Source 8

Extract from a letter from Dr McKinnon in reply to George Graham [see Source 7], 24 August 1865, Catalogue ref: WO 138/1 



I had been intimately acquainted with that gentleman for a good many years, both in the West Indies, & in England and have never had any suspicion that Dr Barry was a female. I attended him during his last illness, and for some months previously for bronchitis and the affection [infection] causing his death was diarrhoea produced apparently by errors in diet. 


On one occasion after Dr Barry’s death, I was sent for to the office of Sir Charles McGregor, and there the woman, who performed the last offices for Dr Barry [laid out the body before burial] was waiting to speak to me. 


She wished to obtain some perquisites [tip/gift in addition to her wages] of her employment which the lady who kept the lodging house in which Dr Barry died had refused to give her. 


Amongst other things she said Dr Barry was a female and that I was a pretty doctor not to know this [not a very good doctor] and that she would not like to be attended by me. I informed her that it was none of my business whether Dr Barry was a male or a female- and that I thought it as likely he might be neither, viz. an imperfectly developed man. 


She then said that she had examined the body and that it was a perfect female and farther that there were marks of her having had a child when young. I then enquired: How have you reached this conclusion? The woman pointing to the lower part of her stomach, said from marks here, I am a married woman, and mother of nine children, I ought to know. 


The woman seemed to me to think that she had become acquainted with a great secret and wished to be paid for keeping it. I informed her that all Dr Barry’s relatives were dead and it was no secret of mine and that my own impression was that Dr Barry was a hermaphrodite [intersex]. 


But whether Dr Barry was male or female or hermaphrodite I do not know, nor had I any purpose in making the discovery as I could positively swear to the identity of the body as being that of a person whom I had been acquainted with as Inspector General of Hospitals for a period of eight or nine years. 



Yours faithfully 


D.R. McKinnon


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  • What are McKinnon’s views concerning Dr Barry? 
  • How do his opinions differ from those of the woman mentioned in the extract? 
  • Is there anything shocking/surprising about this source? 
  • What does this source infer about the life of Dr James Barry?