Our earliest photograph of RIE residents, 1854 (P/PLI/S/294)
Page from Rules Subscribed by Resident Physicians and Surgeons (1895-1928) from October 1921. Can you spot and famous names? (LHB1/114/1)
One set of records that stood out to me was the log books of the Residents’ Mess – what would a canteen log book be like, I wondered naively? In fact, a ‘Mess’ referred to each new intake of residents. Looking at the Residents’ Mess log book from 1914 to 1915, it is a curious document, recording the lighter side of clinical life with an entry for each day. There are in-jokes lost in the interceding years, nicknames, some decidedly savoury language and an almost daily recording of fines handed down to members of the Mess. Here is a more than typical (and relatively tame!) page:
Page from Log Book of Residents' Mess 1914 - 1915 (LHB1/115/4)
The Mess Log from 1914 has more detail about the parade, which took place every Christmas Eve at 11pm from the Surgical Outpatients’ Department (SOPD), and lists in delightful detail the individual outfits of each member taking part, including the prize-winner, Dr W A Alexander, who cut a dash as a ‘ballet girl’. Dr Alexander was far from alone, since ‘there was a strong majority of ladies of all ages, nationalities and description from Little Red Riding Hood up to the fully developed butterflys [sic.]’.
Page mentioning the residents' outfits from the Log Book of the Residents' Mess 1914-1915 (LHB1/115/4)
RIE Residents, Winter 1914 (LHSA photographic collection)
And to prove that the parade was not an isolated occurrence, here's an early twentieth century image of residents in their finery:
Residents taking a break from their hospital white coats, early twentieth century (P/PL1/R/008)
The residents also produced a light-hearted magazine, the Infirmary Independent, of which we have the first (and perhaps only!) edition from 1913. It serialised stories, published satirical poems, and included outlines of out-of-work activities, including theatre and sports.
Cover and first page of The Infirmary Independent, 1913 (LHB1/115/12)
What we have left from the residents' off-duty life is at times funny, sometimes (to our twenty-first century ears) bordering on the (or actually) offensive, but reveals a world lost in time. This world was undoubtedly a privileged one, since residents had the advantage of an elite education and received no salaries from the RIE before the NHS, but would come to rely for their income on private practice.
Residents' event invitation sent to Dr W A Alexander, the fancy dress competition winner! (LHB1/115/7)
And if you ever wondered what the Mess actually had for their dinner every night, we can tell you that as well: