General Practice
Designatory Letters: 
BSc Edin 1942, MBChB Edin 1943, BSc (Hons) Edinb 1948, MD (Commended) Edin 1949, MRCP Edin 1950, FRCP Edin


Jack Wilson was educated at George Watson's and qualified MBChB at Edinburgh University in 1943. After a six month house appointment at Leith Hospital he was called up and joined the Royal Navy as a probationary surgeon. HMS Saladin was a small destroyer built in 1919; it escorted convoys from Milford Haven to Portsmouth. In May 1944 it was involved in Operation Tiger when an amphibious exercise off Slapton Sands, involving large numbers of American troops, was attacked by German E Boats and hundreds of Americans perished.

At the end of 1945 he was drafted to HMS Silvio, a large merchant ship, an LSI(L), which carried 8 LSTs and could accommodate a battalion of troops. It took part in the operations that led to the capture of Rangoon, but in the river Silvio hit a mine, was sent home and the crew was transferred in Messina to a similar vessel with a larger hospital. Soon after, the convoy sailed to assault Malaysia when the atom bomb was dropped on Japan. They then sailed unopposed to Singapore to accept its surrender and on to the Andaman Islands to receive the Japanese surrender there.

Thereafter the task was to carry Dutch civilians who had been prisoners on Sumatra to Singapore for rehabilitation home. Ashore, a bitter civil war raged between the Dutch and the Indonesians. When the ship docked at Batavia on Christmas Eve 1945 he was delighted to find his friend David Illingworth the naval doctor there. He had spent the previous evening, with the rest of the mess, under the wardroom table sheltering from the insurgent's bullets. Short appointments to the Naval Hospital at Trincomalee and then to the Naval Air station at Yelverton preceded his demobilisation.

Amid a series of house jobs, interspersed with the completion of an Honour’s degree in Pathology and writing an MD thesis on cirrhosis of the liver, he made trips to West Africa and Australia as a ship's surgeon. During one house job in the UK, in Loughbourgh, he met his future wife, Margaret Freestone, a theatre sister; they married in 1951. To complete his training as a general practitioner he spent a year with Dr John Henderson in Pitlochry and in 1952 was appointed to a single-handed practice in Lochmaben.  The practice was run from a lovely sandstone villa that had a walled garden on the banks of the Kirk Loch. In 1975 the practice moved to purpose built premises in the High Street shared with the other practice in the town. He retired in 1985 after 48 years of learning and living medicine. He never regretted the decision to work in a single-handed rural practice.

To keep fit he played squash, sailed a dinghy, gardened and walked his dogs. He entered fully into the life of the community as a GP, an elder of the church and Chair of the Community Council and as a local historian. He became fascinated by the careers of Scots doctors who had travelled to Russia to find fame and fortune. Their study formed the basis for the Douglas Guthrie History of Medicine Lecture that he delivered in 1976 to the Royal Colleges of Medicine and Surgery in the Hall of the College, the highlight of his medical career.

He published in medical journals and wrote up his local history research. On his 80th birthday he published the second edition of The Royal Burgh of Lochmaben, its History, its Castles and its Churches and about the same time the Scottish Record Office published The Lochmaben Court and Council Book 1612-1721, a volume on whose transcription he had been working for many years.

His years in practice were very happy ones, for the NHS was a wonderful organisation, but when the time came for him to retire he reckoned he had experienced the best of it. He was a much loved and respected father who is survived by two of his three children.

Fiona Wilson