Dewar Committee 1912

Dewar Committee of 1912


Left to right, front row first.  The following information has been collected by Dr Iain McNicol and Dr Miles Mack (who give their permission to reprint here).  More biographies will be added in time.

Sir John A Dewar (MP for Inverness-shire, Chairman)








The Marchioness of Tullibardine (Katherine Marjory Ramsay) was born on 6th November 1874 in Edinburgh, daughter to Sir James Henry Ramsay, 10th Baronet.  She was educated at Wimbledon High School and the Royal College of Music.

In 1899 she married John Stewart-Murray, Marquess of Tullibardine, as eldest son of the 8th Duke of Atholl whom he succeeded in 1917.  As the Marchioness of Tullibardine she was very active in Scottish social services and Local Government before serving, very actively, on the Dewar Committee in 1912. In 1918 she was appointed a Dame Commander of the British Empire. In 1923 she became one of the first female MPs as a Conservative Member for Kinross and West Perthshire serving until 1938. In 1924 she was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education, the first Woman to serve in a Conservative Government. In 1935 she resigned the Government whip over the India Bill and the “Socialist Tendencies” of the government’s domestic policy. She resumed the whip but resigned again over the Anglo-Italian Agreement and finally resigned from parliament over Chamberlain’s policy of Appeasement of Adolph Hitler.To permit her resignation which was proscribed by law she was named as Steward of the Chiltern Hundreds on 28th November 1938. She stood as an Independent in the subsequent By-election but lost her seat by a small margin.

In 1937 she went with Ellen Wilkinson and Eleanor Rathbone to observe the effects of the Spanish Civil War, seeing the effectiveness of Luftwaffe bombings ,visiting Prisoner of war camps and considered the impact on Women and Children in particular. Her Support for the Republican Side earned her the nickname of the “Red Duchess” although her reason seems to have been that she said “a government (Franco’s)that uses Moors cannot be Nationalist.

She campaigned against Soviet control of Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungaryas Chair of the British League for European Freedom from 1945.  She was a keen composer.Amongst her compositions was the march “The Scottish Horse” for bagpipes. She succeeded her husband as Colonel in Chief, upon his death,of the Scottish Horse Regiment.  She was Vice President of the Girls Public Day School Trust from 1924-60

She died on 21st October 1960.

J L Robertson (Senior Chief Inspector of Schools for Scotland) was born in 1854 0n Lewis and educated at the General Assembly School in Stornoway before attending Edinburgh University without attending secondary school. He graduated MA after 3 years and later Bachelor of Laws, before joining the inspectorate of schools. In 1888 he was appointed Acting Chief Inspector of Schools, a position he was appointed to fill. In 1912 when appointed to the Dewar Committee he was awarded an Honorary Ll.D by Edinburgh University and in 1919 awarded a C.B.

Apart from the Dewar Committee he also served on Lord Pentland’s Committee  for the employment of Highland Boys and Girls and on the Craik Commission on Teachers’ salaries.  Sir Henry Craik, MP, considered him ” a landmark in the Educational History of Scotland”.

When he died , on the day of his funeral all flags in Lewis were at half mast, all businesses closed at noon and all the island schools were closed for the day.  Sir George MacDonald, the Secretary of the Scottish Education Department , extolled his virtues saying ” Few men in our time have laid their native country under so deep an obligation as he has done.”

Andrew Lindsay (Convenor for the County of Sutherland)




Charles Orrock (Chamberlain of the Lews)




Dr Leslie Mackenzie (Medical Member, Local Government Board for Scotland)




Miss Tolmie

The role of Miss Tolmie remains unclear.  Despite much historian fact-finding, it is not confirmed whether in fact Miss Tolmie had any role in the Dewar Committee.  We are very welcome to further information regarding this!


Murdoch Beaton (Inspector, National Health Insurance Commission Scotland)




Dr JC McVail (Deputy Chairman, Scottish Insurance Commission) began his professional career in 1873. He initially worked in general practice but became associated with public health when he began to assist the medical officer of health for Kilmarnock, whom he ultimately succeeded. He then became the first medical officer of health for the counties of Stirling and Dumbarton in 1891, a position he held for over twenty years. His painstaking investigations, his lucid reports, and his wisdom in counsel displayed during the period of his appointment placed him in the front rank of public health officers. His reputation as a far-sighted and impartial investigator was so well established that when, in 1907, the Royal Commission on the Poor Laws and Relief of Distress wanted to make inquiries into the methods of administering relief, Dr McVail was chosen to make those inquiries.

Dr McVail’s attention was turned to vaccination by the study of the mortality statistics of Kilmarnock for the years 1728 to 1764 which revealed appalling evidence of the great prevalence of small-pox among children in the eighteenth century. This led him to make an extensive study of vaccination; he collated the results in a book entitled Vaccination Vindicated, the first edition of which appeared in 1889. It was almost immediately regarded as the chief authority on the subject. His knowledge of the subject was so extensive that his evidence before the Royal Commission on Vaccination lasted twelve days.

When the National Insurance Act of 1911 came into force Dr McVail was appointed Deputy Chairman of the Scottish National Insurance Commission, a position he held until, on the abolition of the Commission and the creation of the Scottish Board of Health, he became the medical officer concerned with health insurance until his retirement in 1922. It was whilst serving in this role that he was appointed a member of the Dewar committee. He was also a member of the Astor Committee on Tuberculosis. (Edited by Dr Steve McCabe from a citation in the BMJ in 1922).

J Cullen Grierson (Convenor for the County of Zetland)




Dr AC Miller (Medical Officer for the Parishes of Kilmallie and Kilmonivaig)  was born in Fort William in 1861. A native Gaelic Speaker, he graduated MBCM in Edinburgh. He first Practiced in Banff before returning to Fort William where he was Medical Superintendent of the Belford Hospital for 41 years. He was Consultant Physician to Invernessshire sanatorium as well as surgeon to the Belford Hospital.

He was on the Highlands and Islands Consultative Council of the Scottish Board of Health. He was Medical Officer and Vaccinator for Ardgour and Kingairloch , Fort William Burough and Kilmallie District as well as Parochial Medical Officer of Health for Kilmallie, Ardgour and Kilmonivaig. He was Medical Referee under the Workman’s Compensation Scheme and Teachers’ Superannuation Acts. He was Medical Officer to the Post Office and certifying Factory Surgeon in World War One, chairing the District Board.

He was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, a Justice of the Peace and a Freemason. He was a President of the Caledonian Medical Society which was at the centre of Medical and Social Concerns leading up to the Dewar Committee on which he served.

He died on 31st December 1927, one month after Sir John Dewar.