Lives of the fellows

Donald Patrick Degenhardt

b.27 November 1913 d.20 October 1974
MB ChB Edin(1938) MD(1949) MRCP(1945) FRCP(1971)

Degenhardt was born in Osnabrück, Germany, the son of August Degenhardt, a schoolmaster, and Jane Bathurst Thompson, daughter of Patrick Macdonald, an hotelier in Blair Atholl, Scotland. He was educated at the Realgymnasium, Osnabrück, and in the 1930’s after his courageous opposition to the Nazi régime had led to his imprisonment, he left Germany to continue his medical studies at Edinburgh University, near relatives and family friends of his Scottish mother. After graduating in 1938, he held posts as house physician to Ronald Paton at Perth Royal Infirmary and at Murthly Mental Hospital. In 1940 he was interned, and on his release joined the staff of Law Hospital, Carluke, initially as laboratory officer, then successively as medical registrar and physician-in-charge of the Tuberculosis Unit. From 1945 to 1953 he was chief assistant in Medicine at West Middlesex Hospital, and in 1953 he moved to Darlington, in the first place as assistant chest physician to Darlington and Northallerton Hospital Groups. With the decline in tuberculosis, he took increasing responsibility in general medicine, initially at St. John of God Hospital, Scorton, and in 1958 there were added to his duties in chest diseases those of assistant general physician. In 1962 he became consultant physician with special responsibility for geriatrics at Darlington and Northallerton (his main hospitals being the Memorial Hospital, Darlington and the Friarage Hospital, Northallerton). In this post he played an active part in the general medical team for the area, taking his share in the rota for the medical wards, including the Coronary Care Unit, running the evening Diabetic Clinic and being responsible for the medical care of the nursing staff. At the same time his strong social conscience found scope in the development of the Geriatric services, which flourished under his care. For several years he was a member of the Hospital Management Committee in Darlington, until the reorganization of the NHS in 1974.

For one year he was Chairman of the Darlington Division of the BMA, and from 1968 until the time of his death he was a member of the Social Services Committee of Darlington Corporation.

A humanist and idealist, he contributed in many ways to the life of the town. As a staunch socialist, he served on the management committee of Darlington Labour Party, and he took an active interest in many local benevolent organizations. He loved music and the beauty of nature, and was a keen fell-walker, mountaineer and photographer. He had an intimate knowledge of the Scottish Highlands and of the countryside surrounding Darlington. Travel, especially to remoter areas, fascinated him. On many hospital committees, his wisdom and humanity were of great benefit to his colleagues. His honesty, integrity and kindliness were evident to all, and he faced the last months of his life with quiet courage and complete unselfishness.

In 1941 he married Catherine Ross, a nursing sister, daughter of George Ross, a shopkeeper in Elgin, and there were three children of this marriage (one son and two daughters). His first wife’s untimely death was followed by a happy re-marriage in 1957 to Dora Logan, daughter of John William Sutton, a clerk/bookkeeper. He died at his home in Darlington.

AWB Edmunds

[, 1974, 4, 349, 723]

(Volume VI, page 146)

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