Monday, February 21, 2011

From the Archives


The Case of the Missing Plaque
By Chris Music, AMS Commissionaire and Archivist

As most Mendicants know, the first meeting between Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson, M.D. took place in 1881 at the chemical laboratory at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London. Dr. Watson described this meeting in detail in A Study in Scarlet.

Another great event took place in 1953, when the Amateur Mendicant Society of Detroit erected a plaque at St. Barts –commemorating this historic meeting. The plaque stated the following:

AT THIS PLACE NEW YEARS DAY, 1881
WERE SPOKEN THESE DEATHLESS WORDS:
“YOU HAVE BEEN
IN AFGHANISTAN, I PERCEIVE”
BY
MR. SHERLOCK HOLMES
IN GREETING TO
JOHN H. WATSON, M.D.
AT THEIR FIRST MEETING
THE BAKER STREET IRREGULARS – 1953
BY THE AMATEUR MENDICANTS AT THE CAUCUS CLUB

But what happened to this plaque? Could it really still be there after all these years? Or was it lost? Stolen? Maybe it was buried in a forgotten storage closet somewhere. Or was it still hanging in its original location? These questions prompted me to contact St. Bartholomew’s directly to inquire. Much to my delight, I received an email back from one Katie Omerod – Deputy Archivist at Barts. In it she states:

“The plaque which you refer to is very much still in existence! It is currently hanging in the Museum here at Barts, where it has been for the last 5 years or so. It was moved from its previous location in a Medical School building as no one got to see it there.”

So mystery solved! The museum at St. Barts is open to all, free of charge, Tuesday-Friday 10AM – 4PM. So next time your travels take you to London, make it a point to visit this historic site which played such an important part in both Sherlockian and Mendicant history.

(Thanks to Roger Johnson, BSI, Sherlock Holmes Society of London for the photo)

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