Osborne Henry Mavor is one of the University of Glasgow’s most important graduates, both in terms of his university career and what he did following it. During his time at university he was a lively contributor to the Glasgow University Magazine; editing it for a year, writing under the pseudonyms ‘Squid’ and ‘Cartouche’ and drawing caricatures signed ‘OH! Did This’ . Mavor was also a member of the university’s Officer Training Corps and went on to serve in the First World War as a Captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps. Following the war he continued to work in medicine before he became the well-known playwright he is remembered as today, James Bridie.
As one of Glasgow’s most prominent sons it is unsurprising that OH Mavor is well represented in many of its archival collections. As a student he can be found in the University of Glasgow’s records; as a doctor he is in the Glasgow Health Board’s collection as well as that of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons Glasgow; and as a playwright he can be found in the Scottish Theatre Archive (held at University of Glasgow Special Collections). Each of these collections individually has something to tell about this remarkable man and looking at them together it is possible to gain a full picture of Osborne Henry Mavor. Whilst Mavor’s career as a playwright is well known, his life as a student and doctor is less prominent. Over the next two days, University of Glasgow Archive Services and the Health Board Archives have joined forces to reveal more about OH Mavor by writing two blogs and creating a Flickr set of some of his drawings.
Mavor started his studies in 1904. Only one year later he invented Daft Friday, a Glasgow University Union annual event that is still going to this day. Indeed it seems true to say that Mavor’s studies were a secondary concern during his time at Glasgow, as he didn’t graduate until 1913. He wrote of himself:
Looked upon many institutions with disfavour.
When he has been longer at College
He may acquire more knowledge”
Mavor described the university a “pinkly perfect microcosm” in one issue of the Glasgow University Magazine and speaks of the importance of “being properly interested” in one’s social life. He certainly was an exemplary member of the Glasgow University Union, serving on the Committee of Management and has a library named after him in the building. His contribution to the magazine is vast; during his years as a student it is hard to find an issue that he hasn’t written in or drawn something for.
Some of Mavor’s contributions give an insight into his early interest in theatre and comedy, certainly an irreverent tone dominates his writing as well as his cartoons. One short story entitled ‘Jack and the Beanstalk: A Christmas Pantomime for Children’ finishes:
“Jack and his mother lived happily ever afterward. The beanstalk did not grow, but, owing to Mr Lloyd George’s National Insurance Act, they were saved from anxiety forever more.”
In one review of a George Bernard Shaw play Mavor calls him ‘Mr Shaw’ as if they are well acquainted; interestingly when Mavor was writing as James Bridie, his work was compared to Shaw’s and as Bridie he also wrote essays and articles about him.
Mavor saw the magazine as a place where “young men are still learning their Art”, surely including himself in that category. Over his years as well as acting as a contributor to the magazine he also edited it. The Glasgow University Magazine gave him a chance to try different writing styles; he wrote short stories, critiques, editorials and poetry. This variety of output is mirrored in his later writing; whilst Mavor, or Bridie, was a playwright he was more than capable of writing in other forms. In one piece he adamantly defends the magazine and his fellow contributors from a critic, ending:
“In the meantime you can take it from me that the G.U.M. writers are much cleverer than you, and write much better stuff than you are accustomed to.”
Whilst initially it may seem as though Mavor spent his time at university unwisely, given his successful literary career it is apparent that his ‘distractions’ were far from pointless. As well as becoming a doctor at the University of Glasgow he also began to hone his writing and comedic skills which would serve him well in the future.
Tomorrow we will look at Mavor’s career as a doctor.