The twentieth century was a period of rapid advancement and change. Nowhere was this more evident than in the study and practice of medicine. But alongside change comes an element of continuity: three generations of the Marshall family have practised medicine in the community. Dr. Gilbert Marshall entered the Markethill Dispensary in 1887; a work carried on by his son, Dr. James Lister Marshall, from 1926. Dr. Pamela Marshall, daughter of Dr. James Marshall is also a General Practitioner, although her practice is outside the Markethill District.
Markethill Dispensary was mentioned in 1837 in Lewis's Topographical Dictionary. It operated within the Poor Law Union of Armagh, and served the local population (about 24 000 people) in an area eight-miles radius around Markethill (40,418 acres).
Born in County Armagh and educated at Dublin Dr.Gilbert Marshall took on the work of Markethill Dispensary in 1887. At that time, hours of practice were 10am to 1pm on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, although he was, of course, on call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Dr.Marshall conducted his local rounds using a horse and gig. At night he kept a horse saddled in the stables in case of emergency. In 1903 Dr. Marshall received one of the first motor cars in the district, making rounds a little easier.
At this time, the greatest scourge of the population was Tuberculosis, which was then incurable. Chest conditions were also rife as the result of employment in the damp environment of the linen industry and the smoking of Woodbines, commonly referred to as 'coffin nails'. Dr. Marshall's duties were not confined to the dispensary. He was active within the local branch of the St. John's Ambulance Brigade, attendant to the Royal Irish Constabulary, factory surgeon and Registrar of births, marriages and deaths.
Despite this busy schedule, Dr.Marshall also found time to relax in the cultivation of bees. Here, too, he excelled, the honey produced being shipped to mainland Britain on a commercial basis. At other times, he engaged in photographic, fishing and gardening pursuits. He was also a founder member of the Markethill Electric Light & Power Company.
In 1926, his son, Dr.James Lister Marshall, joined the dispensary at Markethill. In addition to his duties there, he was also active as a Police Surgeon. During the Second World War, Dr. Marshall attended the German Prisoners of War billeted at Gosford Castle. Petrol rationing in those days forced him to abandon a motor car in favour of a motorbike, an experience that landed him in the infirmary beside one of his own patients!
Following the war, the introduction of the National Health Service increased the workload of a General Practitioner and a partnership was formed with Doctors Good and Nelson. The Markethill Practice moved from its long-term home at 58 Main Street to a purpose built health clinic in Newry Street.
Dr. Pamela Marshall, "A Country Practice through three generations", Before I Forget, No. 3, November 1989, pp.41-47.