General/Internal Medicine
Designatory Letters: 
MB Edin 1945, MRCP Edin 1949, FRCP Edin 1958

John Duncan Matthews was a consultant physician at the Royal Infirmary Edinburgh from 1956 until 1986. Affectionately known as JDM he owed much of his professional success to two factors. He was very happily married to Connie Moffat . He greatly enjoyed his work. He said that he only became a doctor because his mother told him to do medicine when he was aged 6. Whether this is true or not, he was driven by a genuine desire to help others. This overflowed into his private life and was shared by his wife. The Matthews invariably made his medical colleagues, nursing staff and other friends welcome to their home.

John was a consultant when medical knowledge was rapidly expanding and when many of his colleagues were specialising. In contrast, John remained a General Physician who retained a grasp of the whole field of internal medicine. However, he was always aware of his limitations and readily asked others for their opinion. He combined his medical skills with personal attributes, exemplifying the concept that a good doctor required to be well informed and also compassionate. He had the knack of putting patients at ease and always spent time answering their questions and anxieties. There was great competition to be appointed to a training post with John. Junior colleagues frequently sought his advice and guidance and he derived more pleasure from their subsequent successes than from any personal achievement.

John was a talented all round sportsman and an outstanding cricketer. Although right handed, he batted left handed in order to irritate the opposing team! He played for Cambridge and Edinburgh Universities and represented Scotland on 6 occasions between 1951 and 1958. As a golfer he had an enviable swing. Not infrequently the ball would go far into the rough, only to land on the green with his next shot. When fishing in a boat, he had the frustrating knack of catching fish from water that his companion had previously flogged! For many years he was the honorary secretary of the Medical Angling Club and would ensure that new members of the club were made to feel welcome. The highlight of fishing outings was his witty minutes of the previous outing. Read out with a dead pan face, these frequently self-deprecating comments always had members in laughter.

After completing his pre-clinical studies at Magdalene College Cambridge., he transferred to Edinburgh University and graduated MB ChB in 1945. He then served in the RAMC as Medical Officer to the Kings Hussars stationed in Germany. He was then invited to join the staff of Professor Sir Derrick Dunlop. He also worked with Professor Sir Stanley Davidson and Dr Rae Gilchrist, Following his appointment as a consultant he spent 7 years in charge of the Medical Outpatient department. He thereby gained an insight into the entire spectrum of medical problems. On leaving MOPD he joined Drs Lindsay Lamb and Leslie Duncan in wards 32/33 before becoming the senior consultant in wards 28/31.

His standing among his consultant colleagues is indicated by his 7 year chairmanship of the Physicians Committee. He undertook this with such diplomacy that he was able to persuade his more abrasive colleagues to put aside personal ambitions and agree to take action for the benefit of the whole hospital.

John played an equally significant role at the Royal College of Physicians. He was elected a Fellow in 1958. A member of Council from 1983 to 85, he was Vice- President from 1985 to 87. He served on various college committees and actively participated in the fund raising for the lecture theatre. His diplomacy was utilised as convenor of the Myre Sim Bequest committee, in accommodating the donor’s wishes with the – at times – controversial expectations of the college! His overall contribution to medicine was recognised by his appointment as a High Constable and the award of CVO for services to the Royal Household.

It was impossible to dislike John Matthews. He was a true gentleman and a man of absolute integrity. He only had friends, whether they were patients, colleagues or other acquaintances. He is survived by his wife, his sons Graeme and Christopher and 5 grandchildren.