William Smellie (pronounced Smiley) was born in Lanark, Scotland in 1697. The Science Museum notes that he was the most significant obstetrician of his time, and the first to teach obstetrics and midwifery on a purely scientific basis. He established obstetrics as a discipline separate from surgery – a father of British midwifery.
Smellie would have been just a small boy when the acts of Union were signed in 1707, and In just under two weeks time, Scotland will vote on whether to remain part of the United Kingdom, or whether to undo the positive relationship we’ve enjoyed over more than three centuries and choose a path of separatism – a historic decision that will affect not only those in Scotland but will have a fundamental impact on those of us who live in the rest of Britain.
So what does this have to do with William Smellie?
Firstly, although Scottish by birth and practice, he is an early example of the benefits of a united Britain working together, doing much of his groundbreaking work in London, with the benefits seen across the UK and across the world ever since.
Secondly, although I’ve lived in Walkden since I was a small boy, and my immediate family tree throws up far-flung places like Boothstown, Weaste and Little Lever, my parents were living in Scotland in the early 1980s and so my first sight of the world was at the maternity hospital in Lanark that carried Smellie’s name. Hence a somewhat tenuous personal connection with William Smellie, and a considerably stronger personal interest in what happens in the referendum vote on 18th September.
I find it hard to stomach that the town of my birth, and the nearby town (Carluke) where I spent the first few years of my life, could be preparing to be in a foreign country in just a few weeks’ time. I also know that the end of the Union would be deeply damaging, not just to Scotland but to all those across the country, including here in Greater Manchester, who benefit from the great partnership that is the United Kingdom. We see those benefits every day with hundreds of local businesses, and to give just one example we see it more visibly when great Scottish athletes reap the rewards of training as part of the British squad at the Velodrome in Manchester.
So if you are reading this message and you happen to have a vote on September 18th, I’d love you to vote no – we really are better together. If you have a friend, a work colleague or a family member who lives in Scotland, give them a call this week – give them a clear message. We want you to stay.