Obituary: Dr Hayden Arthurson, popular Edinburgh GP and Munro bagger

Dr Ian Hayden Arthurson MB ChB Ed: Dip Anaes. Born: 19 April 1939. Died: 30 October 2020, aged 81

Dr Hayden Arthurson had a gift for friendship

Hayden Arthurson was a marvellous character with a huge and diverse range of friends from all stages of his life, and somehow he kept in touch with many of them.

He was a thoroughly good person with an interesting blend in his personality and an Irish and Shetland background. A good storyteller, he was a master mimic and could be screamingly funny. He could always pick out the absurd in every situation and turn it into a hilarious tale.

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He was also quiet, thoughtful, empathetic, humble and congenial, with a great capacity for friendship and a strong belief in fairness.

Born and brought up in Liberton, Edinburgh he was educated at George Watson’s College following which, in 1956, he entered the Medical School at the University of Edinburgh, graduating in 1962.

He then went south to the West Middlesex Hospital in London for his pre-Registration training in Medicine and Surgery. This was followed by six months in Anaesthetics, from which he obtained the Diploma in Anaesthetics. He then spent six months in Canada as a locum in General Practice, perhaps considering a permanent move.

But he returned to Scotland and entered General Practice, becoming a partner at the Ladywell East Medical Centre in Corstorphine, Edinburgh.

He was a very conscientious and caring GP who thoroughly enjoyed his work, and in return was popular and much appreciated by the patients.

The job also included medical cover for Hearts Football club and also for Saughton Jail. At Saughton he found the interaction between prisoners and prison officers, highly reminiscent of TV sitcom Porridge.

He retired in 1999 after almost 30 years in practice and then worked with the Benefits Agency and also carried out medicals for Army Recruitment at Colinton Barracks.

Throughout, in addition to his medical work, Hayden had many other interests. In his early teens he was an enthusiastic member of the 75th Liberton Scout Group, a Troop Leader and a Queen’s Scout.

He was already becoming known for his wit, and his mimicry was a constant source of amusement, along with some adventurous plans. One of these included hitchhiking on his own, kilted, to Yugoslavia to view life behind the Iron Curtain.

He brought back with him a newfound friend to sample Capitalism and a Scout Camp – and their friendship proved to be lifelong.

Hayden also became a very good golfer and was Junior Champion at Liberton Golf Club. To add to all this, in his final year at school he learned to play the accordion and improved his French – a good investment.

He soon became interested in hill walking, starting in Perthshire and progressing onto Glencoe and the Cairngorms, reached by hitchhiking with his Scout chums.

At university this interest continued and he joined various climbing groups, including the University Mountaineering Club and later the Ptarmigan Club, keeping fit by running with the Hares and Hounds.

As an alternative to hitchhiking, unusually for a student then, he became the owner of a car, though it was ancient and uncertain, with half shafts that could fail.

On one such occasion he left two fellow students sitting in the car at Aviemore Station, hungry and with no money. Hayden returned with another half-shaft and, convulsing with laughter, said: “It’s OK boys, I bought six pies – but I’ve eaten them all!” Amazingly, the memory still makes the two laugh – such was Hayden.

His next car, another character, was a black Ford van, known as “the Black Box”. Returning to the pub one night after climbing on the Buachaille, the car would move only in reverse. Nothing daunted, Hayden opened up the back doors and, with directions passed to him from the back, off they whizzed along the track at Glencoe, backwards.

Over the years, usually in company but also alone, Hayden made it up each of the 282 Munros – no mean feat – to become a Munroist and one of around only 6,000 in the 130 years since Sir Hector Munro listed them.

His last Munro climb was on Sgurr Nam Kerreran ten years ago with a group of 20 friends and his son Paul, with the group celebrating afterwards at a hotel in Dornie.

Hayden was good company on the hills, sure in his navigation, considerate and caring. With a group, he tended to stay at the back, as a support to the slower members and to keep the pace down if required.

He also used to take his accordion to the Bothies with him for many a good sing-song. On occasion he could use the accordion box as a support crossing burns and others downstream found they could pass dry – shod.

In later life he led many a hill-walking holiday in Scotland, the Lakes and on the Continent with Treks for Ramblers and here his social, medical, mountain and French language skills were put to good use.

These treks could, however, prove a bit taxing as sometimes he had to deal with parties of 20 or more walkers of very different abilities “like a Collie dug, being leader and back-marker”.

Hayden and his accordion could be much in demand in Edinburgh. He played regularly of an evening at the Tass and the Canons’ Gait, hostelries on the Royal Mile. It was generally agreed that with Hayden stamping out the beat, the band improved, and when he pulled his chair into a bunch of fiddle players the performance took off and the crowd gathered. Another pleasure for Hayden was to entertain around Edinburgh, bringing music and laughter to old folks’ and care homes.

Throughout, Hayden was a very regular and enthusiastic member of the Bruntsfield Golf Club in Edinburgh

In addition, he was a keen Ceroc dancer and made many friends, most importantly Colette, whom he met six years ago. They shared many interests and had a lot in common.

They married two years later, bringing great joy and happiness to each other and pleasure to their many friends. Hayden was very warmly welcomed into Colette’s large and widely spread family, whom they travelled the world to visit.

Hayden wed first wife Margaret in the 1960s. They had two sons, the younger, Michael, tragically dying as a seven year old from a cerebral tumour. Sadly, the marriage ended in divorce.

Hayden loved company. He kept in touch throughout with regular lunches, coffees and by phone. From the gales of mirth, our wives would always know Hayden was on the other end. He touched so many lives so deeply; he is very sorely missed.

Hayden died following heart surgery, during which time he contracted Covid-19. His Committal took place at a Humanist Service held in Warriston Crematorium. He had been brought up in the Unitarian Church and then attended the Baptist Church but developed an interest in Humanism and joined the Edinburgh group soon after its inception

Hayden leaves his wife Colette, his son Paul – now a Law Lord – Paul’s wife Sharon and his two granddaughters Abigail and Esther, of whom he was very proud.



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