Lives of the fellows

James Montgomery Dunlop

b.25 August 1930 d.8 February 2016
BA Dubl(1957) MB BChB BAO(1959) MA(1962) DObst RCOG(1962) DPH Glasg(1964) DPA(1966) MFCM(1974) FFPHM(1989) FRCP(1992)

James Montgomery Dunlop was director of public health for Hull for over two decades just before the millennium. He was born in Greenock, Scotland, but soon relocated with his family to their farm in Newburgh, Fife. Jim lost his father, Gabriel, early (aged 14), but he and his elder brother and sister were brought up by their redoubtable mother, Margaret – one of the first female elders of the Church of Scotland – working on the farm in the school holidays when not at Bell-Baxter High School in Cupar, Fife. Jim left school at 17 and volunteered for the Royal Air Force, where he was a male nurse. After a varied career with the Department of Agriculture in the north of Scotland as a potato inspector, training as an actuary with the Scottish Provident Institution and working in the blood transfusion department at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, Jim discovered his true vocation and went to Trinity College, Dublin, to study medicine in 1954. There he met the love of his life, Joyce, a Dublin girl who was his houseman when he was a resident student.

At college, he discovered his innate leadership skills when he was elected secretary of the Dublin University Biological Association, and to rugby and sailing clubs. He was a keen sports man, obtaining his university colours for sailing, and trialled for rugby with the RAF. When Jim was not pursuing Joyce, generally organising people or playing sport, he also won prizes in hospital medicine and surgery. After qualifying in 1959, he completed his medical training in Dumfries and spent some time in general practice. He attended Glasgow University, where he obtained both a diploma in public health and a diploma in public administration.

After a varied career in public health, Jim settled in Hull with his young family, where he was initially the deputy port medical officer, then district community physician, before his appointment as director of public health, a position which he held for nearly 20 years. He was a devoted committee man, with a dry wit and Scottish charm that tempered his straightforward approach. He became involved in medical politics both in the British Medical Association (where he was made a fellow and attended every AGM for 40 years) and the Faculty of Public Health (where he was treasurer from 1991 to 1995). His actuarial skills were to prove extremely useful in this role as he was also treasurer of the Society of Public Health (and later president), the Association of Directors of Public Health and the Royal Institute of Public Health. Many learnt rapidly to have their facts and figures correct if Jim was around, which earned him great respect amongst his colleagues.

He read voraciously and wrote several books – Dr Dunlop’s mixture (East Yorkshire, 1998), My medical life (2013?) and Medicine on stamps (2015?). In addition, he published over 200 articles, in most of which he was the sole author, often combining a medical theme with his interest in the Old Testament, providing rational and thought provoking explanations for plagues or miracles, possibly as a counterbalance to his mother’s religious influence. He will also be remembered for his monthly communicable diseases newsletter, with its interesting tailpiece which he published for over 20 years and which had a worldwide distribution.

His love of philately continued in his retirement and he published over 90 articles on medicine on stamps. Enjoying medicine to the last, he advised on occupational health for Stagecoach and Hull Telecommunications until 2012, and continued working as a medical referee at the local crematorium until late 2015, before he died peacefully at home from acute left ventricular failure, secondary to valvular heart disease and cancer of the lung.

Jim was survived by Joyce, his wife of 56 years (a retired consultant psychiatrist), three children, Jonathan, Joanne and Douglas (an associate professor of orthopaedics at Southampton), and six grandchildren – James, Emily, Megan, Eleanor, Charles and Huw.

Douglas G Dunlop

[BMJ 2016 353 1966 – accessed 18 December 2016]

(Volume XII, page web)

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