Obituary: Dr Ian Murray Allison FRCPE, GP

Dr Ian Allison: Much loved Edinburgh GP who enjoyed a busy retirement in rural Midlothian
Dr Ian Allison: Much loved Edinburgh GP who enjoyed a busy retirement in rural Midlothian
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Born: 3 February, 1929, in Edinburgh. Died: 15 October, 2013, in Penicuik, aged 84

Ian Allison was an outstanding, much loved and respected Edinburgh general practitioner who, over a long career, displayed clinical skills of a high order, a passionate and unrelenting commitment to his patients’ welfare and enjoyed a close professional relationship with colleagues in referring hospitals.

He was a lifelong, committed Christian, an enthusiastic gardener, a maker of friends and a skilful fly fisherman. He was a “dad in a million” and his unusual sense of humour brought much fun into the lives of many of his patients, family, friends and fishing companions.

Born in Edinburgh, Ian was the first son of John and Nan Allison (nee Paterson-Brown). He attended Belhaven Hill and and Merchiston Castle schools, and thence went to Pembroke College, Cambridge, to read medicine and on to the London Hospital.

On graduation, he returned to Edinburgh to take up a position as house physician to Sir Derrick Dunlop in the Royal Infirmary. On completion of his pre-registration year he moved to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness, where he studied obstetrics and acquired a Diploma in Obstetrics.

Thereafter he joined Dr John Halliday-Croom’s general medical wards in the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, where he prepared for the membership examination of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, which he passed, with a special emphasis in endocrinology and diabetes, in July 1960.

By any standards, he was now well prepared for his chosen career in general practice and was persuaded by his father to join him in the Morningside practice. He was also persuaded to stay, as a part-time member of Dr Halliday-Croom’s outpatient team, caring for patients with diabetes. He was awarded the Fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh in 1971.

In 1962 Ian married Patricia Johnston, the daughter of a Scottish judge.

Patricia had read history at Oxford and, after bringing into the world three wonderful daughters, was to become a much loved and respected, long-serving teacher of history and politics at St George’s School for Girls in Edinburgh.

Ian cared for his girls with a passion which challenged that he reserved for his patients.

On one well remembered occasion he came to the rescue of biologist daughter Lesley, who had advised a friend of Ian’s that she took the view that this friend was not a fit person to acquire greater crested newts for his pond!

In 1964 Ian’s father died and soon thereafter he moved from the Morningside practice to the Beaufort Road practice in the Grange. He served the community in the Grange area with diligence and distinction until retirement in 1991.

He also served the wider community of patients through his work in the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary’s Diabetic Outpatient Clinic, which over the years brought him many new friends and colleagues, the most notable of whom was Dr Leslie Duncan, the pioneering developer of modern diabetes care in Edinburgh.

Ian was always keen to demonstrate to diabetic patients, using himself as a model, how easy it was to take blood and test it for sugar.

On one extraordinary occasion in 1990 he laid on his usual colourful demonstration and when the patient and he looked at the result it was clear that Ian had developed diabetes.

Pre-existing coeliac disease made Ian’s diabetes challenging to control, and over the years he owed much to Dr Judith Steel for her patient, skilled and caring support.

Ian was particularly proud when he was invited to be the Merchiston Castle School doctor. He served the school for 25 years in this capacity and claimed that he was on duty at all the home rugby fixtures throughout this period and this explained why the school had been so successful.

Soon after retirement in 1991, Ian and Patricia moved from their Morningside Home to Nine Mile Burn. This intensely rural Pentlands Hill setting triggered off a whole range of new activities: he became a keen vegetable gardener and active participant in a host of local community affairs.

He was a founding member of an Eco Group and a fair trade stall at a monthly Community Market.

He was a local poet and a keen photographer of local events. He was an enthusiastic member of the Linton Singers. His “high altitude” vegetable gardening was exposed to amusing scrutiny when he appeared as a guest on an episode of the Beechgrove Garden television programme.

While the Allison family were in Edinburgh, Ian was an elder of Cluny Parish Church. When they moved to Nine Mile Burn he was invited to be an elder of Carlops Parish Church and was soon a much loved member of this parish.

He made a significant contribution to the work of refurbishing the Carlops Village Hall. He became aware that the preaching demands of this rural parish were particularly challenging and served as a lay preacher. As a consequence, some Saturday evenings at Home were quiet times, as Ian prepared for the preaching challenges of the following day.

Ian developed from his father an interest in salmon and trout fishing. This interest was to become an abiding passion, such that he tied his own flies and was regularly in touch with friends, organising fishing trips. He was a well kent face on the River Tweed and was part of a group of friends who annually met to chase brown trout in the Uists.

He was proud of his fly tying skills and often claimed that his vesion of Ally’s shrimp was the most deadly fly on the Tweed. Fishing friends never found the evidence to confirm this.

Family for the Allisons was a central and immensely enjoyable and rewarding part of their lives. Ian Allison was, above all, a good and kindly man, and is survived by his wife Patricia, their three daughters Sally, Gillian and Lesley, and seven grandchildren.