Wednesday, 4 January 2012

In Conversation with Brian Clarke L1 Oral History Chinatown 2005 Moira Kenny

B. One of the most interesting characters that I have come across in Liverpool history particularly in the field of medicine is a guy called Yuen Thomas he came originally from Wales. Bit of background, before he arrived in Liverpool he descended from the Anglesey Bone Setters and these were people who specialised in setting the bones or repairing the bones of animals of course if you had a broken arm it was easier to go and see a bone setter than to travel miles to see a surgeon who was sufficiently competent to set bones. In those days I believe more limbs were taken off by surgeons rather than trying the intricate skills it needed to repair them.

So Yuen Thomas travelled with his father to Liverpool. Yuen Thomas was born in 1834 by 1857 he was a member of the Royal College of Surgeons. He didn’t actually join his father in his practice which was then in Great Crosshall Street until about 1858 but then Thomas as all sons decided to set up his own practice which was actually his home and a clinic was at 32 Hardy Street in Liverpool One and that was in 1856 and continued there until about 1859 he continued there but also set up premises at 11 Nelson Street and that is where he would hold most of his clinics and he would manufacture splints and other supports for broken limbs. He retained Hardy Street as a private clinic.

Most of the work he did was with the poor and in fact he even set up a Sunday clinic which he and his wife ran. That is because Sunday is one of the few days off that people had in those days and would be able to attend his clinic without absenting themselves from work or requiring a member of the family to bring them along.

Most of the people he would treat would be people injured at work in those days Health and Safety was another one hundred years off. If people broke a limb and they were at work they simply would not get paid, there was no National Health System and they relied on the benevolence of local surgeons or in this case a local orthopaedic surgeon. I must say that at this time orthopaedic surgeons practice was a separate practice, as I hinted at before a surgeon might attempt but more often would just remove the limb.

He also produced a considerable amount of publications at that time which would leave orthopaedic practice a practice in its own right. The School of Orthopaedic Surgery was set up quite late in Liverpool University where it now has a seat as I say prior to that it was gathered up together with the surgeons within a surgery.

The equipment which Yuen Thomas would design and manufacture would be made out of leather and metal so he became quite a skilled leather and metal worker, a lot of those designs are in use today and a lot of practices and practices of bone setting that originated are still in use today.