Torrance Biography

David Watt Torrance M.D., O.B.E.

"The Galilee Doctor" and famous son of Airdrie, Lanarkshire, Scotland


     David Watt Torrance was born 6 November, 1862 on Graham Street in Airdrie, Scotland.  He was the son of Dr. Thomas Torrance and Susan Watt who had many children.  His grandfather was Rev. Robert Torrance who had founded the Auld Licht congregation in Airdrie.  His mother's father was David Watt an Edinburgh engraver of some note and a friend of Sir Walter Scott.

     Airdrie was a mining town of some repute and David grew up just like any child of the time.  He attended Sunday school taught by his great-uncle Robert Watt.  He played football and sang in the choir.  He loved to listen to stories read by his mother particularly books of adventure, travel and history.  Sadly his father died when he was sixteen years of age and his mother moved the family to Glasgow.

      Soon after his father's death, David was accepted into the University of Glasgow for medical studies.  While he was studying he worked in the public dispensary.  At this time he also experienced a spiritual birth and became active within the Church of Scotland.  When he received his medical degree he was approached by the Church to become a medical missionary in Constantinople, a post that he declined.  Shortly after, he was once again asked by the Church to accept a mission, this time in Palestine "The Holy land".  Rather than accept immediately he first undertook a rigorous tour of Galilee in 1884  Inspired by the terrible conditions he encountered and by his faith in God, Torrance accepted the mission and in 1885 he established himself in Tiberias.

     Tiberias at that time would be described by various visitors with contempt and loathing.  It was hot (at time the temperature reaches 120 degrees Fahrenheit), dirty, disease ridden and poor.  On the shores of the Sea of Galilee, the town lies 680 feet below sea level.  It's 6,000 residents were almost exclusively Jews and Muslims. 

     Although charged with the missionary goal of converting the Jews, Dr. Torrance soon realized that his real responsibility was with caring for the sick and injured.  At first he was scorned and spat upon by the local population.  But his skill as a surgeon and his compassion overcame their hatred and soon the local population would come to call him a "Hassid" or saintly one. He continued his mission work until his death.  

This material comes from the excellent book written about David Watt Torrance

A Galilee Doctor
by W.P. Livingstone
Hodder and Stoughton
London England

Published in 1925

Although out of print the book is still available thru many book search services.
Also for more detailed information please read An Appreciation

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