Charles Rowbotham and the President’s medal

Charles Rowbotham, who died on 24th February 2014, graduated in 1942, practiced in Didsbury and was a part time member of staff in the department of conservative dentistry, before becoming a full time Senior Lecturer/Consultant in the department. He was greatly admired, by staff and students alike, for his clinical experience and manual skills and also for the fact that one of his hobbies was making silver artifacts.

It was no surprise that, a decade after its formation, Charles was approached and asked if he would make a medal to be worn by future presidents. He was given a free hand in its design and size but told it must include the name SOMANDA and the Dental School emblem, the elephant.

The medal was painstakingly made from standard silver sheet, wire and tubing. The basis of the medal was a circle of silver sheet 2mm thick and 2.5 inches in diameter. A length of 2mm square section wire was bent and carefully hammered into a circle the same diameter as the silver disc, then joined up and soldered to its periphery.

The elephant logo at the centre of the medal was the next step and a circular disc of silver was slightly domed and planished, a method of removing imperfections leaving a smooth regular surface using a steel hammer. This piece was trimmed to leave a border of 8mm into which the SOMANDA letters would fit. The elephant was cut out, filed, trimmed and adapted to the domed disc before being soldered to it. A small gold eye was then made for the elephant and soldered into place.

The letters were the next to be made and after matching them up they were carefully arranged and individually soldered into position. This was rather tricky as the gauge of the letters and the bulk of the medal were very dissimilar and overheating of the letters, causing bubbling of the flux, could have occurred, resulting in their displacement. The final operation was to fix a short vertical length of wire to the top edge of the medal around which a small length of tubing was attached forming a loop through which ribbon is threaded allowing the medal to hang around the president’s neck.

The medal was then polished and finished but finally it needed to be Hallmarked. This involves the marking of the medal with the date it was made, the precious metal standard, the assay office where hallmarked and the makers name.

Thus the four marks that form part of the Medal design from left to right are: the makers mark, TCR (Charles’ initials) in a rectangular shield; an anchor, the sign of the Birmingham Assay Office: the Lion, denoting that the medal is made from Stirling Silver of 925 parts per 1000; and finally an upper case U on a rectangular shield with clipped corners, denoting 1994 the year it was made.

Charles made a gift of the medal to the Society for which he was very properly made an Honorary Life Member. The medal has not been valued as it is immaterial, but to the society it is priceless and irreplaceable. Thank you Charles.

Pip Thomas

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