Medical Officers
Of the Malta Garrison
Robert Grieves
? – 1828

Staff Surgeon Robert Grieves

? – June 1828 [Edinburgh]

Service Record

1723 Studied under Dr Monro.

1784 Passed his examination before The College of Surgeons.

4 July 1784 Surgeon's Mate 53rd Regiment of Foot.

1786 Joined the 53rd Foot in Canada.

In May 1776, the 53rd was among the reinforcements sent out to Quebec. Its flank companies were with General John Burgoyne's army at the Battle of Saratoga (19 Sep 1777), in the American War of Independence (1775–1783), but the rest of the regiment was left behind in Canada, where it remained until 1787.

Autumn 1789 Returned to England and resumed his studies at Edinburgh.

Nov 1789 Hospital Mate.

Spring 1790 Appointed in London, Assistant Surgeon on the Staff of Antigua, West Indies, by Surgeon General John Hunter.

7 Feb 1793–April 1802 French Revolutionary Wars.

3 Apr 1794 Surgeon 58th (Rutlandshire) Regiment of Foot.

Joined Sir Charles Grey's Army at Barbados. Served throughout the campaign as surgeon of the Light Brigade and of the 58th Foot. In Apr 1793, British troops seized the island of Tobago, occupied by the French since 1781, and landed on St Domingo, but failed to take Martinique. An Expedition under Lieutenant General Sir Charles Grey left Portsmouth for the West Indies on 26 Nov 1793. It arrived at Barbados in Jan 1794. Grey captured the islands of Martinique (25 Mar 1794), St Lucia (4 Apr 1794), and Guadeloupe (22 Apr 1794). With no reinforcements forthcoming from England and with his troops dying from Yellow Fever, Grey was unable to achieve any further gains against the French and left the West Indies at the end of the year.

A further Expedition under General Sir Ralph Abercrombie reached Barbados on 21 Apr 1796, to suppress a number of revolts that had broken out in several of the former French possessions in the West Indies. In 1796, the 58th Foot took part in the capture of Martinique, St Lucia, and Guadaloupe which had been re taken by the French in 1794.

1796 Returned to England with The 58th (Rutlandshire) Regiment of Foot.

15 Nov 1798 Embarked for the Mediterranean. Was present at the capture of Minorca by General Sir Charles Stuart (15 Nov 1798).

8 Jan 1801 Appointed Staff Surgeon.

24 Apr 1801 On the Medical Staff in Egypt of the army under Sir Ralph Abercrombie.

Malta Oct 1801 Arrived from Egypt.

Malta 1802 Staff Surgeon at the Military Hospital Valletta.

Malta 1803 In surgical charge of the naval sick and wounded admitted to the General Hospital, Valletta.

On 22 January 1804, Major General Villettes said of him and Staff Surgeon Abraham Bolton, who was in medical charge of the naval sick, that the two gentlemen are very meritorious men, and attended the Navy patients with the most conscientious and approved attention. Nonetheless, he did not feel it appropriate for them to receive extra pay.

It is my private opinion that public officers who enjoy His Majesty's pay are bound to serve indiscriminately for either branch of the public service if required, without fee or reward.

On 18 January 1804, Inspector General of Hospitals William Franklin, had applied for extra pay for R Grieves and A Bolton. Not only had the seriously ill naval patients generated a considerable amount of extra duties, but also a precedent had been set in Egypt. When the naval surgeons there, had the care of wounded soldiers, the Commander-in-Chief had allowed them ten shillings a day each, for the time they had the wounded men under their care.10

Malta 1804 Staff Surgeon.

Malta 1805 Staff Surgeon.

Malta 1806 Left Malta for Sicily.

July 1806 PMO at the Battle of Maida Calabria under Major General Sir John Stuart.

18 Sep 1806 Deputy Inspector of Hospitals.
Head of the Medical Staff Officers in Italy.

1807–1811 Served in Sicily until appointed to a district in England.

28 Mar 1813–April 1814 Plague epidemic in Malta kills 4,486 out of a population of 116,00.

8 July 1813 Appointed by Earl Bathurst, Secretary of State for War and the Colonies (1812-1827), Superintendent of Quarantine at Malta instead of William Pym who retired from ill health after a long absence from his post. The appointment was considered permanent during good behaviour.4 Received an annual salary of £800 with no fees or any other perquisites. On 29 July 1813, he was informed that the plague continued to rage in Malta and Earl Bathurst requested him to proceed to his post by the earliest opportunity.8 HRH the Commander-in-Chief approves your being ordered to Malta as temporary addition to the medical staff of that island. You will on arrival report yourself for duty there to the Commander of the Forces through Deputy Inspector Green as well as to the latter Gentlemen under whose orders you are for the present placed.9

17 Aug 1813 Purification of susceptible goods: It having been discovered that gas produced from the ignition of manganese sea salt with sulphuric acid has not only the most powerful effect of purifying the air but also of destroying contagion with little or no detriment to merchandise except metals, I beg to have a quantity of each in proportion of two thousand pounds weight of sulphuric acid and 600 pounds weight of manganese shipped to Malta for the purpose of fumigating the public stores and such other buildings as may have been affected by the contagion.5 On 4 September 1813, 14 cases of vitriol, 4 cases of manganese and 100 fumigating lamps were shipped at Portsmouth on board the transport Duke of York for the lazaret at Malta.

Malta Dec 1813 Arrived at Malta as Superintendent of the Quarantine Department. Head of the Quarantine Department for 12 years.

During the continuance of the plague Grieves was by virtue of his office as head of the department constantly employed in duties of an extremely disagreeable, fatiguing, and, I may add, duties of a very dangerous nature, having had under my close inspection the whole of the cases of plague forwarded from the different infected villages to the Lazaretto. During my last 12 years superintendence of the quarantine department I have had repeated instances of ships arriving with plague actually on board from the Levant and the Barbary Coast, and as on all such occasions the whole management devolving on myself. I feel justified in stating that by the strictness with which the necessary measures have been on all occasions adopted and carried into ultimate successful effect in the Lazaretto, the plague had been prevented from disseminating itself through the Island of Malta.3

In the course of many years experience as Superintendent of Quarantine at Malta, no accident of plague has occurred from the expurgation of cotton or other produce of Egypt or the Levant at the Lazaretto of that island. I cannot subscribe to the novel idea of the non contagiousness nature of the plague as fatal experiment both in Malta and the Ionian Islands have in my mind fully reinforced the contrary".2

Malta 1814 Took over the Army Medical Department in Malta from Deputy Inspector of Hospitals Ralph Green. Principal Medical Officer, and Superintendent of the Quarantine Department. Collector of the Quarantine Revenues and Public Accountant for the Quarantine Department. The revenues arose from goods deposited and fumigated in the Lazaretto, on anchorage of ships in the Quarantine Harbour and for certificates of ships given pratique.

Malta 1815 Principal Medical Officer, and Superintendent of the Quarantine Department.

Malta 18 Jan 1816 Inspector of Hospitals.

Appointed President of the Permanent Committee of the Charitable Institutions of Malta by Sir Thomas Maitland. He was also President of a Medical Committee which directed the affairs of the Civil Hospitals. Grieves gave a detailed account of what his work involved: duties as senior member of a committee entitled for the administration of the Government charities, ie for the distribution of alms, amounting to £5000 annually, and for the purpose of reforming and managing the Civil Hospitals, one male and one female, with an Ospizio or Poor House, containing altogether never less than 700 sick and poor Maltese inhabitants. At the time of the formation of the Committee many reforms were deemed necessary in these establishments particularly in the economical branches of the hospital and poor house which reforms were from my experience in that service supposed to devolve on me.2

Grieves declined an offer of a salary of £200 a year made to him by Sir Thomas Maitland on the principle that the Maltese people employed in the service and whose interests would naturally be affected by the new modeling of these establishments should not accuse me of mercenary motives. The only emolument derived by me from the whole of my service in Malta is the bare salary as Superintendent of the Quarantine Department and that from a long and never absent residence in that hot country my health has become very considerably injured.2

12 Feb 1816 In 1816, the DGAMS James McGrigor attempted to reduce the number of officers on the half pay list so as to cut costs. Those unable or unwilling to return to the service were offered a commutation of their half pay for a fixed sum. On 12 February 1816, McGrigor wrote to Torrens stating that in submitting to HRH the Commander-in-Chief the names of several medical staff officers for reduction I have proposed that Inspector of Hospitals Robert Grieves lately promoted may be placed on the half pay on 25 March. I have been induced to recommend this extension of time in his case from the circumstances of his being employed at Malta and that he cannot much sooner be made acquainted with the arrangement. Dr Grieves holds in Malta the appointment in the quarantine department, a situation under the civil government that while it confines his duties to the station may render the receipt pf half pay in the usual manner incompatible.7

9 Mar 1816 I am directed by the Secretary-at-war to transmit to you the copies of the letter from Sir Henry Torrens and the director general of the Army Medical Department recommending that Dr Grieves may receive a military allowance equivalent to the half pay of an Inspector of Hospitals from 25 March and so long as he shall continue in his present civil employment in the quarantine department at Malta which you will be pleased to lay before the Earl Bathurst with Lord Palmerston request to be informed whether there is any objection to Dr Grieves receiving the recompense to which his service in the army seems fairly to entitle him.6

25 Mar 1816 Reduced to half pay but remained in the employment of the Malta Government.

11 June 1817 Went to England on 3 months leave of absence on account of his health. Returned to Malta at the end of his leave.

1818 At Grieves' suggestion the Quarantine Regulations then in force were revised and reformed, so as to further safeguard the health of the population and remove the many grievances from the merchants.

1 Jan 1821 Robert Grieves was still on the establishment of the quarantine department of the Government of Malta. His salary was 753 scudi and 1 tari a month. (The scudo was equivalent to 1 shilling and 8 pence).

Malta 17 Jan 1824 Together with Inspector of Hospitals Hennen John and Surgeon Broadfoot Alexander attended HE The Governor Sir Thomas Maitland during his sudden illness and death from apoplexy.

1 Aug 1824 Retired after a service of "eleven years in this scorching island completing a servitude of forty years to His Majesty, thirty seven of which in hot and noxious climates as an army officer he finds his health particularly his sight so much impaired that he prays his Lordship to allow him to retire on pension the same as his predecessor, Mr William Pym, or a small percentage of the balance of money that he had paid into the Treasury of Malta monthly, after defraying the expenses of the department from the quarantine revenues. This would have amounted to half the salary of a superintendent of quarantine". (Mr Pym received a pension of £300 a year which was payable from the pratique fiscal of Gibraltar).1

27 May 1825 In his petition for an increased pension, Grieves claimed that from a long and never absent residence in that hot country, (Malta), my health has become very considerably injured, as at present I suffer from a chronic liver complaint with the sight of both eyes considerably diminished.2

Grieves claimed that in the twelve years between 1813 to 1825, the Quarantine department had paid into the Treasury of Malta nearly £25,000 after defraying every expense of the department. The revenue arising from fees charged for goods deposited at the Lazaretto, anchorage of ships in the quarantine harbour, and the granting of certificates to ships that had completed quarantine at Malta.

20 July 1825 Granted an annual pension of £362 payable from 20 July 1825.

June 1828 Died at Edinburgh.