Medical Officers of the Malta Garrison
Pym William

search maltaramc

Deputy Inspector of Hospitals William Pym KB (1830) KCH (1831) MD (St And 1799)
Jan 1772 – 18 Mar 1861 [London]

Service Record — William Pym

14 July 1789 French Revolution.

24 Feb 1792 Commissioned Surgeon's Mate 35th (Dorsetshire) Regiment of Foot.
Appointed by Warrant granted by the Colonel of the Regiment. Surgeon's Mates were Warrant Officers. The Royal Warrant of 30 November 1796 changed the rank to Assistant Surgeon to be appointed by commission.

Feb 1793 Revolutionary France declares war on Britain.

1 Sept 1793 Hospital Mate.

Oct 1793–Sept 1795 In the West Indies. Appointed by The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland Acting Surgeon Flank Battalion. The Flank Battalion and Light Infantry were under orders for embarkation.

4 Apr 1794 Surgeon the 70th (Surrey) Regiment of Foot.

Served with 70th Foot at Martinique, St Lucia, and Guadaloupe. The 70th Foot formed part of the expedition, led by Lieutenant General Sir Charles Grey, to seize the French islands of Guadaloupe, St Lucia, and Martinique. Pym was in medical charge at Martinique during the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1794–1796, when an estimated 16,000 troops are said to have died of the disease. While serving as Physician to the General Hospital at Martinique, Pym wrote "Observations upon Bolan Fever 1816", which gave the first original account of Yellow Fever.

3 Oct 1799 Garrison Surgeon Gibraltar.

27 Sept 1801 Surgeon-Major Gibraltar.

Sept 1804–Oct 1804 On leave.

Oct 1804–Oct 1806 Surgeon Major Gibraltar. Performed duty at the Quarantine Department of Gibraltar for 13 years without emolument. In 1804 Lt Gen Fox recommended him for a permanent situation. He established fees producing to government an average of £800 a year of which he received 20 shillings a day.3

Oct 1806 Shipwrecked on the Athenienne which had left Gibraltar on 16 Oct for Sardinia and Malta. On 20 October 1806, the Athenienne hit the volcanic shoal in the channel between Sardinia, Sicily, and Africa, and went down with the loss of 347 out of 470 passengers.

Oct 1806–July 1807 At Sicily as Assistant Deputy Inspector.

20 Aug 1807 War Office letter dated 20 August 1807: relative to Mr Pym's appointment of Deputy Inspector of Hospitals to the Army in Sicily, I have the Secretary-at-War directions to transmit for the information of HRH The Commander-in-Chief the Inspector General report stating that the staff of the army serving in the Mediterranean has at present attached to it one Inspector of Hospitals and three Deputy Inspectors, which in his opinion precludes the necessity of an additional officer of that class being appointed.

2 Aug 1807–May 1809 Left Messina for England.

May 1809–24 Feb 1812 At Gibraltar.

20 Dec 1810 Deputy Inspector of Hospitals. Pym stated that he obtained the rank of DIH after twenty years service but had to relinquish it on being appointed Superintendent of Quarantine at Malta.

Malta 18 Sept 1811 Appointed Head of the Lazaretto and Superintendent of the Quarantine Department. His annual salary was £800. Pym states that when he took "charge of the quarantine department I found it a mass of confusion and plunder scarcely producing income sufficient to pay its expenses. During my residence there I established a new code of regulations which produced order and regularity and now brings in the revenue, after paying all expenses, a clear profit of at least £12,000 a year".3

Malta 3 Mar 1812 Arrived at Malta. President of the Board of Health.

1 May 1812 Pym asked for leave of absence for 8 months. His duties during his absence were carried out by the garrison surgeon staff surgeon Joseph Thomas who had resided in Malta for over 11 years. Thomas had served as a member of the Board of Health instituted by Sir Alexander Ball.1

Lt Gen Hildebrand Oakes said that Pym was of very great use during the short time he was in Malta "in suggesting and carrying into effect various improvements in the Lazaretto, which was not only towards the general benefit of that department but will be attendant with a considerable increase in revenue. I have a high opinion of his abilities and I should be very glad that he was to remain in the situation; at the same time I trust he will not be allowed to retain it as a sinecure like Mr Eton, or even permanently to act by deputy, as I conceive that the person of the actual Superintendent of the Quarantine is essentially necessary for the daily conducting this branch of the Public Service and this was a very material motive for my wishing Mr Eton's dismissal".1

William Pym had never seen the plague. In his evidence to the Select Committee of the House of Commons, Pym believed plague to be transmitted by contact or very near approach to the person under the disease was necessary unlike small pox which may be communicated by being in the same room or at a considerable distance from a person labouring under the disease without contact. He stated that it was independent of the atmosphere and that quarantine was effective.

Malta 1812 Pym's Regulations for the performance of quarantine at Malta:

  • All ships and vessels as well as HM Ships of War coming from or having touched or having received goods from ships that have touched at any place from whence it shall by the Board of Health have been adjudged and declared probable that the plague or any other infectious disease or distemper may be brought shall upon their arrival in the harbour of Malta be obliged to perform quarantine for such time as in such a manner as shall from time to time be directed by HM Civil Commissioner through the medium of the health officers.
  • It having been ascertained that certain sorts of goods and merchandise are more especially liable to retain infection and may be brought from places infected to this island, these goods are classed in two classes. The first class consisting of those articles which are considered as most liable to infection include: Beads, necklaces, beds, books, brooms, canvas, carpets, cotton, wool, yarn, gold, silver, thread, hats, hair, liquor of any kind in bottles and flasks, paper, linen, leather, silk, and skins.
  • The second Class considered as liable to infection but in a less degree include senna, jalup, gum, antimony, catharrides, allum, juniper berries, pomegranates, tobacco, coffee, wood, cork. All such goods are liable to quarantine regulations.
  • All ships liable to quarantine if furnished with a clean bill of health as well as the crew and passengers shall perform quarantine of 25 days commencing from the time when such part of the cargo of the two classes shall have been delivered into the lazaret or of 20 days from the day of arrival in port if there are no goods of class one or two.
  • For ships with no clean bill , after quarantine guardians are placed on board ship, the passengers are removed under the care of a health guard to apartments in the lazarett if the ship has no suspicion of sickness or to the pest house if otherwise or to any other detached place which may be provided for the reception of persons affected with any infectious disease and then continue in quarantine for the space of 40 days and at the end of which time if such passengers continue free from infection shall be fumigated and discharged. If any case of pestilential accident shall occur among the passengers before the expiration of the said 40 days quarantine at whatever stage of the quarantine such accident may happen, the quarantine of passengers and goods shall recommence and the sick person shall be sent to the pest house.
  • All ships arriving without clean bills of health and without articles of Class 1 and 2 do quarantine for 40 days.
  • In accordance with para 27, in cases when a vessel arrives with an infectious disease on board to put such ship into quarantine and a meeting of the members of the Board of Health shall be called for the purpose of taking into consideration the measures necessary to be adopted. The members of the Board of Health are empowered to make such regulations for shortening the time of quarantine to be performed by vessels as special circumstances shall appear in their opinion to be safe and proper.

William Eton had established his own fees and charges for the Quarantine Department. In a letter dated 29 July 1801, Eton gave the charges for performing quarantine at Malta as around £2 8s 11d:

  • The boat men to guard each ship while performing quarantine - 2s 6d a day.
  • Health guardian - 1s 4d a day.
  • Proto medicus who visits the ship with the captain of the port - private fee.
  • Public fountain for the convenience of vessels in quarantine - 8d.
  • Anchorage - 8s 3d.
  • Fumigator - 2s 6d.
  • Light house duty - 5s. The light house at the entrance of the Great Harbour served was kept up at the expense of the quarantine department. It was not lit in summer except on very dark nights.

23 July 1812 Report on the finances of Malta and Gozo for 1812 by Thomas Fyers, dated 23 July 1812 found no faults with the health office under Mr Pym. "The rules, regulations and fees very lately approved and put in force by the King's Commissioners upon the investigations and report of William Pym, the superintendent have been productive of great improvement in the system throughout and have yet met with no dissent as far as I have heard in any point but one against which the merchants have strongly remonstrated, but seemingly upon very insufficient grounds. The Health Office by means of the new tariff and abolition of individual fees will be seen to have been also highly productive".2

15 April 1813 "Being called upon to return to Malta to take charge of the quarantine department I decline the duty because of bad health induced by a long residence in warm climate and repeated attacks of liver complaints".3

16 May 1813 Reduced to half-pay.

9 July 1813 On 9 July 1813 Pym offered his services to return to Malta as the plague was gaining ground. Pym stated that although his health did not permit him to remain permanently either at Malta or Gibraltar he was "happy for the present or any case of emergency to go to either place when a temporary residence may be thought of benefit to the public service. In July 1813, Pym was succeeded as Superintendent of the Lazaretto by Inspector of Hospitals Robert Grieves.

25 Sept 1816 Retired with the rank of Inspector of Hospitals.

1826 Superintendent General of Quarantine in Great Britain on an annual salary of £600.

4 Nov 1828 Volunteered for service at Gibraltar as Inspector of Hospitals, during the prevalence of contagious fever. Remained at Gibraltar till May 1829.

1831 Invested by HM William IV a Knight Commander of the Hanoverian Order.

1832 Chairman, Central Board of Health during the Cholera Epidemic in England.

1 July 1838 One of twenty two Inspectors General on half pay. Total Service: 46 years 11 months, Total Full Pay Service: 20 years 3 months.


  • Entry No: 1252. Johnston W. Roll of Commissioned Offices in the Medical Service of the British Army. Vol 01 (20 June 1727-23 June 1898), Aberdeen (1917).
  • 1TNA:CO 158/18 f 16, Oakes to Liverpool, dated 1 May 1812.
  • 2TNA:CO 158/19, Report of Thomas Fyers Treasurer 23 July 1812.
  • 3TNA:CO 158/23, Pym to Bunbury dated 15 April 1813.
  • TNA:CO 158/19, Regulations for the performance of quarantine at Malta 1812.
  • TNA:WO 25/3896, Statement of the Home and Foreign Service of Officers of the Medical Department (1759–1812).
  • TNA:WO 25/771, Returns of Service of W Pym.
  • TNA:WO 25/3897, Records of Service – Officers of the Medical Department (1790–1847).
  • TNA:WO 25/3896, Statement of the Home and Foreign Service of Officers of the Medical Department (1759–1812).
  • TNA:WO 4/404, Appointment of Mr Pym in Moore to Gordon dated 20 August 1807.
  • Report from the Select Committee of the House of Commons 14 June 1819.