Friday, 7 June 2013

A menu to remember…

This week, our Project Archivist, Louise, has been looking at the links between LHSA and University of Edinburgh collections…

Recently, I volunteered to contribute an article to the Working Archive campaign, run by the Scottish Council on Archives. The campaign both concentrates on the working lives of Scottish individuals and companies reflected in our archives and the way in which archives themselves work to preserve this rich heritage. Knowing that Norman Dott’s widow, Peggy, deposited personal papers and records of Dott’s university teaching career with Edinburgh University Archives in the years following her husband’s death in 1973, I decided to sit on the opposite side of the reading room desk and become a researcher…

One of my favourite items from these papers is a menu from a dinner commemorating the Freedom of the City of Edinburgh awarded to Dott in October 1962. Dott was born and educated in the Scottish capital, basing his entire career in the city – the award and resulting ceremony was one of his proudest achievements (both Dott’s papers in the University and his case notes contain letters from past patients congratulating him on the award). Here is the menu:

The dinner menu: GB 237 Coll32-A24

Highlights include ‘Tortue Clair Tic Doloureux’ (tic doloureux turtle soup) and ‘Cerveilles de veau Craniotomie’ (craniotomy calves’ brains)! There is also a (perhaps deliberate?) spattering of French inaccuracy here – ‘brain’ is in fact ‘cervelle’, whilst turtle soup is in reality ‘tortue claire’ – a comment that Dott’s surgical ability may have triumphed above his linguistic one in some people’s imaginations perhaps? A craniotomy is an operation in which the skull flap is removed in order to access the brain, whilst ‘tic doloureux’ is another name for trigeminal neuralgia – severe pain emanating from the trigeminal nerve in the face – a condition upon which Dott frequently gave injections or operated, freeing hundreds of patients from day-to-day agony.

If the juxtaposition of surgery and fine dining puts you off your dinner, the menu also includes a fine caricature of the man himself, drawn by Scotsman resident caricaturist, Emilio Coia:

Coia cariacature: GB 237 Coll32-A24

As numerous and varied as the case notes that I am working with may be, they only document part of Dott’s career: his clinical practice. As I progress with the project, I look forward to discovering a remarkable Scottish working life within and across Scottish working archival collections – but perhaps I’ll skip the turtle soup!

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