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The Infamous Dr. George Turnavine Budd PDF Print E-mail
I was recently contacted by the author Patrick Casey who maintains a website that is dedicated to the history of Clifton Rugby Football Club (see here).   He informs me that he has located only the third known photograph of George Turnavine Budd (hereafter GTB), the one-time friend and partner of Arthur Conan Doyle (hereafter ACD).  To view this newly discovered image click here and then scroll down the page.

Between 1876 and 1881, ACD was an undergraduate student at Edinburgh University Medical School.  In 1879, he met and befriended GTB (3 November 1855 - 28 February 1889), a final year medical student.  GTB belonged to an influential family of largely Devon-born physicians and was nearly four years older than ACD (22 May 1859 - 7 July 1930).  During their medical studies both ACD and GTB were lectured by Professor Joseph Bell who is perhaps best remembered as being the inspiration for the literary character Sherlock Holmes

Between April and June 1882, GTB employed the newly qualified ACD as a junior medical partner at his surgery in Durnford Street in the affluent town of East Stonehouse (now a district of Plymouth).  During their seven week partnership, ACD resided with GTB and his young wife in a splendid apartment at Elliot Terrace, which overlooks Plymouth Sound.  However, ACD soon became concerned about his partner’s unorthodox approach to medicine, and began to doubt whether he could earn a living.

During June 1882, GTB and ACD dissolved their partnership.  ACD decided to open his own surgery and "went prospecting to Tavistock in Devon but could not see anything to suit".  On-route, he stopped at a public house in Roborough.  This excursion inspired him to write an article entitled Dry Plates on a Wet Moor that was published in the British Journal of Photography in November 1882.  The “genius” referred to in this article is probably GTB, who also appears in a short story entitled Crabbe’s Practice (1884).  Later, ACD referred to GTB as ‘Dr James Cullingworth’ in a book entitled The Stark Munro Letters (1895).

On 24 June 1882, ACD departed from Plymouth aboard a steamship that was bound for Portsmouth in Hampshire.  He later recalled that he was armed with only £10.00 in his pocket and a “devil-may-care optimism of youth as to the future”.  By 1 July 1882, ACD had opened his own practice at 1 Bush Villas in Southsea but business was slow, and so he decided to write stories in order to supplement his income.

In 1912, ACD had a serialised tale entitled The Lost World published in The Strand Magazine that features a brutish character called Professor George Challenger.  It is widely agreed that Challenger was modelled upon Professor William Rutherford who had lectured ACD and GTB at Edinburgh University.  Nevertheless, it plausible that ACD also used elements of GTB's personality for this character, as well as his Christian name.  Certainly he portrays both GTB and Challenger as egotistical and abusive individuals (see here).

On 22 February 1923, ACD returned to Plymouth for the final time and stayed at the Grand Hotel.  The next evening, he delivered a lecture at the Guildhall, which was entitled The New Revelation.  This meeting was presided over by one W. H. Watkins on behalf of Solomon Stephens, the then Mayor of Plymouth.  It is perhaps worth noting that the Grand Hotel was located next to Elliot Terrace where ACD had resided with GTB during 1882 (see below). 

In November 1923, ACD had an article entitled My First Experiences in Practice published in The Strand Magazine.  In October 1924, a slightly revised version of this article was republished as the sixth chapter of his autobiography entitled Memories and Adventures.  In each case, ACD again used the pseudonym of James Cullingworth to refer to GTB, despite the fact that his former friend had died some thirty-five years before.  It appears that ACD adopted this approach to protect the reputation of GTB's descendents.

For further information about GTB and his immediate family see Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes and Devon (London: MX Publishing Limited, 15 June 2010).


By Paul Spiring 2011.

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