Lives of the fellows

Eric Boxall Jackson

b.25 August 1908 d.8 November 2006
MB BS Lond(1930) MRCS LRCP(1930) MRCP(1933) MD(1934) FRCP(1964

'Oh that is a relief, Doctor.' Eric Jackson had just told a woman that her husband had cancer, and her reply, brightly spoken, put him in a difficulty: an expression of sympathy now seemed inappropriate, but he was uncertain how else to react. Anecdotes such as this were one of the pleasures of working with Eric. A general physician at Hillingdon Hospital with a special interest in neurology, he was born in Middlesbrough, the son of Herbert William Jackson, a general practitioner, and Ada née Boxall, the daughter of a builder. Eric received his secondary education at Middlesbrough High School. Sportsman he was not: asked much later about his sporting activities, he replied: 'they were notable for lack of distinction'. He attended medical school at University College Hospital in London and qualified in 1930. A fellow student at UCH was Gordon Duncan, who later became a general surgeon, and a close friendship formed between them which was to be lifelong.

After two house posts at UCH, Jackson became assistant medical officer at the North Middlesex Hospital, one of the ‘county hospitals’ which the Middlesex County Council was forming in those days, a development rather in advance of its time. Another was at Hillingdon, where there had been a workhouse since 1749. This had changed gradually into a hospital shared by several parishes and known locally as ‘the Union’; the small belfry of the workhouse was, within living memory, still a feature of the oldest part of the buildings. Middlesex not only started building developments at these hospitals, but more importantly devoted much attention to finding and appointing good medical staff, and it was to Hillingdon County Hospital that Eric Jackson was appointed in 1935. Gordon Duncan was appointed surgeon there at about the same time. Other excellent appointments included the surgeon Libero Fatti and Cyril Barnes [Munk’s Roll, Vol.IX, p.28], so that a powerful and dedicated medical group went to work in rather unpromising buildings in what were then to a great extent green fields between Uxbridge and West Drayton. Further development was ad hoc. In 1938, in immediate expectation of numerous air raid casualties, huts were hurriedly built in the hospital grounds. When the casualties failed to materialise, these were put to use as general wards and clinics, and it was mainly in them that Eric Jackson worked until his retirement in 1972. The ambitious new development of 1967 was never completed, and provided only a third of the beds, these being devoted to surgery.

During the war years Hillingdon was part of the Emergency Medical Service, and some members of staff, including Jackson, were required to remain there and to work a schedule with limited time off: sometimes they did not leave the hospital for weeks. After the war, and wishing to exchange this restricted environment for something broader, he volunteered to do a period of National Service in the Army. In the event, all he saw of the world was Catterick, preceded by a short period in barracks at Cookham. He then returned to Hillingdon.

During the post-war years, more medical staff were appointed, and a group took advantage of the reasonable proximity of the Thames to acquire a landing craft and convert it into a houseboat. It was kept at Hurley, and was the centre of an active social life in which Jackson and Duncan were prominent. An ideal colleague, he was loyal, imperturbable and even-tempered, with no hint of conflict or unkindness ever associated with him.

Later Jackson and Duncan acquired a property in Chalfont St Peter, and became skilled and knowledgeable gardeners. At retirement they also purchased a 36-ft sailing yacht which they based at Chichester and later Poole. Jackson was a skilful and enthusiastic motorist, and continued to drive until within a few months of his death. Gordon Duncan predeceased him by some years, but Jackson continued to live alone and independently, remaining active until a brief illness from which he died.

R P Britt
A H James

[Brit.med.J.,2007 334 101]

(Volume XII, page web)

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