Rutherglen Reformer - - News - Mur­ray Spooner

The fam­ily of an em­i­nent 18th cen­tury Ruther­glen doc­tor have made an ap­peal for more in­for­ma­tion about their great­grand­fa­ther’s life.

Dr James Burn Rus­sell, born in 1837, was Glas­gow’s first full-time med­i­cal of­fi­cer of health and worked tire­lessly for the city’s poor.

His cru­sade to im­prove liv­ing con­di­tions and health pro­vi­sion lasted over a quar­ter of a cen­tury be­fore he died in 1904.

Dr Rus­sell, who has the cur­rent Greater Glas­gow and Clyde head­quar­ters on the Gart­nvavel Royal site named af­ter him, once de­scribed Glas­gow as a “semi-as­phyx­i­ated city”.

He man­aged to per­suade the town coun­cil to as­sist in im­prov­ing san­i­ta­tion, pol­lu­tion con­trol and slum clear­ance, gain­ing him a world-wide rep­u­ta­tion as a pub­lic health pi­o­neer.

His great-grand­daugh­ter Jenny Den­ton, to­gether with her daugh­ter Kate Den­ham, both from the south of Eng­land, made the trip to Ruther­glen re­cently to visit where he lived and worked and find out more about their fa­mous an­ces­tor.

They vis­ited the Auburn Cot­tage in Muir­bank Gar­dens which was once the home of James Rus­sell, a Glas­gow steam­boat har­bour mas­ter from 1823-1840s and of his grand­son Dr JB Rus­sell.

Speak­ing to the Re­former this week, Jenny from Derby said: “The more you look into it the more you find. It’s all so fas­ci­nat­ing.

“It was lovely to visit JB Rus­sell House, which of course is named af­ter my great grand­fa­ther. My daugh­ter and I also en­joyed see­ing the mon­u­ment to him in the re­cep­tion.

“We have re­searched JB Rus­sell as much as we can and have been fas­ci­nated to learn about his early pioneer­ing work in the area of so­cial jus­tice and re­form.

“While in Glas­gow we also vis­ited Ruther­glen, to his house, and it was still stand­ing, which is re­mark­able. It’s this re­ally old house in a new es­tate. He lived there with his grand­par­ents af­ter his par­ents died.

“The owner wasn’t in and the per­son rent­ing a room didn’t know much about it but there was three black and white pho­to­graphs in the win­dow of peo­ple stand­ing out­side the house. So we were very in­ter­ested in those.

“I wouldn’t say it was emo­tional but it was quite thought pro­vok­ing. It was great to see he did so much for Glas­gow.

“We would love to hear from any­one, per­haps with an in­ter­est in the his­tory of health care in the city, who may know more about my great grand­fa­ther and the work he car­ried out in the city.”

Linda de Caestecker, di­rec­tor of pub­lic health, said: “Dr Rus­sell was, with­out doubt, a man ahead of his times and his fam­ily are rightly very proud of his achieve­ments.

“While we still have some way to go, I am sure he would be ex­tremely proud of our progress.”

Pi­o­neer Proud of their em­i­nent rel­a­tive Dr James Burns Rus­sell

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