Walter E. Dandy Letters

We are proud to host the transcripts of Walter E. Dandy’s correspondence with his family. These letters illustrate the personal side of this neurosurgical genius, spanning his early college education through senior tenure at Johns Hopkins Medical School.

November 24, 1910

1214 S. Mass. Ave.

Sedalia, Mo.

November 24, 1910

Well My Boy,

…Well Mama is not satisfied about her Silver Wedding present letter being lost. She likes the letter better than the silver. She has had me looking all over for it. She says for me to ask you to write her another just like it. She is ashamed to ask you. She can't show her present without letter. Isn't she in a fix. Do you think she would loose the next she gets if she gets it?.…

Your affectionate Father


December 3, 1910

Baltimore, Md.

December 3, 1910

Dear Mother and Father,

Well I am very glad to know you have at last quit the road and are almost ready to start. The house proposition is all settled. It is a nice little place, 6 rooms, bath $18. So all you have to do is to come and go right home, a new one. Ought to be nicely fixed up by Xmas. I think you will like the house as it is very nice and cozy.

Everything is very satisfactory here, work especially is very fine and attractive. Had Dr. Cushing stumped right the other day. He was around when I was operating on a dog. Asked me what I was trying to do. I told him to produce a tumor in the aqueduct of Sylvius, one place never before reached, and have the animal live. He says why you can't do that. The animal is sure to die. I said I think I can. About an hour latter I called him, showed him how I did it. He was tickled and got extremely enthusiastic. Said it was wonderful and called in a couple of doctors to see it. I asked him if he had ever done it. He said my no, no one ever had nerve to try such a thing and beamed all over. He sure was tickled. I told him we would develop a method of examining the interior of the brain by means of a light and this catherization of the aqueduct of Sylvius. He smiled a little and hesitated to say anything.

He is preparing a Harvey Lecture in New York, the biggest in this country. Quite an honor for him. He is great.

Well I hope you will soon be on your way. You can come anytime, not necessarily Saturday and go right to the house and get started fixing up so as to be ready by Xmas holidays. Well I think this is about all at present. Write me letting me know when to meet you. With happy anticipation, I remain,

Your loving son, Walter


November 6, 1911

89 Anson Street

Barrow in Furness, England

November 6, 1911

My Dear Son,

I think that is one of our greatest joys is to hear from you. Very glad you are having such good work even though it is with a hard master. Never mind. Some day you will be your own master and can do just as you please. But in the meantime you must submit to the powers above you. Try and bear patiently with him for your own good. Don't let anything come between you and Cushing that would spoil your future.

His wonderful operations must be very trying on his quick irritable temper so you must overlook his temper. It is the great strain of his work that makes him so irritable. Probably you would be the same if in his position. You remember how irritable your father was in trying to sell off our household goods. Now he is different. He is happy and content and a good man. But don't tell him what I said. Why I am saying these things is I was afraid you might let your temper get the best of you and quit. And I would be so sorry if that should happen.

We are all right here for the present. We pay 35 shillings per week for the two of us. She has one boarder that pays 15 shillings per week. We don't get up in the morning till eight, eat 4 times a day, eat something before going to bed at night. I prefer 3 good meals. Pa says he would rather have my cooking. I will soon not know how to cook if I keep boarding much longer.

I don't do anything but clean our room. I have not come accross any English girl that would be fit companion for my boy, though I met some nice girl clerks in the stores, refined ladylike persons.…

Your loving Mother


November 6, 1911

89 Anson Street

Barrow in Furness, England

November 6, 1911

My Dear Son,

…The card from Queenstown was intended by me to have been taken from boat by pilot from New York when he leaves the Mauratania near Liberty Statue. But if the long letter describing awer voyage does not land OK I will repeat it on your advise.

Well everything here is fine. We are enjoying awerselves well. Each of us getting fat. Mama is looking well and feeling good. Mrs. Todd waits on her and gives her anything she thinks she wants.… In fact I think she is going to be spoiled if you and I have not already done it.

We have been haveing very strong winds here. Must have been 70 miles per hour yesterday. I went by the docks and the wind made large waves and sent the spray as high as the high level bridge…probly about 25 feet. I was coming home with Mark Todd from meeting in old Barrow when the wind was blowing the heaviest. He said it would be fine on Walney today to see the wind play with the seas. I was sorry after that I did not go as hundreds went over to see it. I told Mark that it would just suite you to see it. But personally I prefered to be out of the wind. But the next time I think I shall go.

But as much as I now desire to see the rough seas, I don't want to go to Ireland when it is very rough. We are going to try and select a good night to go over. We think we will go from here to Belfast sometime next week. Then sail back from Belfast to Liverpool and visit Mr. and Mrs. Seddon.…

I was pleased to learn of such good success in removing tumors etc. and hope you are not over anxious to have Dr. Goetsch removed for your advantage. Their will be lots of room for you on top of him and Dr. Cushing etc.…

Say you ought to see Mama in her new clothes I have bought her-looks like a young girl.…

Your affectionate Father


November 13, 1911

89 Anson Street

Barrow in Furness, England

c. November 13, 1911

My Dear Son,

…Seems strange to be in England and you in America.… Wonder if we shall ever have the privilege of being together again. It is hard to say what or where our lot or yours shall be cast but I trust whatever we do or wherever we go, we shall be guided by our Heavenly Father.

Well this weather is not so good here. It rains pretty near every day. I feel the cold here as much or more that in the States. It is a damp chilly air. We go one place or another all the time.…

Our old friends are all pleased to see us and they all enquire about you and Pa gives you a good send off. He has been at it so long he knows how to do it. He is wondering what to buy you for Xmas. I tell him you don't need anything.

You ought to send your socks back. I did not think they were very good. You write about them before you keep them too long. Or they might say you had them a long time and if I remember right they were guaranteed for a year.

I wish you had more rest at night in your work. Wait till you begin to draw in the money like Cushing, then you can do as you please.

I got a nice gray suit. They tell me here I look champion like a young girl. I have been spending lots of money on clothes. We both got flannel underwear. Cost 2.26 pounds. New shoes, hat, suit, long coat. Pa says Walter ought to see you now. I like it here very well. But I feel at home pretty near anywhere if I have a nice comfortable home. Nothing takes the place of a comfortable home in my estimation. It is ahead of sight seeing although we are having a nice time. Mrs. Todd is very very good and kind. Do or get anything she thinks we would like. They are all very kind.

I think we will go to Ireland this week. They have been very anxious for us to get there and from there we will go to Seddon's. It will then be nearly Xmas.

I wrote to Mrs. Battersby. I have not received any reply. Did you get my other letters. Did you ever try to sell your diamond. I would if I were you and put the money on interest.

Well I wish we were near enough to give you a big kiss. No more rough necking now. I don't see how Pa gets along without it. He is enjoying himself fine, no worry about anything. When we go to the meeting and hear something good he says how I wish Walter could hear it.

Don't forget in your rush of work to remember Him who loved you and gave Himself for you. I rejoice to know you are one of his children saved by the precious blood.

Your loving Mother


November 13, 1911

89 Anson Street

Barrow in Furness, England

November 13, 1911

My Dear Son,

…Glad you are keeping up under so much work and enjoying the great privalage of being Asst. to the great brain specialast of America. Something your heart yearned for and thought you would be the happyest man on earth if you got it. It certainly looks as though your paths was prepared for you. To travel in and survey and finaly take possession of all.

Well we still meet many old faces in the Gospel Hall some we know and some we don't. And the same about us of course. They remember and address Mama as Miss Kilpatrick, although once familiar now sounds strange to us.

The meetings in Gospel Hall are fine, reminds us of good old days gone by.… A man named Baird who has been in China and South Africa has been haveing some good meetings in old Barrow in Gospel Hall their. The meetings concluded Saturday night. Had tea in their hall in the afternoon.

We have got passes to go through the steel and iron works and tonight we expect to go through. Mathew Todd is going to show us through. He works there. It is nicest to go through in the night time. I am afraid we can't get through the ship yards they are so strict for fear of spies. We were lucky to get through the steel works.

You ask if we are going to stay here. It is rather early to decide. Some things we like here and some we don't like as well. Two princaple things in the States that would take us back is awer Boy and investments. Personaly I am not much stuck on investments in Barrow as it is rather out of the way town and practically controled by 2 or 3 large industeries that I would be afraid of collapsing although at the present they are very prosperous and the town is fine. The cleanest I was ever in.

I am not sure we told you of awer visit to Furness Abbey. If not will say it looks fine as of old. Also the lovely lanes arround Barrow where Mama and I used to court. Looks just as nice as ever. And the latter part of this week she is going to take and show me in Ireland those big hills she used to run down when a little girl. And the boys run after her. And she run away like she did from me on Bath Street.

She is feeling good quite saucy and bossey. And looks fine in her new costumes. We have been busy buying presents for Ireland.…

Your affectionate Father


November 15, 1911

Glenanne, Bally Lane

County Armagh, Ireland

c. November 15, 1911

Well My Dear Boy,

After getting your long interesting letter and carefully noting that your advance to first assistant to the world renowned Dr. Cushing was not far from being realized, makes us again think and remember that all things work together for good to them that love God. And this and other things allready received should certainly call for awer devoted thanks to the giver of all good things. For their are no doubt many more Rubicons to cross before arriving at your own destination in the surgical and scientific world. Therfore implicit confidence in and devoted thanks to the Almighty for all good things.

We arrived here yesterday at dinner time. We left Barrow at 8:30 P.M. on Monday night on the Duchess of Devonshire for Belfast. We traveled first salloon.… Accomadations are about perfect. There was a rather strong wind which made the boat role considerably, otherwise lovely night. We went to bed as soon as the boat sailed. I slept all night and woke up after boat had stoped at Belfast in the morning about 6:30 a.m. Mama says I snored all night. She did not sleep much because of "the old boat tossing arround".…

Was met there by her brother and his wife. She knew him and he her. We had nice ride through lovely country and on good roads. Rather hilley. Would be fine for motering. Farms all look so nice and clean, well kept and cosey. She and he showed us the little school house "where the teacher could not teach her any more." Of course it is not so large or imposing in archictuarl structure nor as imposing as some you have seen, yet it has produced many worthies, at least you and I know one. Then we passed another school where she was whipped for talking (asking her brother for something to eat). Of course she was to good to be whipped for violation of rules. So she was sent to another school and so on.

And we saw the little churches she used to attend. The flax holes she tells us about are still visable. She has not yet shown me the places where the little boys chased her down the lanes and her running home crying. But her brother told us last night how when she was young girl how he spoiled her by carrying her on his back all arround to keep her from crying. And he thinks we have had to finish what he started.

We saw the old carpenters shop that made her trunk to come to America the owner of which told her when a little girl that she stood on her leggs like a table.

Your affectionate Father


November 25, 1911

Glenanne, Bally Lane

County Armagh, Ireland

c. November 15, 1911

My Dear Son,

This time I am writing from old Ireland the place of my birth. There are so many changes I would hardly know the place. Lots of work around here but they are all trying to give us the best of everything. We are with Arthur. He was glad to see us. He thought I looked thin. A neighbor came in and he said I looked like a girl. He could not see a great change in me. They said they would have known Pa by his pictures. We have been invited for tea on Wednesday. A few friends came in to see us.

It would have been nice here in Summer, but I don't care a great deal for farm life in the winter. Soon get tired of it. It has rained nearly every day since we landed. Makes it rather disagreeable.

Maggie the teacher is not here but I think she is coming before we leave. They say she is very nice and a good musician. I have not seen any good enough for my boy yet. I think you will have to find one for yourself. You had better not depend on me for fear you might get left. You had better leave it to Papa. You know what good taste he had in selecting one.

Glad to hear of your good prospects. Hope you will get the desires of your heart if it is for your good. When you write tell all about Dr. Cushing and your work, if he is cross with you.

What do you think. I did not get sick on the boat. So what you say about the working of the mind has a good deal to do with it. I got my head down before I got sick and kept it there but did not sleep. But Pa kept up a continuous snore even if he had insomnia. I don't think we will stay very long here. It is the wrong time of the year to look nice.

We went through the steel works the night before we left. It was a beautiful sight. We thought how you would have enjoyed it.…

Your loving Mother


November 30, 1911

Glenanne, Bally Lane

County Armagh, Ireland

November 30, 1911

My Dear Boy,

We are still here enjoying ourselves. Seeing the sights at the different farm houses. When we get through I think we will be fitted for farm life. But Mama says she don't want to be a farmer.

This is shure old country life. The neighbors still come and visit us and we go and visit them. I enjoy seeing the crude old fireplaces. We were at one place a few nights ago wheir they still have the old open hearth fire and one of them have to almost constantly sit in the corner turning old fan bellows to make it burn. And while here I may say that yesterday we visited Mrs. Williamson and one of their fires was like the one just mentioned except they blow it with bellows like you have in the dog house.

Arthur took us Sunday evening for nice drive of about 7 miles in his buggy, through lovely country. But was rather too cold to be very comfortable. Yesterday we hired a jaunting car to drive us to see Mr. and Mrs. Williamson. We rode 40 miles, 20 miles each way. Rubbertired car. We enjoyed it fine. The driver and Mr. Kilpatrick, Mama's brother Arthur, was cracking good old Irish jokes all along. And they can do it to perfection. In fact all the Irish men arround here crack jokes till they make us burst with laughter.

There is much discusion here about the home rule bill. Almost everyone here is against it. But they say in the south wheir there are so many preists they are for it. They claim here that it is just a papish ruse to compell them to be placed under Catholic rule. And they will fight rather than do it. Lots of the men arround here fought in the Boer War. And the Catholics sent lots of men to fight with the Boers against England and now they would enjoy the privilege of getting even. Besides they claim it would be more expensive to support two goverments than one.

We got your letter last night. Glad you have such good work and do so well as first asst. that Dr. Cushing does not cuss you and I hope this success continues and furthermore compleet success for the patients that you operate on. Don't forget to tell us about the old engineer, if he gets all right after his operation…for we feel good when we hear you are doing so much good.

We are rather sorry to learn that you diet was changed for the worse especialy when you had invested your pile on stocks. But never mind your father and mother don't invest that way but prefer a more sure way.… With best wishes to Dr. Cushing's first asst. and the best young man in the world.

Your affectionate Father


November 30, 1911

Glenanne, Bally Lane

County Armagh, Ireland

November 30, 1911

My Dear Son,

They want us to stay here till after Xmas. They are very kind to us here and we are enjoying it very well. Most of the people tell me I look as young as ever, like a young girl one man said. I did not look more than 25. Others surprised I was looking so young. They are all taking up with Papa. One man said he never met a finer English American man. He is looking well and enjoying himself and also the old Irish jokes.

Everything is well improved in my old home, and they are all looking well. Robert, Arthur's oldest boy, has gone out to America. He is in Boston. He does not say what he is doing. He is only 17 years old, but they say he is very large. Maggie she has come home, left her place. She is a very nice girl, sings and plays the piano beautiful.

There is a school teacher here she was engaged too. Gave her several beautiful presents, watch, bracelet, breastpin and other things. She sent them all back and broke off the engagement. He had quite a lot of money in the bank and two farms of land and a good position in a school. I thought it would have been a good offer for her. But she says she doesn't want to get married for a few years. I think she regrets what she has done now.

I am very sorry your meals are getting poor. You ought to get them all to kick about such a practice of starving you all. Delighted to hear of your good prospects. Looking forward to the time when I shall hear that I have the smartest son in the country. Don't get vexed at Dr. Cushing. Whatever he says he can't help it.…

I like England much better than Ireland. This would have been a beautiful place in summer but there is no place nice in winter. I would like to live in Barrow very well, I think better than America.

Well it is tea time now. They eat 4 or 5 times here. We have no kicks about not getting plenty to eat. Every one comes in. They have to have tea with them. Pa is getting used to it now, likes the custom all right.

Your loving Mother


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