General Practice
Designatory Letters: 
MB ChB Glasgow 1953

Henry Gebbie was born in Darvel in the Ayrshire valleys into a local family who ran a lace manufacturing factory. He and his younger brother Donald were doted on by spinster aunts and both attended the village school with their writing slates and chalk in the 1930s. He was sent as a boarder to Glasgow Academy and lived in digs nearby making enduring friendships with fellow pupils. As a school pupil, he did not have a good eye for a ball but captained the second rugby XV. He flourished in the school’s theatrical productions with his starring role, he told his family, as Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Henry described himself as an undistinguished medical student at Glasgow University. At that time, the Glasgow undergraduates were sent to the Rotunda in Dublin for their obstetric attachment, where they rang a bell in the local pub to summon the students to attend a delivery. He qualified in 1953 and, as there was a shortage of graduates in Edinburgh that year due to the lengthening of the course, he undertook his House Jobs in the Royal Infirmary there. Two years of National Service in Germany followed, and he married his beloved Dorothy on a magical snowy day in January 1956.

General Practice was always his aim and partnerships first in Nairn, on the Moray Firth, and then Edinburgh followed. His old surgery, now the West End Medical Practice, had a reputation as a happy welcoming place, and he enjoyed long lasting friendships with his medical partners. He became a popular GP trainer for both medical students and GPs, staying in touch with many of his old trainees. They were all brought back for lunch every Monday to his home and he would drive them around the West End of Edinburgh in his little minis, Renault 5 or Fiat Panda with their yellow BMAS triangles. He was able to go home for lunch virtually every working day, which was preceded by a glass of sherry, before returning to the onslaught of the surgery. He was usually not back until long after the family had eaten.

Henry gained fellowships of Royal College of General Practitioners and the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. He was President of the Medico-Chirurgical Society of Edinburgh. But it was his appointment as Apothecary to the Royal Household at Holyrood Palace that gave him the greatest pleasure. He met most members of the Royal family over the years and attended to their medical requirements, as well as the needs of all the staff based there when the Royal family was in residence. He never disclosed any details of what had been said or done. Her Majesty could certainly rely on his total discretion in all matters. He always had to attend Holyrood if any member of the Royal family was flying in by helicopter although, as he said, his antiquated resuscitation skills would indeed have been severely put to the test if there had been a major crash, but he was there ready to do his best in all circumstances.

Henry loved to travel and a young man, just out of school, he toured France and Spain in an open top car. Many family holidays involved driving endlessly across the continent with Henry at the wheel, not quite knowing the way, but always confident that if he was kind and gracious to those he met and believed in their good nature they would respond in the same way. Henry loved France so much that he and Dorothy bought a holiday house near Lodeve in the Languedoc upon retirement, adapting seamlessly to the French way of life, enjoying rustic cuisine, the local wine, drinks by the pool, making new friends and renewing his schoolboy love of the French language. Henry was very well read, a romantic at heart, a man of culture and France seems to give him the freedom to express himself.

At his core, Henry was a family man. He doted on his beloved Dorothy and adored his four children, fourteen grandchildren and one great grandchild. One daughter and one grandchild became doctors; his interest in medicine never wavered and he always liked to discuss recent medical developments in his weekly BMJ with them. He suffered from Parkinson’s disease for the last eight years or so. He researched his likely symptoms, the disease progression and never complained about it. He continued to look after Dorothy quietly and professionally. He sustained his interest in others right until his last few months, offering words of support and counselling to friends and family in their time of distress or loss.

Henry lived his life to the highest of standards, professionally and personally. He was modest about his own considerable achievements and never lost the common touch. He was a hospitable, kind and patient, a man who always tried to do the right thing. He had a deep sense that he had a responsibility to help those less fortunate than him and made a difference to those around him. He is greatly missed by family, friends, former patients and colleagues.