Lives of the fellows

Christopher Lynton Davidson

b.2 March 1910 d.18 February 2015
LDS(1932) BChD Leeds(1933) MB ChB(1936) MD(1940) DCH(1941) MRCP(1941) FRCP(1965)

Chris Davidson was a general physician with an interest in diabetes at the Bradford group of hospitals from 1947 until his retirement in 1975. He initially qualified as a dentist at Leeds, but switched to medicine, largely as a result of the influence of Matthew Stewart [Munk’s Roll, Vol.V, p.396], professor of pathology at the University of Leeds. After some years in the RAMC during the Second World War, Chris was appointed to Bradford at the inception of the NHS and saw many scientific and therapeutic advances during his practice there.

Chris was a staunch Yorkshireman, born in Saddleworth, on the border with Lancashire and he lived in Yorkshire most of his long life. His father, also Christopher Davidson, was a wool merchant; his mother was Anna Leigh Davidson née Chadderton. Chris was educated at Ilkley Grammar School, followed by periods at Ackworth and Bootham. A bright pupil, he was uncertain what career to pursue when he left school, but eventually decided to join his cousin E Gillespy Smith, who was a successful dentist, training at Leeds Dental School. Unfortunately on qualifying, work as a dentist proved difficult to find in those Depression years, and he decided to enrol in a shortened two-year conversion course at Leeds to become a doctor.

After qualifying, Chris was subsequently awarded a Centenary Medical School bursary and a Harwick fellowship to do research under Matthew Stewart for the substantial sum of £200 pa. This was largely pathology-related with post-mortem work, but focused on gastrointestinal haemorrhage, which formed the basis of his MD. In 1939 war broke out and he was appointed resident medical officer at Leeds General Infirmary until he joined the RAMC in June 1942.

Chris took part in the D-day landings, coming ashore at Hermanville beach, in mid-afternoon, about eight hours after the vanguard, having spent an uncomfortable day wallowing around in the Channel trying to board one of the rhino ferries, a story that he recounted with much amusement in the correspondence columns of the British Medical Journal some years later. He was part of the 12th Casualty Clearing Station, moving through Normandy as the troops advanced. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel and transferred to Accra on the Gold Coast at the beginning of 1945, where he set up a new military hospital, and remained there until he was demobilised at the end of the year.

His appointment to the Bradford group of hospitals in 1947 came at the inception of the NHS, and included duties, along with only two other physicians, not only at the Royal Infirmary and St Luke’s hospitals in Bradford, but extending out to Airedale and as far as Nelson in Lancashire, where he continued to do clinics until shortly before his retirement in 1975. Although he developed an interest in diabetes, he remained throughout his career a committed generalist, and was a much sought-after opinion as a result.

In retirement he continued to do medical locums, particularly in Bangor, north Wales, up into his mid-seventies. But his main diversion was to go on cruise ships, especially the Epirotiki line, which took him many times round the Mediterranean and Caribbean. He was an avid reader of books on travel and sport and his other diversion was to enter into an interesting correspondence with many of the authors. He also wrote a series of clinical vignettes for the British Medical Journal, recounting unusual cases he had dealt with in his career, including one where he had to seek the permission of the great Carl Jung before proceeding with treating a patient with a meningioma.

He met his wife, Elizabeth Mary (‘Mollie’) McCracken, when stationed near St Andrews in 1943, where she was doing a GP locum, having recently qualified from Dundee. They had three children. Their son (also Chris) became a cardiologist and is a fellow of the RCP. Their daughter, Elizabeth, became a music teacher, and another daughter, Mary, sadly died from complications of Turner syndrome in 1992. They moved from Bradford to Beamsley, near Bolton Abbey, where they had many years of happy retirement close to the heart of his beloved Yorkshire Dales, and lived there until 2012, when ill-health forced them to move to be nearer family in Brighton. To the end, Chris had a prodigious memory, and was preparing to take part in the RCP’s oral history project, Voices of Medicine, when he sadly passed away after a short illness, just two weeks short of his 105th birthday.

Chris Davidson

[BMJ 2015 350 1148 www.bmj.com/content/350/bmj.h1148 – accessed 25 August 2015]

(Volume XII, page web)

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