Art and Photographic History Penwith West Cornwall (and local history)

Doctors, Preachers and Arty Types

I am staring through an orange film. It’s the coloured layer around the Lucozade bottle which attends my high temperature. For reasons no longer clear to me I am in my parent’s bed listening to seagulls overhead. My mother is anxiously awaiting Dr M’s arrival on the ground floor where she has been making up Brussel sprout bags. Dr M is the son of the even more highly regarded “old Doctor M” and the chief G.P. of the practice in the Market Place just around the corner from my Grandfather’s shoe mender’s shop- opposite the church in St Ives. The downstairs in the practice there is crowded in the summer with lobster coloured visitors suffering from painful sunburn.

Then there was dear Doc B. Gentle by nature and with a reassuring voice. He was the preferred doctor from my mother’s viewpoint and mine too. In those days the result of the home visit always seemed to be the deep red sugary liquid or lobelline. In more severe cases with itchy rashes and high temperatures it was likely to be M and B. Dear DrB was one of two doctors who had served in the Navy during the War. Thus should the maroon go off and the Lifeboat go out, there would usually be one of these ex-navy doctors on board.

There was a general feeling that any illness was due to the moral failure of the afflicted. It was expressed though as “I told you not to go out in that wind with your duffle coat not properly done up”. In adolescence after overindulgence it would be expressed as- “I told ee you can’t afford to play ducks and drakes with your health”. Or even – “No wonder you have ended up like that and I haven’t seen you take out one of your books to study properly since Christmas”.

Unfortunately I cannot tell you more about the admirable Doctor B as I got to become close friends of his son and his family. They all intrigue me still and their love of sailing, their faith and their company on New Year’s Eve and forbearance for my attempts at Scottish Dancing. I am touched when I recall Dr B insisting in paying me in guineas for helping tutor his son with his A-level Physics. The memory now reminds me of the early parts of “The Garden of the Finzi-Continis”- the tennis and the sunshine.

Then there was DrS – a very different kettle of fish. Seemingly rather austere , quite tall with a head of curly hair that resembled the that of the distant Shakespeare academic Frank Halliday, he tootled through the already numerous crowds on his home visits. Rather taciturn, whilst not greatly welcomed to my childhood bedside visits was of greater support during adolesence. I remember seeing him in bookshops reading advanced ideas of art and French Existentialism. Indeed he was fascinated by living amongst a community of writers and artists.

Those younger doctors were at that time, the only persons in the community to afford cine cameras. These were used to record everything from the incident where the crew of HMS Wave were rescued by breeches buoy to family outings past Seal Island. DrS spent time both conducting audio recordings of important historical events and producing high quality photographs of members of the various art societies in that productive post-war period.

I shall discuss a little more of my personal impressions of preachers and artists in forthcoming posts

More interviews can be found at

By penwithlit

Freelance writer and radio presenter

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