Dr William Guthrie Forbes

This pen and ink portrait of Dr William Guthrie Forbes is one of a number of illustrations, new to this website, reproduced by kind permission of their creator, Estelle Smith. All of Estelle's work on this site is based upon original plates and photographs, and is authenticated by her personal monograph, consisting of the combined initials ES contained in a circle.

William Guthrie Forbes was born on 10th March 1847 in Edinburgh, the son of Alexander Forbes and his wife Christina Guthrie. He grew up and received his education in Edinburgh, then famous for its university medical school where in due course he received his qualification as a Doctor.

Dr Forbes first appears in Stokesley in the census of 1871, when he was listed as a General Medical Practitioner, MBCM Edinburgh University. Dr Forbes was then 24 years old, a batchelor and living on the High Street in the home of another well-known Scots-born doctor, John Handiside.

In 1873, Forbes became Medical Officer of Health to the Stokesley Rural Sanitary Board, and by 1881 he had his own house (and practice) on the High Street. (The premises which he occupied served until recently as the Spar shop, and are situated where the High Street meets the west side of College Square).

Dr Forbes married Louisa Ross Dagg in 1885 and they had three children: Nina (born 1887), Alec (1889 - named after his paternal grandfather) and William Guthrie Forbes junior (1890). The younger boy was given the name of his father, but tragically, William senior had aready died aged only 42 on 7th September, 1889, following a short illness. The younger William never saw his father, and it seems unlikely that any of the children would have personal memories of their father.

The family was far from destitute, however, having been left over £4500 in Dr Forbes’ will, which was proved in October 1889 by the executors, (Louisa herself and the well-known Stokesley solicitor and benefactor, John Page Sowerby).

The young widow (she was 26 when her husband died), was able to support her family in Springfield Villas in the town, where they were joined at first by Louisa’s sister Lillie and a parlour maid. Springfield Villas was still the family home in 1901, when the two sons, aged 14 and 11, were living there with their mother.

Louisa tragically lost both her sons in the First World War. (See Forbes A & Forbes W G for their stories).

Louisa Ross Forbes herself stayed in the town where her children were brought up and lived there through another world war. She died at the age of 84 on 19th January, 1946, leaving £1625 to her only surviving child, her daughter Nina.

Nina Forbes visited the USA at least once, as she appears as an incoming passenger on the ‘Aquitania’ (a Cunarder) in May 1921. Her name also appears in the records of people crossing the Canada-USA border! On the passenger list, she gave her occupation as musician and her address as 102 Sydney Street in the Regent’s Park area of London, so her appearance on stage at Hutton Rudby was certainly not her last.

Nina did later return to Stokesley and to Springfield Villas, and lived to the age of 71.

She died at North Ormesby Hospital on 27th September, 1958. She left just over £4900; probate was granted to the National Provincial Bank Ltd.

The Forbes family was thus connected with Stokesley for less than 100 years, but their contribution to the town's heritage is substantial.

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