Thursday, August 14, 2008

‘Reds under the Beds’- Dr Jarman

Dr Carole Reeves writes:

Byron Sambrook described Dr Jarman as an ‘out and out communist’ when he was a patient in the 1940s, and Jarman was indeed a paid up member of the Communist Party, as I discovered in his file at the National Library of Wales.

Dr Thomas Francis Jarman qualified at Durham University in 1927 and went to America on a two-year fellowship. Afterwards, he worked in several British sanatoria including Glan Ely, near Cardiff, at the same time as Dr Williams (1934). In 1938 he wanted to stand as councillor for the Bridgend Labour Party but was stopped by the Welsh National Memorial Association. He then tried to organise an exhibition of Russian photography at Neath Library, which the Town Council barred as being ‘propagandist’. He was a member of the Socialist Medical Association of Great Britain in 1941 along with a number of prominent TB experts including Philip D’Arcy Hart (who ran the Streptomycin trial in 1947).

Dr Jarman went to Craig-y-nos in 1941 to replace Dr Doherty who had joined the army. Four years later, having unsuccessfully applied for a number of jobs and been (as he saw it) passed over for promotion within the Association, he was asked by the Neath branch of the Communist Party to stand for election to Neath Borough Council. Once more, he was prevented and subsequently applied for a post in New Zealand, which he didn’t get. Eventually, in 1946, he was awarded a Fellowship to research TB in the USA, a place with zero tolerance of communism.

Jarman’s important contribution to TB was his ‘letters from America’, reporting the first uses of Streptomycin to the Medical Research Council (MRC) Streptomycin Committee. The Committee praised him for providing ‘the best and most up to date information which they have so far received on the subject.’ The MRC’s Streptomycin trials began in England and Wales in January 1947, and in February Jarman wrote to Dr Tattersall at the Association: ‘I am anxious to impress on you that we should fight for the maximum amount of Streptomycin that we can possibly get, and that we should be included in a liberal way in any Streptomycin studies that may be started at home.’ In fact the British government could only afford to buy 50 kg of the antibiotic from the USA at a cost of $320,000, a huge sum of money in the post-war era, and only 100 patients went into the trial, half of whom received Streptomycin.

No comments: