PIONEER VET RECALLED ON PILRIG STREET

A descendant is seeking planning permission to erect a blue plaque at 1 Pilrig Street in memory of the medical pioneer Professor John Barlow (1815–56).

An eminent Quaker scientist, and Professor of Anatomy at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies in Edinburgh, Barlow settled in Pilrig Street upon his marriage, and lived here for the last five years of his short life.

Born into a farming family in Chorley, Cheshire, his interest in animal diseases had led him in 1842 to enrol at the veterinary school on Clyde Street (close to where the bus station is now).

His paper on ‘puerperal fever in cows’ earned him a silver medal in 1844, and after his appointment to the staff by William Dick he was remarkable for his introduction of the microscope and true scientific rigour to the studies there.

Admired for his expertise, modesty and generosity, Barlow was later recalled by a former pupil, Dr George Fleming, for his ‘almost paternal kindness and interest in the students [which] made him greatly beloved – nay revered by them. I think he was one of the hardest working men I have ever known’.

He died of a spinal infection, aged 40, probably having contracted meningitis, and was interred in the Friends Burial Ground at the Pleasance. For more on his life and character, download the pdf here

With his wife Eliza Nicholson, Barlow had three children, the youngest of whom (John Henry Barlow, 1855–1924) was born at 1 Pilrig Street and went on to become a leading Quaker pacifist statesman and first manager of the Bournville Village Trust. 

The plaque has been proposed by Barlow’s great grandson, and – if consented – would be paid for by the Royal Dick.

An unveiling ceremony is provisionally scheduled for the middle of this month, to be attended by the Lord Provost.

[Original photo top-right held by the RDSVS archive.]

1 Pilrig Street
55° 57' 56.088" N, 3° 10' 41.2968" W