James Barry

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Dr James Barry on the LHS, with John his loyal manservant from South Africa, who stayed with James for 50 years, and his dog, Psyche.

Dr James Barry on the LHS, with John his loyal manservant from South Africa, who stayed with James for 50 years, and his dog, Psyche.

Secret Life of Dr James Barry

On the morning of July 25, 1865, just after dawn, a loud scream rang out around the great physician’s deathbed.

Dr James Barry had not been an easy patient. A man as cantankerous as he was brilliant, few dared argue with the Inspector General of Military Hospitals, so for the past month his curtains had been kept drawn, ensuring his bedroom on London’s Cavendish Square was in a state of perpetual half-light.

But now he was dead, Sophia Bishop, the charwoman sent to prepare his corpse, had no intention of complying with his final wish, which was that on no account should he be changed out of the clothes in which he had died.

“The devil!” cried Sophia, as she pulled up his nightshirt to wash his body and quite literally, uncovered a secret the doctor had managed to hide for most of his life. “It’s a woman – and [noting what she took for stretch marks on his stomach] a woman that has had a child.”

Sophia did not disclose?the information until after the funeral. The story grabbed the headlines for a time, but there was no conclusive evidence as there had not been a post-mortem. ?Interestingly for someone of such a high?military?rank, and who had given 50 years of loyal and distinguished service, no obituary?was ever?published. Furthermore, the?embarrassed?British Military placed an embargo on Dr Barry?s?military?record for 100 years.

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