William Rae

Blantyre's Ain Website

Blantyre, Lanarkshire, Scotland

Blantyre Folk

William Rae

The Pilgrimage Postcard
Pilgrimage Postcard

The postcard was addressed to Mrs. Muskett, 298 Ladbroke Grove, Notting Hill, London… Dated: Sept 26 1905

The Message reads: We are having time of it will write tomorrow we are now waiting to see him with love Annie’

The name of the house is Raploch Cottage. Residence of Mr Wm. Rae, Bone Specialist, which is in Station Road… and remains virtually unchanged as can be seen in this photo.
Raploch Cottage Today

William Rae Postcard

Back of Postcard

The Post Card reads: He found 7 bones out of place that had been out 7 yrs but he died before he could complete his work. August 28th 1907

On Sunday 28th July 1907, after being confined to bed for 3 weeks with Bronchitis, William died in his own bed at the age of 67.


PubMed.gov reported:

The Blantyre bonesetter: William Rae’s rise to fame and the popular press.

William Rae (1841-1907) was a bonesetter in Blantyre near Glasgow who quietly practised and treated the local people of the region in relative obscurity. In 1904, the popular press became aware of his work, and after they printed stories of his skills and cures Rae was flocked by patients from the surrounding regions. The stories were then copied by newspapers in England, the USA, Australia and New Zealand, and Rae became internationally known. This article gives a historical look at Rae, his patients and his methods of treatment, as well as the medical views on bone setting and this individual.





(Interestingly, if he did earn £100 per day, which the numbers seem to stack up, then that would be the equivalent of £10,191.81 in today’s value Just Awesome)


Recently we published a reference to the I wonderful cure effected by Mr. William Rae, a Scotch miner.

The London Daily Chronicle of June 21 contains the following account of the man and his work, written by a special correspondent:

I have just met for the first time William Rae. the Scottish bone-setter, who ¡s revisiting Blantyre, a small village about seven miles, outside Glasgow. Curiously enough, in the city itself not a soul appears to have heard even of the wonderful man, for wonderful he is, whatever one may think of his achievements. But once within tile village, his name is as it were, written on the very walls. The little place is full of pilgrims mostly from Lancashire and Yorkshire,bringing with them, almost every description of deformity, cases that have baffled the doctor for years. In their simple-hearted faith these lasses and lads crowd round the “doctors” door patiently waiting their turn.

There was no need to ask where he lived. I simply walked along until I came to where a crowd stood around the gate of a humble cottage, and as I pushed my way through what might have been the out-patients’ department of a London orthopaedic hospital, they looked at me with pitying eyes, wondering what could be the matter, or as they would put it, “what was up wi’ me.”

The door was open and along the tiny, passage stood two rows of patients waiting until their turn. The front parlour was full of them: they lined the staircase, and as I entered the waiting-room, two little boys were tying up their crutches in a bundle, so as to carry them away the easier.

“What, cured?” I cried.

“Ah. thee may say that, mester,” they piped, and then. “‘Eh, but he’s a wonder.”

And the man of whom Lancashire is talking to-day; what of him? He took not the slightest notice of me as I slipped into his surgery, and as he was sitting in an armchair, his head bowed upon his breast. It was some moments before I was able to catch a glimpse of his face.

An Impression.

When at last he did look up, I saw in “the twilight such a rugged mobile face as one meets upon the moors. A shaven upper lip seems almost to clinch the lower. Both lips are compressed, but the expression is not unkindly. The eyes are set far back in the head, sheltered beneath a pair of shaggy eyebrows, and as he bids me a gruff “Guid evening he almost thrusts himself at me, blinking curiously as if to exercise some hypnotic power.

By his side stands his son. And whilst the next patient gets ready, the bonesetter talks in the broad Scots, he first spoke at Larkhall, in Mid-Lanark, sixty-seven years ago.

“Humph,” he said, with a shrug of his shoulders, “awm getting tired.”

“Had a heavy day?” I shouted.

“Umph. Yes,” still looking at me curiously as if to assure himself that my intentions were bona-fide. And then, “Vera lang day indeed. They’re comin in frae all parts, maistly frae Bolton. Since Saturday, aw’ve seen twa hundred and sixty cases more or less, and drawing himself up with pardonable pride-“aw’ve done something for all and everyone of them.”

“Do you then guarantee to affect a cure in every case?”

“No, not every case. Those aw can du nothing for aw leave-alane, but maist time, something can be done.

“Doctors. Yes, it’s always doctors. What do they know about these things, eh? What do they know?

Tell me. Nothin’. Listen to these boys and girls as they come in. What du their faithers tell me?-hip disease, bone disease, pshaw! That’s the doctors for ye. Did ye ever see a diseased bone in a living man? I never did. Ye can see it when he’s dead. ‘I canna pit that right, na, na. Ye canna pit together a leg that’s been cut off, but ye can tak the thing in the beginning.”

“How, then, do you explain all these diseases?” I asked.

Theory and Practice.

He was quick with his answer. “Bluid, mon, the bluid. Where that’s wrong aw the rest’s wrong. An’ then, apairt frae that ye hae careless mithers lettin’ their children fall, ye have old standing injuries that have niver bin lookit to. A’ve had cases here that ha’ bin wrang fur thirty years, an’ then have done something fur them.”

So saying, he brought his fist down upon his knee, and turned to a patient who had just entered. It was a youth of about 16, whose appearance proclaimed curvature of the spine. The “doctors” assistant ran a critical eye over the case, and the case stood there in its Sunday clothes, blushing, like a girl.

Everything was rough and ready. There was a sofa and two or three cushions. A couple of siphons of soda water, and as many tumblers were close at hand. Appliances there were none. It will, therefore, be readily understood than an operation was a most primitive affair.

“Pull up your shirt, and let me see your back,” and suiting the action by the word the bone-setter’s assistant disclosed the deformity, and the great man at once began an extempore lecture on his subject.

“Now, look at that,” was his angry comment. “No man in this world need have a humpit back if it was only taken early enough.” And he began to run his hand carefully along the spine.

Mr. Rae then began a practical exhibition of his peculiar gift, which something told him he possessed when he was but 17 years old.

This boy came from Bolton, and had been attended by a doctor, so he said, for many years. He was now directed to lie breast to breast with the setter, who began to handle the spine apparently with the object of pressing it into place. This process he continued for quite five minutes, directing the patient all the while to lie perfectly at ease.

When at length the lad stood up, he declared himself better, and then, encouraged, presented a thumb that had been damaged with a ball in a cricket match. The doctor felt it, pulled it, there was a click, and hey presto! The boy’s face lighted up as he bent it to and fro.

”Gum! It’s a’ reet,” and paying his half-sovereign he dragged on his clothes, and his mother presented herself to take him away.

There was something of pathos about it all. That very morning an early train brought about twenty families from Bolton, fathers, mothers, children, infants, old men. and bent women.

Alighting from the train, they first secured lodgings, and then made their way to the bone-setter’s cottage, where they were given a number and directed to await their turn.

A Pathetic Case.

One mother brought her two infants, both helpless little mites, swathed almost from head to foot with bandages and surgical appliances. They, were suffering from hip and spine disease. ‘As she carefully made her way among the crowd other women turned aside in pity, and then waited anxiously whilst she sought the “doctor.”

In half an hour, she came out radiant, the bandages all gone, declaring that the little ones had been cured.

Another case was that of a young woman, who readily related to me her experiences upstairs. She came from Bacup, she said. For years, she had been suffering from hip disease, one leg being shorter than the other. Doctors she had tried, without relief, and at last her friends advised her to go to Blantyre.

“It didn’t hurt me a bit, not one bit. He just got hold of my leg, gave it a pull, then pushed it right back, and it was all over. Of course, I walk just a bit lame still, as you see, but it feels, oh! so much easier. I am to bathe the joint every morning in cold water, and walk as much as possible. Eh, he’s a clever man. He is.”

The day long one could hear similar stories, but it should be said that in no- case was the cure instant. There always seemed to be a certain amount of lameness after the operation, though the verdict was always the same.

As far as the figures are concerned, the statistics for the four days are, at all events, startling. In all 269 persons have arrived, and the ‘doctor” worked all day on Sunday (June 19).

The little village is crowded. Every train brings pilgrims to the Scotch Lourdes, and so great has been the press that quite 60 were turned away on Monday.

His visit to Blantyre, he says, is a record. Roughly speaking, it means at the least £100 a day not a bad income for a rough, unpolished man, who might still be to all appearances, a workaday labourer that is, if no one saw him handling his patients.


Whitstable Times and Herne Bay HeraldSaturday 02 July 1904

William Rae, the Blantyre bloodless-surgeon has received from London, an offer of £10,000 if he will straighten the applicant’s left leg.

Blantyre, Lanarkshire, Scotland

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