Lives of the fellows

James Donaldson Craig

b.24 April 1917 d.10 May 1985
MRCS LRCP(1939) MB BS LOND(1939) MRCP(1945) MD(1947) FRCP(1971)

James Donaldson Craig was born in West Lothian, the son of John Craig, an aeronautical engineer, and his wife Margaret Coutts Oliver. Educated at Bathgate Academy, Hampton School and London University, he qualified from St Mary’s Hospital. In 1940 he joined the RAFVR medical branch as medical officer to 611 Squadron, subsequently becoming a squadron leader medical specialist. He obtained his MRCP in 1945. After the war he was medical registrar and research fellow at his teaching hospital, gaining his MD in 1947. After two years as senior medical registrar at St Stephen’s Hospital he was appointed consultant physician to the Medway and Gravesend Group of Hospitals in 1950, where he remained until his retirement in 1983.

In 1940, ‘JD’, as he was commonly known, married Audrey Leonie Rowton who died in 1944 and by whom he had an only daughter, Phyllida. In 1947 he married Joan Lucia Dumaresq, daughter or Rear Admiral John Sumarez Dumaresq CBE CVO. who survived him.

Although his chief medical interest and research was in gastroenterology, he remained a general physician who rapidly established an enviable reputation amongst his hospital colleagues and local family doctors and provided a much sought after opinion, especially for their own families - a considerable burden which he no doubt found flattering, but not without its problems.

He was a strange mixture of compassion and almost brutal honesty, because he never suffered fools gladly; his directness, bordering on rudeness, could occasionally be wounding and his own high level of intelligence inevitably ensured that the number of fools available was considerable. Nevertheless, even when his criticism appeared laceratingly harsh, his sense of humour was usually near at hand, as on the occasion of a long letter devoted to a particularly detailed and virulent description of the ineptitude of a colleague’s management of his department to which he added the postscript: ‘Rude letter to follow!’

He enjoyed a good discussion and was prepared to concede the occasional point if one worked at it. and he liked it even better if he had provoked the argument. JD was a brilliant teacher, and those juniors who were prepared to work hard and to learn were fortunate, for he had well deserved success in helping them with higher examinations and would go out of his way to encourage them, and help them up the medical ladder. He was never afraid of the young coming up - a trait not always to be found in more senior doctors. His whole team, who stood in considerable awe of him at first, soon learned to appreciate his sterling qualities of medical integrity and honesty. He discouraged needless investigation of ‘blood onion’ type and considered a normal ECG the equivalent of a good conduct medal in the Army catering corps.

On the social side, hospital lunch in his company was always stimulating with the cut and thrust that he generated, for he was a man of wide interests and very firmly held views. He was a patriot, who was not afraid to admit it, but if he had not been Borna Scot he would have been delighted to have been born in France for he loved that country and its customs, particularly its art, cuisine and wine. He appreciated music, a great interest as his wife was a talented singer and his daughter a gold medallist in harpsichord and pianoforte at Lausanne Conservatoire. His main interests were his home, his family, his garden (he liked to watch his family weeding it), and his books. He was widely read outside medicine.

JD was a good raconteur, with a pithy wit tinged with asperity, and one of his colleagues meeting him after his retirement ruefully commented that JD was in his usual good form and had not lost his cutting edge! He had many friends in the Medway towns, being a ‘regular’ at the Castle Club in Rochester and enjoying their frequent convivial outings to international rugby matches (especially in Paris), horse race meetings and vineyard tours. He thought that the ‘up and coming’ business and professional men should know about claret and burgundy and was at pains to instruct them.

I suspect that JD would not appreciate any attempt at a ‘potted biography’ of him because he would know, and would not hesitate to say, that he could have done it much better himelf. It was typical of the man that he directed in his Will that there should be no memorial or similar service for him.

OD Fisher

(Volume VIII, page 114)

<< Back to List