Lives of the fellows

John Raven Lauckner

b.15 August 1917 d.18 July 1992
MB ChB Edin(1941) MRCP(1947) FRFPS Glas(1947) MRCPG(1962) FRCP(1969) FRCPG(1972)

Jack Lauckner was born in Walthamstow, London. His father was a Congregational minister and this influenced Jack’s life. Jack was educated at Silcoates School, Wakefield, from 1929-36, and then studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh, graduating with honours. He was awarded the Cunningham medal for anatomy. It was always his intention to be a medical missionary; so while studying medicine he stayed at the Edinburgh Medical Missionary Society house in George Square and at their Dispensary in Cowgate for most of his student days.

This was the time of the second world war and after house jobs at the Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh, he was asked to join a group of doctors under the auspices of the British Red Cross. He set off for China in May 1942, having first married Helena Taylor, a fellow medical student. The journey was slow and difficult and he did not reach China until the September of that year. The Red Cross Hospital was set up in Changsha, Central China, to provide aid for Chinese soldiers and refugees. The work and conditions were difficult and the hospital was finally pushed westwards by the advancing Japanese Army, who overran it in 1944. Jack became ill with typhus and pneumonia and following an incomplete recovery he went first to Calcutta, India, where he spent VE-Day 1945, and then returned to Britain in June of the same year.

From 1945-48 Jack held training posts in Newcastle upon Tyne and Glasgow. His desire to return to missionary work abroad compelled him, with Helena, to take up a post in a South African government hospital in Cape Province. The work of this missionary hospital was dedicated to the care of the native population, with particular emphasis on the treatment of tuberculosis. But it was not long before Jack became unhappy with the political situation - apartheid was surfacing -and reluctantly he decided to leave.

In 1952 he joined Sandy Brown [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VI, p.69] and his team as senior lecturer in medicine in Nigeria. He took an active part in the development of the medical school at Ibadan and the new university teaching hospital, projects which were completed in 1957. Jack’s main interest continued to be in the treatment and prevention of tuberculosis.

In 1960 he became increasingly aware of the need to educate his four children, then aged 6-13 years, in Britain. He therefore returned to the UK and was appointed consultant physician, with an interest in respiratory diseases, to the Newcastle General Hospital and the nearby Elswick Chest Clinic. He was a good uncomplicated physician who knew a great deal about respiratory disease and his knowledge of tuberculosis, in all its forms, was outstanding. He was strong in the belief that the epidemic of tuberculosis, at its height in the middle of this century, could be defeated by detailed care of patients and their families, by careful follow-up and by examination of contacts at home and at work.

Jack was open-minded and honest about his clinical work; he was good for patients because he looked after their total interests -so much so that some regarded him as ‘a perfect social worker’. Most who met him felt happy to be with him and to be in the company of a friend; this was evident in his broad, cheerful smile which greeted everyone on dozens of occasions. He was a loyal supporter of the work of the British Thoracic Association and the North of England Thoracic Society. Jack’s optimism and interest in the welfare of others kept him cheerful and determined to continue his work during ill-health following myocardial infarctions in 1967 and 1973, and major surgery for a pituitary tumour in 1979. He retired in 1982.

In 1970 he had moved house to Whickham. As time went by he appreciated this move because it allowed him to be near St Mary’s Parish Church for which he had a great love and interest; he was church warden, lay chairman and a member of the Parochial Church Council.

It was most gratifying that he managed to have 20 happy years in Whickham in the company of his wife, Helena, his three surviving children and ten grandchildren. He also loved visiting distant parts of the world - in particular, to return to South Africa and China, countries which had played so big a part in the early years of his work. Only in the last year of his life did he sadden as he became aware that his borrowed time was running out. He will be remembered for more than his contribution to medicine and the management of tuberculosis. His religion was an essential part of his life, as was his involvement in the life of the Church and his enthusiasm for the interests and welfare of the peoples of the entire world.

A R Somner

(Volume IX, page 308)

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