With help from his grandchildren, Dental Protection celebrates the life of Edward Tull-Warnock, one of the first black professionally registered dentists in the UK, as part of #BlackHistoryMonth.
It’s Black History Month ( 1 – 31 October) and we’ve been learning about the incredible life of one of the first black qualified dentists in the UK, Edward ‘Eddie’ Tull-Warnock.
Edward’s story is one of exceptional determination and resilience in the face of much adversity. Born in 1886 in Folkestone, Edward’s father Daniel was a carpenter from Barbados, and his mother, Alice, a farmworker’s daughter from Folkestone.
His early life saw tragic loss; his mother passed away when he was 9, and his father just two years later. Along with his younger brother Walter, he was admitted into Stephenson’s Children’s Home in Bethnal Green. The brothers would soon be separated though, as Edward was to be adopted by a Glasgow couple – the Warnocks – after they watched him perform in the children’s home choir. 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.
As Edward’s adopted father – Mr James Warnock – was a dentist, the Warnocks ensured Edward had the best education at Allan Glen’s School after which he trained in dentistry, perhaps becoming one of the first mixed heritage professionally qualified dentists in the UK.
He learned anaesthesia at the Royal Infirmary and graduated in 1910 with a Licentiate in Dental Surgery (LDS). Edward would have dealt with considerable prejudice as probably the only black student in the hospital at the time, demonstrating an immense courage and commitment to the profession, and it is said that he was turned away from his first professional post for being a person of colour.
Edward married Elizabeth Hutchinson in 1918, and the couple had a daughter, Jean. He eventually took over the family practice in Glasgow (pictured) and established a surgery in Girvan. Remaining close to his siblings, he brought his sister, Cissie, up to Scotland to live with them.
His brother Walter also intended to join them in Glasgow after arranging to sign for Rangers Football Club, but when war broke out in 1914, he enlisted in the ‘Footballer’s Battalion’ of the Middlesex Regiment and was tragically killed in action on the Western Front in March 1918. He would be known as the British Army’s first ever black officer to command white troops and is now recognised as one of the UK’s first black professional footballers, being a noted player for Tottenham Hotspur and Northampton Town in the early 1900s.
Edward was a keen and successful sportsman himself however, playing football for Ayr Parkhouse and Girvan Athletic, as well as winning a number of championship trophies at Turnberry Golf Club.
A lifelong advocate of the National Health Service and civil rights advocate, Edward died in 1950 at the age of 64 of a stroke and associated complications.
We’d like to thank the Edward’s grandchildren Pat, Duncan, Edward and Iona at the Finlayson Family Archives for sharing Edward’s story with us.
Extra historical information taken from First World War Glasgow and The Walter Tull Digital Exhibition.
For more information about the Tull family, visit The Walter Tull Archive and The Walter Tull Digital Exhibition.