Lives of the fellows

John Gavin Craig

b.20 January 1946 d.6 July 2015
MB BCh BAO Belf(1970) MRCP(1973) MRCGP(1986) FRCP(1998)

Gavin Craig was a general practitioner in Shipley, West Yorkshire. The son of Grace Kay and John Gray Craig, a GP, he was born in Shipley and was educated at Bradford Grammar School, where he enjoyed the Scouts, triple jump and playing rugby, and left with life-long friends. He followed both his uncle (George Craig, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist in Bradford) and his father and studied medicine at Queen’s University Belfast.

After qualifying, he remained in Belfast and worked in hospital medicine. He married Anita Mann in 1971 and they lived through the troubled times of Northern Ireland. In 1972 Anita was pregnant with their first child. Amidst escalating fighting and unrest in the locality, she was taken to the Samaritan Hospital in Belfast to be induced. Whilst Anita was in labour, Gavin was called to the Mater Infirmorum Hospital to treat the multitude of bomb victims, before running back ‘under cover’ to the labour ward in time for the arrival of his first daughter, Sarah, on what became known as Bloody Friday.

He completed his house jobs at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, and gained his membership of the Royal College of Physicians. They returned to Yorkshire in 1973 and he took up a post as a registrar in diabetes at St James’s University Hospital, Leeds.

He then went to join his GP father in his practice based in the family home in Kirkgate, Shipley. The practice was like Dr Finlay’s casebook – filled floor to ceiling with medical books, with a dispensary, stocked with tinctures, Bunsen burners, litmus paper and petri dishes, and his mother answering the telephone. Patients would ask for ‘Dr John’ or ‘Dr Gavin’ or, more frequently, ‘The old one’ or ‘The young one’. He grew the practice and established the current pioneering Westcliffe Medical Centre, fitted with operating theatres and host to outpatient clinics. In 1980 Westcliffe became a training practice and Gavin enjoyed imparting his wisdom and providing mentorship for many trainee GPs over the years. One of his trainees, Mary Cuthbert, joined the partnership and worked alongside him for her whole career. Gavin was a senior partner at Westcliffe until 2010 and retired on the grounds of ill-health in October 2015. He was greatly respected by his colleagues and patients.

Within general practice, he had a keen interest in diabetes and minor surgery. He was instrumental in establishing the Bradford Community Diabetes Service, and took a lead role in the care of diabetic patients within the practice. He also had a special interest in urology. During his urology training, one patient recalls ‘attending for a cystoscopy and being surprised to see Dr Craig gloved and gowned ready to do the procedure. Dr Craig grinned and said “Don’t worry it’s my first time too!”’ He was a keen member of the Royal Society of Medicine’s urology section and enjoyed numerous happy occasions at their annual winter scientific conferences.

Alongside general practice, he was an active member and chairperson of the local medical committee. He was highly influential in co-steering the successful campaign to save Shipley Hospital in 1982, which provided inpatient rehabilitation beds until 2012 and continues to provide outpatient services.

His interest in the local community led him to become an active member and president of the Shipley Rotary Club, chairman of Bradford Grammar School Old Bradfordians’ Association and chairman of Bradford Cyrenians.

One of his main passions in life was sailing, which he learnt from his father-in-law. After many years of sailing he took a sabbatical to spend four months as a crew member on board the Glasgow in the 2005 to 2006 Clipper Round the World Yacht Race. His love of sailing also led him to part-own a 45ft Beneteau.

He also enjoyed playing squash, bridge and golf. During his final illness, he decided to learn the piano and was pleased and proud to pass his grade three. He enjoyed recalling stories from his piano examinations. He once walked into the waiting area, only to see one of his previous registrars sitting there for his son’s examination. Another time, a small boy, his feet not quite reaching the floor, commented on Gavin’s performance, saying ‘that sounded like it went quite well’.

Gavin was an extremely popular and much-loved GP. His warm and friendly personality endeared him to patients and engendered confidence and trust. He epitomised all the qualities of traditional family practice, and first and foremost he was interested in the patient as a person, not just in the underlying medical problem. He developed a large following of devoted patients, whom he cared for with the utmost dedication.

Gavin was survived by his wife, Anita, their four children, Sarah, Patrick, Sam and Hannah, and his nine grandchildren.

Hannah Davidson

[Telegraph and Argus 10 July 2015 – accessed 12 May 2016; BMJ 2015 351 6629 www.bmj.com/content/351/bmj.h6629 – accessed 12 May 2016; Queen’s University Belfast Development and Alumni Relations Office https://daro.qub.ac.uk/pages/news/obits/obituary-j-gavin-craig – accessed 12 May 2016]

(Volume XII, page web)

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