Lives of the fellows

James Oliver Terry

b.1 April 1905 d.20 August 1989
MRCS LRCP(1928) MB ChB Leeds(1928) MRCP(1933)FRCP(1969)

James Oliver Terry was born at Pudsey, Yorkshire, the son of a civil engineer who had married the daughter of a hemp merchant and so through neither parent was there any immediate medical background. He was educated at Willaston Unitarian Public School in Cheshire and in 1923, with medicine as his chosen career, he entered the Leeds medical school to commence his medical studies, which he completed without interruption, graduating with honours in 1928.

For the first five years after graduation, Oliver - by which name he was generally known - was engaged in hospital intern posts, mainly in Leeds, and on the staff of Leeds University in the departments of pathology and bacteriology, and he also served as a ship’s surgeon on voyages to India, Canada and elsewhere.

By 1933 he had gained his membership of the College, and in 1935 he married Dorothy Halstead whom he had met during student days in Leeds and who had also graduated in 1928. Like Oliver, she too had no medical background as her father was engaged in the wool industry.

It was now time to get himself more permanently established and in that same year, 1935, a vacancy just such as he had hoped for occurred in an old-established general practice in the cathedral district of Worcester, and there he joined the firm as a young physician partner to a more senior general surgeon - and he and Dorothy moved into the practice premises immediately under the shadow of the cathedral tower. The practice was one which required a great deal of tact and courtesy, especially on the part of a newcomer, and Oliver’s disposition amply met those virtues.

Within some months of coming to Worcester, he was appointed to the medical staff of Worcester Royal Infirmary as honorary physician with full clinical charge of beds and of outpatient clinics and Dorothy ably assisted him m his general practice. In addition he was appointed police surgeon to the Worcester County Force, and later to the larger West Mercia Force, and as such was responsible for the fitness and training of potential recruits and other members of the Force.

During the immediate postwar years his practice had absorbed another small country practice in a near-by village and so, in 1946, he vacated his town house and took over a large Georgian house in the village of Kempsey, with a magnificent garden, and tor the remainder of his time there that garden was to be his great joy and recreation. He was a keen gardener and a very knowledgeable one, especially on fruit trees and the cultivation of cyclamen which he grew in profusion. He enjoyed not only the pleasure of having and admiring his garden but also doing the major part of the work in it. His other source of recreation was his love of classical music and often, when time allowed, he was to be found in the company of a retired medical colleague, indulging in his appreciation of Wagner.

With the advent of the National Health Service in 1948, Oliver was faced with the decision as to his future sphere of work, for if he was to continue his role as a physician then he must abandon his general practice and this he decided to do, and to carry on in the hospital service as a private consultant. He was given full consultant physician status and his opinion and help were much sought after, not only in the Worcester Royal Infirmary, the Malvern General Hospital, the Evesham Hospital and two geriatric units - at all of which he attended - but also as a private consultant by the practitioners of the South Worcestershire area. His opinion on a case was much to be respected and his diligence and thoroughness in reaching that opinion was to be admired.

Though perhaps at first sight of a rather retiring or even diffident nature, he had true Yorkshire grit and forthrightness and would stick to his opinion with great tenacity, but at the same time he could see other people’s points of view and was prepared to find time to listen. Always keen and showing great interest and expertise in the care of the diabetic, he soon initiated and conducted a special diabetic clinic with much benefit to those particular patients and, although their number was considerable, he insisted on being personally responsible for them. He worked hard, and never wished to appear in print, and in 1969 the quality of his work and of himself was recognized by his election to the fellowship of the College.

For three generations, back to his great-grandfather, Oliver’s ancestors had held office in the Worshipful Company of Saddlers, and so by patrimony he became a Freeman in 1926 at the very early age of 21, working his way through the hierarchy of the Company to become Master in 1972. As such he had to attend not only the various functions of the Company and preside at its meetings but also to attend the many London civic functions, including the election of the Lord Mayor and the activities associated with that occasion. In addition, his duties took him to equestrian events, shows and tournaments, at which he had to present the awards. He was very proud that his son was following him in the activities of the Worshipful Company and that his daughter was also a Freewoman.

Lean, wiry, full of energy and invigorated by his regular cold bath, Oliver’s appearance changed very little over the years, so that when in 1970 he came to the retiring age for the NHS he was still a very fit man able to enjoy his gardening and with more time to do so. He also retained his appointment with the West Mercia Police Force, and his geriatric units, for a number of years but finally, in order to be nearer his origins and his family, he returned to his native Yorkshire, to Pontefract where he was able to continue with his gardening up to the time of his death.

It is worthy of note that although originally this man had no medical ancestors yet his own family was entirely medically connected; himself as a consultant physician, his wife as a general practitioner, his daughter - who had qualified in 1962 - engaged in child welfare and well-woman clinics, and his son a medical physicist in a large general hospital.

G H Marshall

[Brit.med.J..1989,299,1521]

(Volume IX, page 513)

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