Lives of the fellows

Brian John Calcraft

b.22 May 1940 d.20 November 1993
MB ChB Wales(1964) MRCP(1971) FRCP(1982)

Brian Calcraft will be remembered for his Christian commitment, with a caring attitude to patients and colleagues, as well as for his warm personality and his delightful sense of humour. He had an ability to take on a heavy work load and when he took up his appointment as the first consultant physician in gastroenterology in South Gwent, in October 1975, he worked relentlessly for 18 years to establish a first class endoscopy unit for the area, with gastrointestinal services.

He was born in Kingston, Jamaica, where his parents worked as Christian missionaries. One of four children, he was educated at Wolmer’s High School for Boys, Kingston, and developed a strong affection for Jamaicans and their infectious sense of humour, which he himself acquired. The Christian commitment he made in those early days was to influence the subsequent course of his life’s work. In 1959 he returned to his parent’s home town, Penarth in South Wales, and studied at the Welsh National School of Medicine, Cardiff.

We first came to know each other when he was a clinical student and played an active role in the Christian Union. It was at this time that he met his wife Rachel Jones, who was a student nurse at the Cardiff Royal Infirmary. They married shortly after he qualified and in 1966, after a period of training locally, they both went to work in a single-handed family practice in Brown’s Town, St Ann, Jamaica. The practice, which was in a relatively rural area, was linked with the Jamaican Evangelistic Mission and gave the young people much first hand experience of medical and social problems in the region. They were a generous couple who readily gave hospitality to those who stayed with them.

On returning to Cardiff in 1970, Brian joined my department at the Royal Gwent Hospital, Newport, to embark on clinical training and research in gastroenterology. Much of his research was related to the gastric mucosal barrier and with agents which damage or protect it. After showing that Carbenoxolone had a protective role, because of his experiences in Jamaica, he proceeded to examine components of ginger oil which had a similar effect. He was always ready to cross conventional boundaries to consider alternative approaches to therapeutic problems. During the year immediately before taking up his consultant appointment, he worked as a research fellow in the gastrointestinal unit at the Mayo Clinic, with Alan Hoffman.

Brian was held in great affection by his patients and all who worked with him. The warmth and sincerity of his manner made people feel at ease, they felt that he was interested and cared about them. When he said ‘Good morning’ one felt he really meant it. He was not known to complain; he was self-effacing and thought little of his own achievements. He served as chairman of the local drugs and therapeutics committee and established a stroke unit at the County Hospital, Griffithstown.

He was an elder in the local Evangelical Church, where he was active in church life and maintained a strong interest and involvement in Christian work overseas. He also played an important part in establishing a home for the elderly which was linked with the church. He died after two years of illness, during which time he continued to work with enthusiasm even though he knew he was dying. The support of a loving wife and family enabled him to die at home, which was his expressed wish. The many tributes to him related to what he did, but much more to the sort of person he was and of his kindness to others. His mother, his wife Rachel, two married children - a son and a daughter - and two grandchildren, survived him.

J Rhodes

[Brit.med.J..1994,308,407]

(Volume IX, page 71)

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