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Biographical entry Pelly, Saville Marriott (1819 - 1895)

CB 1878; MRCS March 26th 1841; FRCS Aug 9th 1859.

3 April 1895
Lee, Kent
General surgeon


Born in India, the son of John Hinde Pelly, Judge in the Indian Civil Service. He was an elder brother of Sir Lewis Pelly (1825-1892) (see Dict Nat Biog). There were in all seven brothers, six of whom entered one or other of the services, and three attained General Officer's rank.

Pelly was sent home to his uncle Sir John Henry Pelly (1777-1852) (see Dict Nat Biog) at Upton, Essex, from whom as President of the Hudson Bay Company are to be traced the names Fort Pelly, Pelly River, and Lake Pelly. At Winchester College. though his name does not appear on the Roll, young Pelly gained the nickname 'Proof Pelly' for his marvellous facility for furnishing excuses when in a scrape; as a bold swimmer he jumped into a deep lock opposite the old Saw Mills and rescued a fellow-schoolboy from drowning. Indeed, he is said altogether to have saved five persons from drowning, one a brother in India. At the Winchester College Quincentenary in 1893 he was one of the oldest among the Old Wykehamists present. After Winchester he was first a pupil and dresser under his uncle Richard Smith, Surgeon to the Bristol Royal Infirmary. He next entered Guy's in the days of Bright and Addison, whilst Astley Cooper still lived. He had as a fellow-student, both at Bristol and at Guy's, J G Swayne, one of the founders of the Bristol Medical School.

In 1841 Pelly was one of the students who lined the way from the chapel to the vault where the body of Sir Astley Cooper was laid. He joined the Indian Medical Service and saw active service in July and August, 1843, under Major Blood in Sind; in 1844-1845 with the Sind Irregular Horse in Sir Charles Napier's campaign against the Border tribes at the surprise and capture of Shalpoor on Jan 15th, 1845, when he was mentioned in dispatches; in 1846-1847 in the Army of Observation at Bhawalpoor under Napier; with the Sind Horse under General John Jacob; during the Mutiny in 1857-1858 with the 2nd Regiment of Light Cavalry in Rajpootana; at the attack on Nimbhaira, where he was Senior Medical Officer; the action of Jeerum; the siege of Neemuch, and with Brigadier Parker's column in the pursuit of Tantia Topee. He received the Indian Medal and the Clasp for Central India. He was for a long while the Resident in Sind, also Inspector of Prisons in the Bombay Presidency, and he suggested the introduction of gardening as both economical and beneficial to the health of the convicts. He was present as Principal Medical Officer of the Indian Medical Department throughout the Abyssinian Campaign of 1867-1868 under Lord Napier of Magdala, and obtained the CB.

Pelly retired as Inspector-General of Hospitals in 1870. He lived for some some years in Dublin, then he came to London to be near his brother, Sir Lewis Pelly, the Conservative MP for Hackney. Pelly was described as buoyant in spirit, firm in will, brave and courteous, punctilious in matters of honour, yet kind and gentle, in possession of qualities most admired in a soldier and a surgeon. In retirement he found interest and amusement in mechanics, turning out in his workshop all kinds of articles: an electric clock; a stethoscope after the manner of the telephone, by which every member of a class might listen at the same time to the same heart-beat; indeed, it was through this apparatus that he discovered himself to be the subject of defective heart-beats, although apparently in good health.

About five weeks before his death he was seized with angina pectoris, and after a painful illness died in his chair on April 3rd, 1895, at Woodstock House, Lee, Kent. He was survived by a widow, two daughters, and two sons, the Rev Stanley Pelly and Captain Saville Pelly.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Dict Nat Biog sub nomine Pelly, Sir Lewis (1825-92). Brit Med Jour, 1895, i, 1010. Lancet, 1895, i, 954, 1026].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England