dr. bill tandy
1904 - 1995
Bill Tandy was a much loved Forest doctor who in his writing demonstrated a respect, understanding and fondness for his adopted community. Growing up in Birmingham he moved to India soon after qualifying. Hearing about the Forest of Dean from a friend he moved here in 1940, working as a local GP until his retirement. His books draw on his experience as a doctor, here and in India.
Early lIFE & cAREER
William Harry Tandy was born in the Birmingham area in 1904. His father, William was a jeweller, and both he and Bill’s mother were Quakers. Bill first went to a prep school in Birmingham (where he was tormented due to his need to wear glasses) and later to King Edwards School.
On leaving school Tandy entered medical school in Birmingham. He qualified as a Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians in 1927, and at the same time qualified as a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons (he became a Fellow of the college in 1932).
Bill had a number of placements in hospitals and GP practices before taking the decision to take up an overseas post, in a hospital in India. It is on this period of his life that his second book, The Ever Rolling Stream primarily focuses. In it he writes of sailing to India for the first time in October 1934, on the ‘City of Paris’. Although based in India for several years, he and his family did return to the UK occasionally, in May 1937 for example, now with their 6 month old daughter Mary. Once in India, Tandy was based for several years as surgeon in charge of the Friends’ Hospital in Itarsi, central India. After some five years in the country, Tandy and his young family returned to the UK.
BECOMING A FOREST GP
Tandy settled in the Forest in early 1940, not long after he and his family returned from India. In The Ever Rolling Stream he briefly mentions a former school friend, one Stuart Robertson, who became a rep for a large pharmaceutical company based in Birmingham and it's through this friend that he, “heard about and finally settled down in the Forest of Dean”.
Initially he was based in Parkend, living at Edale House (now a B and B). He later moved to a surgery in Coleford, living in the Coleford area for many years.
In addition to working as a GP he acted as a surgeon, primarily at the Dilke Memorial Hospital. He also, when required, performed post-mortems. In all these roles he was occasionally required to give medical evidence at inquests, one example prompting him to point out the lack of hospital beds which delayed the admission of one patient, contributing to his death (as reported in The Citizen, January 22nd 1949, page 1).
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A Doctor in the Forest (1978)
The Ever Rolling Stream (1985)
Dr Tandy features on the cassette tape album, A Quat 'n' a Chat (1984)
With kind permission of Doug McLean
LIFE & Work IN INDIA
The Tandy family were based at a Quaker run hospital at Itarsi in central India (in the present Madhya Pradesh province).
In The Ever Rolling Stream Bill describes many of the staff and patients he came into contact with. Written at a time of change and unrest in the subcontinent, he also explores the key figures pushing for political and social change with whom he had contact with.
Amongst many other initiatives he himself set up was the introduction of a mobile travelling dispensary / ambulance. This was funded by Dame Elizabeth Cadbury (of the chocolate manufacturing family). Taken ill whilst travelling in India, the Dame was taken off a train passing through Itarsi, for treatment at the hospital, and Tandy reports successfully treating her with what was at the time very much an ‘experimental’ drug. Grateful for her recovery, she offered to pay for a gift for the hospital – considering the family’s wealth, Tandy felt a fully equipped vehicle would not be a problem!
Keen to take medicine into the community external to the hospital, and to promote social change , Tandy met both with Mahatma Gandhi and other key figures such as Jawaharlal Nehru (later to become first Prime Minister of India).
Gandhi was a strong supporter of some of the changes Tandy wished to implement. After meeting at Gandhi’s ashram in Sevagram village, Gandhi offered practical support to some of these health initiatives.
One example was difficulties within the hospital in ensuring that dietary requirements were met, when families of certain castes persisted in preparing food for their relatives. After discussing this with Tandy, Gandhi wrote a letter, which was displayed in communal space within the hospital ‘advising’ the medical staff ‘not to encourage’ private cooking by families, and not to ‘pander to prejudices’ around caste related issues (such as untouchability of food). Written by the revered Gandhi this letter was instrumental in easing the problem.
The book provides an interesting personal perspective of Tandy's views of the political and social climate at the time, the subsequent political and religious troubles resulting from the later creation, not of a single state, but of multiple nations – India and West and East Pakistan (separated by hundreds of miles, linked solely by the predominating shared religion). The Ever Rolling Stream brings the events forward, to include discussion of more recent figures, such as Indira Gandhi and her children.