and far-seeing. A specialist of specialists, he had a keen sympathy for the general practitioner, and believed that with his standard of knowledge and conduct lay the present reputation of the profession and the future of medicine in the widest sense.”

Sir John Tweedy. Source: Wellcome Collection, under Licence: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Sir John Tweedy. Source: Wellcome Collection, under Licence: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)