Tull, Edward James Alexander

Edward James Alexander Tull was a mixed heritage dentist in Glasgow. He was born in 1886 at 57 Walton Road, Folkestone, Kent. His paternal grandparents were William Criss and Anna who were enslaved Moravians on the Clifton Estate Barbados. They spent their spare time teaching their fellow slaves to read and write. When William and Anna were liberated William changed his name to Tull. William and Anna gave birth to Daniel (1856-1897) who trained as a carpenter and joiner. In 1876 William worked his way to England as a ship’s carpenter. Shortly after his arrival in England in 1877 Daniel wrote a journal giving an insight into his early life in Barbados and St Lucia. When he settled in Folkestone as a carpenter he joined the Grace Hill Wesleyan Methodist Chapel where he met his future wife Alice Elizabeth Palmer (c.1853-1895), a farm worker’s daughter. During their tragically short marriage they had six children, Bertha 1881 who died in infancy, William 1882, Cecelia 1884 [Cissie], Edward 1886, Walter 1888, Elsie 1891 (later Seward BEM). A year after Alice had died he married her cousin Clara Alice Susannah Palmer. They had one child Miriam (later Kingsland) who was born 11 September 1897. Three months later Daniel died of a heart attack. Miriam found it impossible to cope with looking after five step children and Miriam so it was arranged that the two youngest boys Edward and Walter to be placed in the National Children's Home (NCH) Bonner Road, Bethnal Green, London. Edward enjoyed singing and soon joined the Bethnal Green NCH choir. On several occasions the choir toured to several parts of the UK giving concerts to raise money for the home. As a devout Methodist, Edward’s love of singing would stay with him throughout his life, culminating in him leading the choir at his local church many years later. His rich baritone voice was regularly heard at concerts in Scottish concert halls and other venues. On one occasion the choir was performing in Glasgow in 1900. In the audience was Mr James Kay Warnock (1856-1914) with his wife Jennie (1863-) Jennie’s brother James Aitken was a dentist in Glasgow. Jennie and her brother James Aitken had been orphaned and were raised in a poorhouse in Kirkintilloch. James K. Warnock was a highly skilled block printer but decided to become an apprentice dentist to his brother in law James Aitken. Once trained he eventually opening his own dental practice. The minister of the Claremont Street Wesleyan Church, Glasgow described Warnock’s practice as "whose clientele is mainly among the poorer people" The Warnocks adopted Edward, changed his name to Tull-Warnock and promised to educate him and "treat him as a son". Although this meant him being separated from his brother Walter they regularly wrote to each other . In 1903 the Warnocks sent 52 shillings to Walter for the train fare to come to stay with them for a holiday. Edwards adoptive parents were eager to give him a good education so they sent him to the Allan Glen Boys’ School, Glasgow. He quickly showed an academic capacity and like his brother he showed an aptitude for football. In 1906 Edward entered the Incorporated Glasgow Dental Hospital where he became an outstanding student, and won prizes for his operative work. On leaving the hospital he went to the Glasgow Royal Infirmary to learn anaesthesia. He graduated in 1910 with LDS [Licentiate in Dental Surgery] With his graduate qualifications now granted Edward applied for a post as an assistant dentist in Birmingham. With wise awareness he sent with his application a photograph of himself. When Edward arrival at the surgery his new employer looking at the man of colour before him is reported to have said: ‘My God, you’re coloured! You’ll destroy my practice in 24 hours!’ He was not employed. Disappointed but nor undeterred Edward returned to Glasgow and joined his father’s practice. When in 1914 James K. Warnock died Edward took over the practice. Later he worked in Aberdeen where he met Elizabeth Elliot Hutchison (-1963) who he married on 30th September 1918 Edward Tull-Warnock is recognised as one of Britain’s first Black professional dentists. He qualified in 1912, and was entered onto the Dentist Register in 1913. Edward understood and promoted the importance of preventative dentistry. He was an advocate for a balanced diet. He became aware that the fad for confectionary was a dangerous factor in poor dental health. He encouraged regular dental hygiene and dental examinations. His strong support for the National Health Service came in part as he remembered, with horror, the tragic practice of some of the poorer Glaswegians who sent their young children to his surgery with 6d and a message from their parents to extract as many teeth as sixpence could pay for. Edward was a keep sportsman which included football and golf. He played football for the Ayr Parkhouse Football Club and Girvan Athletic Football Club. He was a member of the Turnberry Golf Club winning several championship trophies. Edward remained in contact with his siblings and his sister Cissie [Cecelia] came to live with him and Elizabeth. Edward and Elizabeth had one child, a daughter Jean who married Rev Duncan Finlayson (1917-2012) and had 4 children Pat, Duncan, Edward and Iona. There are at least seven members of Edward’s extended family who became dentists. Edward’s adopted cousin, Benjamina Aitken, was one of Scotland's earliest female Licentiates in Dental Surgery who graduated in 1929. At St Bartholomew’s and the London School of Medicine there is a prestigious Edward Tull-Warnock dental scholarship which is open to African/Caribbean dental or oral hygiene therapy students in the BDS or BSc Oral Health Programmes.

  • The Medical Directory 1915 (SEVENTY FIRST ANNUAL ISSUE)
  • The Dentist Register 1940 The Dental Board Of The United Kingdom
  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2008
  • British Dental Association www.bda.org/news-centre/blog/a-story-of-courage-and-achievement-in-early-dentistry-edward-tull viewed 30 May 2022
  • Ancestry.co.uk www.ancestry.co.uk/family-tree/person/tree/964616/person/122351629064/facts?_phsrc=ohM731&_phstart=successSource viewed 30 May 2022

Entry written by: DHR
Category: Person
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