Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Unbelievable Secret of Dr James Barry

Amongst the parade of dignitaries making the pilgrimage to Frederick Korsten’s country estate 5 miles from Port Elizabeth, was Dr James Barry, one of the most highly respected surgeons of his day. He had risen from hospital assistant to become the top-ranking doctor in the British Army and was known as a zealous reformer who had served in garrisons from South Africa to Jamaica. Accompanying him on his visit to Frederick Korsten at Cradock Place was the governor Lord Charles Somerset.

Barry’s secret life would almost certainly have been taken to his grave if the hospital staff had obeyed his last wish that he be buried in his night clothes. This would have hidden the fact that Dr. James Barry was in fact a female.

How had this been possible?

Main picture:   Dr James Barry

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