Who was Dr Buck?

Dr Charles William Buck (1851-1932) was born in Kirkgate, Settle, the son of Richard Hardacre Buck and his second wife, Grace. He attended Giggleswick School, and then studied medicine at Owen’s College in Manchester and in London, before qualifying as a member of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1875.

Returning to Settle, he set up as a general practitioner in a handsome Georgian building on the north side of the market square in Settle (now known as Dr Buck’s House). Buck had bought his practice from Dr William Altham, a family that produced a number of doctors. As his practice grew, Dr Buck took a Dr Williamson into partnership. When Dr Williamson left, Dr Buck ran the surgery with qualified assistants until he retired in 1907, although he continued to own the practice until 1916, when Dr Lovegrove took over. The surgery also acted as a dispensary and Dr Buck was well known for preparing his own medicines. The 1891 census shows Henry Bowman Shepherd (later of Shepherd & Walker, Chemists) living on the premises and acting as his assistant at that time. Charles Buck was a highly respected figure, noted for his devotion to his patients.

In August 1884, Charles married Emma Foote Beare at St Leonard’s Church, Streatham and they moved to his parents’ home, Cravendale, on Belle Hill in Giggleswick. Their son, Morton, was born there in March 1886 and the young family then moved back to live above the surgery on the Market Place, where their daughter Monica was born in 1893. Within a few hours of her birth, she was christened in the bedroom by the Rev R C Garnett, which would indicate that she was not initially expected to survive. Emma Buck died in 1902. In 1904, Charles Buck married Ella Margaret Watkins, the daughter of a canon of York Minster and they moved away from Settle to live near her parents. On her death three years later, Charles Buck returned to his old family home in Giggleswick to semi-retirement, devoting himself to his musical interests. He also had wide-ranging antiquarian interests and remained active in a number of Settle’s groups and societies into later life.

Buck was a gifted amateur musician. He was fascinated by folk music, especially the local Pace Egging Song. He conducted the orchestra of the Settle Amateur Dramatic Society, which later became the Settle Amateur Operatic Society, performing on the stage of the Victoria Hall. He led
the Settle Amateur String Band and was on the committee of Settle Choral Society. He was an inveterate pipe-smoker, even when playing his cello. His daughter Monica recalled how she would clean and re-fill with tobacco up to two dozen of his pipes every day. Buck had the the door to the room where he practised altered to allow the pipe smoke to escape through a row of holes, which could be closed by a sliding metal strip.

Buck first met Edward Elgar in Worcester at the British Medical Association jubilee conference in Worcester in 1882, when he played his cello in the orchestra conducted by Elgar. The two young men bonded over a love of music, the countryside and dogs. Within weeks of their first meeting, Elgar had accepted an invitation to visit Settle, first to Cravendale and later, and very regularly until at least 1900, to the house on the Market Place. The two maintained a lifelong correspondence. Fifty years later, Elgar wrote, it was “a lovely time … the first of many adventures.” He relished his memory of the taste of grilled Ribble trout, adding that “nothing so good in eating or company has occurred to me since 1882”.

Charles Buck died on 22 November 1932, following a prolonged period in which he suffered from liver failure. He is buried, with his first wife and son Morton, in Giggleswick churchyard.