You could be forgiven for thinking the terminology ‘influencer’ is very 21st century, but in fact Ernest Kaye Le Fleming who settled in Wimborne more than a century ago was considered to be just that.
And now the Museum of East Dorset is to stage a new ‘temporary’ exhibition to celebrate the life and achievements of Ernest Kaye Le Fleming (1872–1946). The exhibition will open on 22 September.
Ernest Kaye Le Fleming settled in Wimborne in 1901 with his wife Florence and was a well-respected local GP for 45 years. During the 1930s, he was the spokesman for GPs throughout the country.
In 1934 he was elected chairman of the Council of the British Medical Association (BMA), a role in which he served for five years. He strongly believed that a thorough physical education, combined with a healthy balanced diet, could act to prevent a wide range of common illnesses and contributed to two important national reports on nutrition and physical fitness.
He was knighted in 1937 and awarded the BMA Gold Medal in 1941, in recognition of his exceptional services for the Association and the medical profession.
As well as this distinguished career, Ernest was also deeply involved in the social, political, and cultural life of Wimborne.
He was an active member of the Wimborne Urban District Council as well as being a governor of the Minster Church and Wimborne Grammar School. As chairman of the Salvage Committee during the Second World War, he persuaded local ironmonger Tom Coles not to pulp items of stationery found in his shop but to deposit them at Dorset County Museum. Today these Victorian Valentine cards form a nationally important collection held at the Museum of East Dorset.
Ernest showed a keen interest in many forms of sport including tennis and cricket and golf.
He was a pioneer motorist and one of the first people to own a car in Dorset.
As an enthusiastic photographer, he built up a collection recording the architecture and landscape of Wimborne and the surrounding area, many of which were taken by him.
He also collected antiques connected to the history of Dorset, including a fine collection of local horse brasses, and police and fire brigade material.
Ernest was a strong supporter of Wimborne having its own museum although this did not happen during his lifetime. When he died in 1946, an obituary noted that ‘By his death Wimborne has lost one who had done much to help his fellow townsmen to realise and appreciate the value of their heritage …’ In his will, he arranged for his collection to be given to any museum that was set up in Wimborne after his death. In 1962, his photographs and objects were given to the newly formed Priest’s House Museum.
James Webb, acting director, said: “The Museum of East Dorset owes a great deal to Sir Ernest Kaye Le Fleming who can be seen as one of the godfathers of the museum. Thanks to him we have the Valentine card collection and many wonderful photographs and artefacts which now make up an important part of our collection.”
The new exhibition starts on 22nd September so book your visit now. A talk by guest curator, Chris Brown, will take place on 23 September. Tickets for this can be bought on the museum’s web site: museumofeastdorset.co.uk/project/sir-kaye-le-fleming-local-hero-and-early-influencer-evening-event/
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