During the winter of 1912-1913, my maternal grandfather, William W. Howell (1875-1957), a physician from
went to Vienna and to study the diseases of children.
Upon his return, he accepted a position at the Berlin (his alma mater), where he taught pediatrics
from 1913-1921; he also had a private practice with offices on Harvard Medical
School Dartmouth Street.
O. Maxwell Ayrton (1874-1960) was a Scottish architect who lived and worked in
. He passed the Royal Institute of British Architects qualifying examination and was admitted as an Associate on November 30, 1903. His projects included Wembley Stadium, National Institute for Medical Research at Mill Hill, Twickenham Bridge in London and Findhore, Loch Alvie and Spey bridges in Ivernesshire, Scotland. London
Ayrton and his wife and children came to the USA in 1925, and, as my grandfather told it, one of Ayrton’s children became quite ill while the family was in
My grandfather, who had privileges at several Boston hospitals, was the pediatrician in
charge of Ayrton’s case; he was instrumental in saving young Ayrton’s life. Boston
And so began an unlikely friendship: the
physician and the
London-based architect remained in touch until my grandfather’s death in the
1950s...by letter, mostly, although each visited the other at least once more
during their lives when overseas. Boston
I have an original ink drawing sent to my grandparents from the Maxwell Ayrton family for a Christmas present in 1928; the image is 30” long, 6” high, under glass in a rich oak frame:
“A Prospect of Plymouth Sound and its Environments from the Hoe,” signed by Maxwell Ayrton.
It's a panoramic view of water, town rooflines, landscape. The detail is amazing... there’s a woman lounging on the stone wall, a boy with a fishing line, an organ-grinder (complete with little monkey); an elegantly-dressed couple with a telescope, two other gentlemen chatting, an onion vendor, two slightly overweight workingmen, a fish monger with his cart (I love the face on this guy!), a woman with two children, one of whom is rolling a hoop (my grandfather told me that this is Mrs. Ayrton with her two children)...
It hangs beneath the double window in my dining room; it’s tucked between the windowsill and the floor in a lovely, neutral patch of wall. I’ve seen dinner guests kneel on the rug to get a better look; they’re always delighted by the drawing...and the story!
Christmas and New Year greetings to you all; I’ll be back in 2014!