Today marks the anniversary of the death of another very important in Merthyr’s History – Dr T J Dyke.
Thomas Jones Dyke was born in Lower High Street in Merthyr on 16 September 1816. His father, Thomas Dyke, a pharmaceutical chemist, had moved to Merthyr from Bristol in the early 1800’s and set up a business in the town, first in partnership with D S Davies and then on his own at a premises at Court Street.
Thomas Dyke Jr. attended the schools of William Shaw in Gellifaelog, Taliesin Williams in Bridge Street and William Armsworth in Swansea, before finishing his education at the Bedminster House Academy in Bristol. In 1831 he began a three year apprenticeship with Mr David Davies, the surgeon at the Cyfarthfa Works, before going to London in 1834 to further his medical studies. He attended Granger’s School of Anatomy and Medicine and also Guys and St Thomas’ Hospitals, and passed as an apothecary in 1837 and as a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons the following year.
Returning to Merthyr, the now Dr Dyke set up practice, and in 1842 bought ‘The Hollies’, a cottage in Albert Street where he lived until 1894.
During the cholera epidemic of 1849 (see previous blog entry http://www.merthyr-history.com/?p=123), Dr Dyke was appointed Medical Officer of Health of one of the districts into which Merthyr had been divided due to the epidemic. Dr Dyke actually contracted cholera himself, but after battling the disease for six weeks, he eventually pulled through. Cholera hit Merthyr again in 1854 and 1866, and Dr Dyke was at the forefront of the fight against the disease.
In 1863, Dr Dyke was appointed as the first permanent Medical Officer of Health to the Merthyr Tydfil Board of Health, a position he retained until his death, the Board of Health being replaced by the Merthyr Tydfil Urban Council in 1894.
In 1876 the Hospital for Sick Children was founded in Bridge Street, and Dr Dyke was put in charge of the medical care there. The Hospital for Sick Children would grow and eventually become the General Hospital in 1888.
Dr Dyke’s services were recognised when he was appointed High Constable of Caerphilly Higher (which covered Merthyr at the time) in 1876 and 1877; and in 1886 he was appointed as a Justice of the Peace of Glamorganshire.
The above facts do not give justice to the immense service he provided to Merthyr. Throughout his life Dr Dyke fought to improve medical and sanitary conditions in the town, and as Medical Officer to the Board of Health, he used his influence to facilitate many of these improvements. Through the auspices of the Board of Health, Merthyr received a reliable and clean water supply in 1861, and between 1865 and 1868 a system of new sewers was built in the town leading to a new sewage farm ensuring that very little sewage was deposited directly into the River Taff.
Thomas Dyke died peacefully in his sleep on 20 January 1900. In his obituary in the South Wales Daily News on 22 January 1990 was written:
“He was closely identified with Merthyr and all its works for the greater part of a century. The public came to recognise him as one who did something to the benefit of the community at large. No man did better life saving work in South Wales”.