Medical Officers
Of the Malta Garrison
William Pym
1772 – 1861

Deputy Inspector of Hospitals William Pym

KB (1830) KCH (1831) MD (St And 1799)

Jan 1772 – 18 Mar 1861 [London]

Service Record

14 July 1789 French Revolution.

24 Feb 1792 Commissioned Surgeon's Mate 35th (Dorsetshire) Regiment of Foot.
Appointed by Warrant granted by the Colonel of the Regiment. Surgeon's Mates were Warrant Officers. The Royal Warrant of 30 November 1796 changed the rank to Assistant Surgeon to be appointed by commission.

Feb 1793 Revolutionary France declares war on Britain.

1 Sep 1793 Hospital Mate.

Oct 1793–Sept 1795 In the West Indies. Appointed by The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland Acting Surgeon Flank Battalion. The Flank Battalion and Light Infantry were under orders for embarkation.

4 Apr 1794 Surgeon the 70th (Surrey) Regiment of Foot.

Served with 70th Foot at Martinique, St Lucia, and Guadaloupe. The 70th Foot formed part of the expedition, led by Lieutenant General Sir Charles Grey, to seize the French islands of Guadaloupe, St Lucia, and Martinique. Pym was in medical charge at Martinique during the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1794–1796, when an estimated 16,000 troops are said to have died of the disease. While serving as Physician to the General Hospital at Martinique, Pym wrote "Observations upon Bolan Fever 1816", which gave the first original account of Yellow Fever.

3 Oct 1799 Garrison Surgeon Gibraltar.

27 Sep 1801 Surgeon-Major Gibraltar.

Sep 1804–Oct 1804 On leave.

Oct 1804–Oct 1806 Surgeon Major Gibraltar. Performed duty at the Quarantine Department of Gibraltar for 13 years without emolument. In 1804 Lt Gen Fox recommended him for a permanent situation. He established fees producing to government an average of £800 a year of which he received 20 shillings a day.3

Oct 1806 Shipwrecked on the Athenienne which had left Gibraltar on 16 Oct for Sardinia and Malta. On 20 October 1806, the Athenienne hit the volcanic shoal in the channel between Sardinia, Sicily, and Africa, and went down with the loss of 347 out of 470 passengers.

Oct 1806–July 1807 At Sicily as Assistant Deputy Inspector.

20 Aug 1807 War Office letter dated 20 August 1807: relative to Mr Pym's appointment of Deputy Inspector of Hospitals to the Army in Sicily, I have the Secretary-at-War directions to transmit for the information of HRH The Commander-in-Chief the Inspector General report stating that the staff of the army serving in the Mediterranean has at present attached to it one Inspector of Hospitals and three Deputy Inspectors, which in his opinion precludes the necessity of an additional officer of that class being appointed.

2 Aug 1807–May 1809 Left Messina for England.

May 1809–24 Feb 1812 At Gibraltar.

20 Dec 1810 Deputy Inspector of Hospitals. Pym stated that he obtained the rank of DIH after twenty years service but had to relinquish it on being appointed Superintendent of Quarantine at Malta.

Malta 18 Sep 1811 Appointed Head of the Lazaretto and Superintendent of the Quarantine Department. His annual salary was £800. Pym states that when he took "charge of the quarantine department I found it a mass of confusion and plunder scarcely producing income sufficient to pay its expenses. During my residence there I established a new code of regulations which produced order and regularity and now brings in the revenue, after paying all expenses, a clear profit of at least £12,000 a year".3

Malta 3 Mar 1812 Arrived at Malta. President of the Board of Health.

1 May 1812 Pym asked for leave of absence for 8 months. His duties during his absence were carried out by the garrison surgeon staff surgeon Joseph Thomas who had resided in Malta for over 11 years. Thomas had served as a member of the Board of Health instituted by Sir Alexander Ball.1

Lt Gen Hildebrand Oakes said that Pym was of very great use during the short time he was in Malta "in suggesting and carrying into effect various improvements in the Lazaretto, which was not only towards the general benefit of that department but will be attendant with a considerable increase in revenue. I have a high opinion of his abilities and I should be very glad that he was to remain in the situation; at the same time I trust he will not be allowed to retain it as a sinecure like Mr Eton, or even permanently to act by deputy, as I conceive that the person of the actual Superintendent of the Quarantine is essentially necessary for the daily conducting this branch of the Public Service and this was a very material motive for my wishing Mr Eton's dismissal".1

William Pym had never seen the plague. In his evidence to the Select Committee of the House of Commons, Pym believed plague to be transmitted by contact or very near approach to the person under the disease was necessary unlike small pox which may be communicated by being in the same room or at a considerable distance from a person labouring under the disease without contact. He stated that it was independent of the atmosphere and that quarantine was effective.

Malta 1812 Pym's Regulations for the performance of quarantine at Malta:

William Eton had established his own fees and charges for the Quarantine Department. In a letter dated 29 July 1801, Eton gave the charges for performing quarantine at Malta as around £2 8s 11d:

23 July 1812 Report on the finances of Malta and Gozo for 1812 by Thomas Fyers, dated 23 July 1812 found no faults with the health office under Mr Pym. "The rules, regulations and fees very lately approved and put in force by the King's Commissioners upon the investigations and report of William Pym, the superintendent have been productive of great improvement in the system throughout and have yet met with no dissent as far as I have heard in any point but one against which the merchants have strongly remonstrated, but seemingly upon very insufficient grounds. The Health Office by means of the new tariff and abolition of individual fees will be seen to have been also highly productive".2

15 Apr 1813 "Being called upon to return to Malta to take charge of the quarantine department I decline the duty because of bad health induced by a long residence in warm climate and repeated attacks of liver complaints".3

16 May 1813 Reduced to half-pay.

9 July 1813 On 9 July 1813 Pym offered his services to return to Malta as the plague was gaining ground. Pym stated that although his health did not permit him to remain permanently either at Malta or Gibraltar he was "happy for the present or any case of emergency to go to either place when a temporary residence may be thought of benefit to the public service. In July 1813, Pym was succeeded as Superintendent of the Lazaretto by Inspector of Hospitals Robert Grieves.

25 Sep 1816 Retired with the rank of Inspector of Hospitals.

1826 Superintendent General of Quarantine in Great Britain on an annual salary of £600.

4 Nov 1828 Volunteered for service at Gibraltar as Inspector of Hospitals, during the prevalence of contagious fever. Remained at Gibraltar till May 1829.

1831 Invested by HM William IV a Knight Commander of the Hanoverian Order.

1832 Chairman, Central Board of Health during the Cholera Epidemic in England.

1 July 1838 One of twenty two Inspectors General on half pay. Total Service: 46 years 11 months, Total Full Pay Service: 20 years 3 months.