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Rory Bremner

Rory Bremner - How we did it

SURGEON GENERAL

Great-grandfather: John Ogilvy

Step 1

Rory now turned his attention to his grandparents, Frederick Bremner and Evelyn Ogilvy, from whom Rory inherited his middle name, Ogilvy. Rory found a Bremner family tree that his mother had compiled. Whilst the Bremner line could be traced back, the Ogilvy line stopped abruptly with Evelyn. Rory wanted to push back beyond his grandmother to find out more about the Ogilvys.

Step 2

We ordered a copy of Evelyn and Frederick's marriage certificate from the records office. This revealed that Evelyn's father was John Ogilvy, who was described on the certificate as 'surgeon general'. Rory wondered whether this could have been the medical equivalent of the attorney general.

As John had evidently been a medical man and originally hailed from Scotland, Rory travelled back to his hometown of Edinburgh to visit the Royal College of Surgeons

Step 3

Profile of John Ogilvy
Profile of John Ogilvy

The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh has been a place of education and medical training for centuries, and holds records dating back to the 16th century. In one of the Royal College's minute books we discovered that John was among a group of students who came down to Edinburgh from Aberdeen to qualify as a surgeon in May 1853. We were also told that as a surgeon general, John Ogilvy had later become one of the leading medical officers in the British army.

Step 4

Back in the family archive, Rory and Nigel found a portrait of John Ogilvy that had hung outside Rory's bedroom in their childhood home. Nigel and Rory were amazed to find two medals that matched those in the picture. The medals were inscribed with the words Sebastopol, Inkerman and Alma - all battles that took place during the Crimean War. Their search through the family archive also uncovered John Ogilvy's fragile, handwritten 'Crimean diary' from 1854.

Step 5

To investigate this Crimean lead, we went to look at original army medical services records at the Army Medical Services Museum. We discovered that John had served as an assistant surgeon in the 33rd regiment all the way through the Crimean campaign, and Rory and Nigel examined the basic instruments John would have carried.

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Rory and Nigel read from the Lancet

In a copy of the Lancet, we also found an astonishing letter from John that corresponded with an entry in his own diary. It described how he had delivered the baby of a soldier's wife in the Crimean snow, armed only with a simple clasp knife.

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