Lives of the fellows

Thomas Bonser Staveley Dick

b.29 March 1913 d.8 December 1999
MB ChB Manchester(1938) MRCP(1945) MD(1949) FRCP(1969)

Thomas Bonser Staveley Dick was a consultant physician at Wigan. The youngest of six children, he was born into a medical family in Manchester, where his father, John Staveley Dick, was a GP. One of his sisters was also a doctor. He went to Manchester University to read medicine. After graduation in 1938, Tom did his junior house jobs at Manchester Royal Infirmary, where he developed his special interest in neurology. In 1949, he completed an MD in neurology and was appointed as a consultant physician to Wigan Health Authority, a post he held until his retirement in 1977.

Tom was a highly intelligent, hard working, charismatic physician, with tremendous clinical acumen and a very pleasant personality. He was extremely punctual. In fact, junior doctors would set their watches by him. His ward rounds would start at 9am. At exactly one minute to the hour he would be seen stepping into Red Cross ward at Royal Albert Edward Infirmary, in his spotless white coat with a stethoscope in one pocket, and a tendon hammer and ophthalmoscope in the other. The lapel of the coat always had two long pins to test sensation and colour vision, one with a large round white head and one with a red head. The ward round was conducted in a highly professional manner with the senior sister, the resident medical officer and the house officer in attendance. Tom had a photographic memory and never forgot his patients, so he expected the junior staff to know the clinical details about every single patient without consulting the notes, and the sister to know all the nursing details.

He never demanded, but always commanded, respect from his staff and his patients. Hence there was never any disruption in the ward round and, without any prompting, the whole ward would be silent while he took the history, examined the patient and listened to murmurs. He was a wonderful teacher and would impart his vast knowledge and experience to staff on the ward rounds and in the clinics. Many of his juniors are now consultants in different parts of the world and have benefited greatly from his teaching.

He had patients in three hospitals, Wigan Royal Infirmary, Leigh Infirmary and Astley Hospital. Astley Hospital, which he had developed with his friend, Addis, a consultant geriatrician, was his favourite hospital, a peaceful picturesque base, where he had an office overlooking a duck pond. His secretary of many years, Jessie Newlands, was fiercely loyal to him, as were many members of his staff.

Tom established a research unit at Leigh Infirmary with a local GP, researching into lipids, fibrinogen and coronary heart disease. Numerous papers were published on the subject. He was the author of many papers on neurology, and also on anaemia. He was largely responsible for setting up an excellent postgraduate institute in Wigan, established solely by donations from medical staff, businesses and the public of Wigan. It was named the Thomas Linacre Institute, after the first President of the College, a rector of Wigan.

Tom had a flourishing private practice. The Christopher Private Patients Home in Wigan used to be full, mainly with his patients and those of his friend, Weatherstone-Wilson, the general surgeon. In his latter professional years he gave up private practice and concentrated solely on his National Health commitments.

A keen sportsman, Tom also played golf and soccer for the University. His passion for all sports remained with him all his life, and he was a lifelong supporter of Manchester United and for many years held a season ticket to watch them. At University he met his lifelong partner, Barbara, who was also studying medicine. After they graduated, they married as war broke out and were together for 58 years. They had four children - three girls and a boy. He enjoyed six grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

Tom and Barbara divided their time between Manchester and north Wales, where they had a cottage for 40 years. It was in Wales that he relaxed, playing golf and salmon fishing. Indeed he was a founder member of Betws y Coed golf club. Both he and Barbara also loved to fish in Scotland and had many an adventure in the wilds. Right up until six months before he died he played golf twice a week at Davyhulme golf club and played to a very high standard.

Tom and Barbara both loved music and were members of the Halle, holding season tickets for 30 years. They also loved the theatre, cinema and the arts, and enjoyed a rich and varied life travelling abroad to Italy, France, America and Israel. After Barbara died in 1997 he moved to live in Scotland with his daughter, Alison and son-in-law Geoff, although he kept his flat in Manchester and sometimes returned to play golf. He felt at home in Scotland as he had loved it all his life. It was in Scotland he died six months after he had had a stroke. He was a warm and generous family man, but also a very private, sensitive man. Above all, he cared for his patients and his staff, and the concept of the NHS.

Nayyar Naqvi

(Volume XI, page 155)

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