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Naturalists' Society


Cymdeithas Naturiaethwr
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Donald Rose Paterson M.D., F.R.C.P., F.S.A. (1862-1939) 30th and 52nd President


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Dr D R Paterson and D Sibbering-Jones 24-09-1921 from the Society Archives

Dr D R Paterson and D Sibbering-Jones 24-09-1921 from the Society Archives

from The transactions. LXXII - LXXVIII (1939-1945) (Note individual transactions were suspended for the duration of the war)

OBITUARY DONALD ROSE PATERSON, M.D., F.R.C.P., F.S.A.

Donald Rose Paterson was born at Inverness on September 20th, 1862, and died at the Cardiff Royal Infirmary on May 23rd, 1939. In his passing the medical profession lost a figure of outstanding ability, and our society one of its most distinguished ornaments and one of its most devoted members.

He entered the University of Edinburgh in 1877, graduated as M.B., C.M., with honours in 1883, M.D. with commendation in 1887, and was elected to the Fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians in 1926. During his Academic career he was medallist in six classes and prizeman in three. In the year after his graduation he accepted the appointment of house surgeon to the Cardiff Infirmary, and was associated with it for all the rest of his life. Afterwards he practised as a consulting physician, making as his speciality affections of the throat, ear and nose. Within his chosen sphere he made notable original contributions to medical science, recorded in a number of technical papers, of which those who are most competent to know speak most highly. As the writer in the British Medical Journal said His special work was conducted throughout with great skill and efficiency and the immediate use of new methods of diagnosis and treatment. At the Infirmary, order, punctuality and expedition characterized his large department, and when the Medical School developed he became a most efficient teacher. His abilities brought him a large private practice from many quarters. His publications were numerous, and he was a constant contributor to specialist discussions, both at home and abroad."

In the affairs of our Society he took a most active and distinguished part. He became a member in 1885, and was elected a member of the Council in 1890, so that he was a member of the society for 54 years, and of the Council for 49 years. He was President both of the Biological and Archaeological sections, and twice President of the Society itself, in 1902/3 and in 1924/5. For several years he was editor of the Society's Transactions. In 1936 the Society conferred upon him the greatest distinction that was in its power to bestow -- election as an honorary member. Those who were present will long remember the meeting in the Lecture Theatre of the National Museum when the election took place, the enthusiasm with which the* proposal was received, and the modesty, humour and graciousness of his speech in reply.

He was an untiring walker and a keen fisherman and his earlier interests were centred in ornithology. For many years the Ornithological Notes were contributed jointly by Mr. T. W. Proger and himself-the fruit of many long walks in the Vale of Glamorgan and elsewhere. In his later years, without losing any of his interest in natural history, he became increasingly devoted to archaeology. His papers on manorial history are the result, as might be expected, of painstaking research, and his contributions to the history of the town that he had made his home are of permanent value.

His attainments as a linguist attracted him to the difficult and thorny subject of place names, and his attachment to the Scandinavian countries led to his particular interest in the Northern languages. Following on the earlier work of Mr. A. G. Moffat, of Swansea, he undertook a detailed investigation of the Scandinavian influence on the place names of south-east Wales. The results appeared in three notable papers in Archaeologia Cambrensis and in the presidential address to our Society, subsequently reprinted under the title of Early Cardiff. They are his most distinctive and original contribution to archaeology they created something of a sensation at the time, and are likely to be a permanent influence. As a pioneer he may have been inclined at times to push the argument a little far, and to have favoured a Scandinavian interpretation when an English one was equally probable but the main basis of his thesis stands uncontradicted, however distasteful it may be. to enthusiasts in other directions. It is to be regretted that he did not digest these papers into one comprehensive study, but (as he explained to the present writer) he was awaiting the results of further investigations into Scandinavian philology.

In museum matters he took a deep interest. In 1904 he was appointed honorary curator of the Cardiff Museum, and held the appointment until the Cardiff Institution was merged in the National Museum of Wales. He took a great part in the movement for the establishment of the National Museum, and on its formation became an original member both of its Council and Board of Governors, and served on the Archaeology and Art, Science, and Finance Committees. The Museum owes much to his sage counsel in cumber. He was an admirable committeeman, saying little or nothing while the course of discussion seemed to him to be on right lines, but when it did not, intervening with quiet and convincing words that usually appealed to his fellow members as essentially correct. It is recorded that at the committee of the Royal Infirmary immediately before his fatal seizure almost his last words were, "We must be sympathetic."

Perhaps I may be allowed to end on a personal note. To Paterson's encouragement and infectious enthusiasm I owe much of my interest in and knowledge of archaeology, and I am grateful for the opportunity now afforded of paying a last tribute of affection and respect to a careful scholar, a sincere friend, and a great gentleman.

In 1897 he married Constance Mary, elder daughter of Richard Baker-Gabb, of Abergavenny. They had four children, three, sons and one daughter. The eldest son was killed at the battle of Passchendaele in October, 1917, when serving as an officer in the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders.

H. J. Randall

That last point is of interest in that no mention of his own service which is recorded in Volume XLVIII of the transactions

List Of Members Of The Society, And Of The Sections, On Service With His Majesty's Forces At The 1st January, 1916

Donald R. Paterson, M.D., Major, R.A.M.C. (T.)

There are quite a few newspaper aricles that refer to him in the National Library of Wales scanned newspapers. Most of these are reports of cases he was called to or on opinions he rendered in legal or claims cases, and a number regarding fund raising especially in relation to the infirmary. He was also involved in the "War against consumption" (tuberculosis) and campaigining for the need to disinfect clothing and improvements in hygene. In the Evening Express of 14th October 1907 it was noted that he won the Porthcawl Open Singles Golf with a net score of 71.



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