Obituary: Dr JB Wilson, GP and historian

Dr Jack Wilson
Dr Jack Wilson
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Dr JB Wilson, GP and historian. Born: 5 May 1921 in Edinburgh. Died 14 December 2017 in Lockerbie, aged 96

Jack Wilson was educated at George Watson’s and Edinburgh University where he qualified MB.Ch.B in 1943. After a six-month house appointment at Leith Hospital, he was called up for the Royal Navy as a probationary surgeon, joining HMS Saladin, a small destroyer escorting convoys from Milford Haven to Portsmouth.

On 28 April 1944 Saladin was belatedly sent to replace HMS Scimitar to cover Operation Tiger, an amphibious exercise off Slapton Sands, which was attacked by German E Boats and hundreds of American troops perished. Saladin was on antisubmarine patrol on D-Day and Jack’s service in the Royal Navy continued in the Bay of Bengal on the Landing Ship HMS Silvio at the capture of Rangoon and tending, amongst others, released prisoners of war.

Following the end of the war, Jack took a number of jobs as a ship’s surgeon and then as a resident medical officer at a hospital in Loughborough, where he met his future wife, Margaret, who was a theatre sister.

His wish was to go into general practice and following their marriage in Lincoln and a year as a trainee in Pitlochry with Dr Henderson, in 1952 he and Margaret settled in Lochmaben, Dumfriesshire, where he set up his first and only practice. While the centre of his practice was Lochmaben, the radius of countryside he covered was about six miles. He always wore handmade tailored tweed suits for work and to help his car deal with the snow-covered country roads in winter, he carried an anvil, as well as a shovel in the boot. Jack described his years as a GP in Lochmaben as giving him a very full and happy life in a profession that he loved in what he felt was the best of times for the NHS, though he was on call 24 hours a day, unlike a GP today.

He also studied aspects of his patients and practice, writing up his research for medical publications. One study of his own practice in November 1963 showed that of his 1,850 patients, he had seen 627 of them in consultations in the surgery or in their homes. He wrote an article for the Practitioner in 1967, a medical journal, which was then picked up by the Press, about when a doctor should tell a dying patient the truth. One high point of his career was being elected a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh. This provided fresh opportunities to widen his knowledge keep up with old friends and make new ones.

After 48 years of learning and living medicine, Jack retired in 1985. During his retirement he developed his interests and skills, learning to sail a bigger boat, learning to type, and improving his piano playing. He was a church elder, Chair of the Community Council, founder member of the Annandale Sailing Club, served on a panel for the local group of the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland and was president of the Dumfries and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society. He was so busy during his retirement that he often said he truly did not know how he had ever found time to work.

He spent many contended hours walking the dogs, playing squash, golf and bridge, sailing on the Castle Loch or the Solway, and working in his garden. He recorded events and personalities of Lochmaben, including the three historical medical men of Lochmaben who were doctors to the Russian czars, the subject of the Douglas Guthrie History of Medicine Lecture he delivered to the Royal Colleges of Medicine and Surgery.

He studied Lochmaben’s history, its churches, the old churchyard, the church bells reputed to be the oldest in Scotland, the council minutes and even the local police charge book. He researched the local inhabitants’ fishing rights on the Castle Loch, which have often been challenged by local landowners, now safely restored following a dispute. On his 80th birthday he published the second edition of The Royal Burgh of Lochmaben, its History, its Castles and Churches.

He lived a full and active life, living independently, regaling friends with his vast store of anecdotes, until around April 2017 when his health really began to fail and his legs stopped bearing his weight. He died aged 96 on 14 December 2017.

He was the father of three children. Jack was predeceased by his daughter Claire in 2015 and by his wife in 2017. He is survived by a son and a daughter, Alastair and Fiona. As a father, he was an excellent role model. He was patient, kind, considerate and supportive. His love was unconditional. He will be well remembered and sadly missed.