Papers relating to Dr Robert Scot Skirving (1859-1956)

Scope and Content

The collection is composed of: correspondence from Skirving to D. G. Ritchie in April, May and June 1889; and, his account of the 'Snowball Riot' of 1838 in which his father had been a participant.

Administrative / Biographical History

Robert Scot Skirving was born in Campton, near Haddington, East Lothian, on 18 December 1859. He was educated locally in Haddington and then at Edinburgh Academy. He then went to Eastman's Royal Naval Academy in Southsea, near Portsmouth, before joining the Merchant Navy. He made voyages to Iceland, served as a cadet on the training ship 'Conway', and served as an apprentice on the 'Tantallon Castle' on a voyage to Adelaide, Australia. On his way back Skirving fell ill and had to leave the navy, so he decided to study medicine at Edinburgh University. On graduation, he discovered that at just under the age of twenty-one he was unable to take up the post of House Physician at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary for which he had applied. Until he met this stipulation he studied additionally in Dublin and Vienna before taking up the post. In his early twenties, Skirving started a new life in Australia taking up work initially as a locum before accepting a position as Medical Superintendent at the Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney, in November 1883. Then, in 1884 he started a private practice in Sidney though remained as an Honorary Physician at Prince Alfred Hospital until 1911 when he became Honorary Consulting Physician. He also joined the surgical staff of St. Vincent's Hospital, Sidney, retaining his position until 1923. Earlier, at the turn of the century, he served in the South African war, and he served during the First World War too. Throughout his career, Skirving published widely in Australian and British medical journals on subjects as diverse as diseases of the tongue, sore throats in anaemic persons, facial anaesthesia, treatment of fractures, sea-faring doctors, surgery at sea, and fits and faints. Dr. Robert Scot Skirving died in Australia on 15 July 1956.

Access Information

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.


The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) Macintosh, Ann (ed.). Memoirs of Dr Robert Scot Skirving 1859-1956. Sydney: Foreland Press, 1988. (2) Robert Scot Skirving Obit, July 15, 1956. Sydney: Australasian Medical Publishing Co. Ltd.

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division.

Other Finding Aids

Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.


Check the local Indexes for details of any additions.