Deryk Darlington

Former Senior Lecturer in Anatomy and Executive Dean, Birmingham School of Medicine. Editor of Aesculapius. (b 26 May 1924; qBirmingham 1947, died from Parkinson’s Disease on 11 July 2005).

Deryk Darlington, affectionately known as DD, was undoubtedly the gentleman or ‘gentle man’ of the Birmingham Medical School during the thirty-six years that he worked there. He always had time to listen to his colleagues, to support and when necessary, counsel them.

He was born in Newport, Isle of Wight, to Samuel and Nellie Darlington. His father was a teacher who, moved north to Jarrow but finally settled in Rugby with Deryk and his two younger brothers. Deryk won a scholarship at the age of eight, to the Lawrence Sherriff Grammar School where he remained for ten years finishing as Head Boy.

Deryk’s parents were devout Christian Pacifists and so, not surprisingly, Deryk himself registered as a Conscientious Objector and was thus exempt from National Service.

He began his medical career in Birmingham in 1942, graduating in 1947. During his student days he acquired an interest in neurology, which would remain throughout his career. His first job was with Brodie Hughes, and his then intention to continue specialising in neurosurgery. He was appointed Demonstrator in Anatomy in October 1948 and the following year passed his Primary FRCS exam.

It was about this time that Deryk met his future wife, Rachel Brown, at a Youth Conference organised by the Fellowship of Reconciliation. They were married in the Congregational Church in Lutterworth, where Rachel’s father was the minister, in May 1950. They lived in Rubery for eight years before moving to Northfield Road, Kings Norton, their final home in Birmingham.

Deryk had found, however, that the academic life suited him well, and apart from a possible digression into the world of statistics, spent the rest of his career in the Medical School, firstly as Lecturer in Anatomy, then Senior Lecturer and finally being appointed Executive Dean in 1977 until his retirement in 1984.

He made a great contribution to the life of the Medical School, not only as an entertaining teacher, occasionally parading up and down along the top of the front bench in the lecture theatre, or teaching basic statistics to innumerate medical students, but also as one of the four real authors of Sir Solly Zuckerman’s book, “A New System of Anatomy”.

Deryk’s passionate interest outside medicine was photography, very certainly influenced by his father. He would have his camera with him at almost every formal or social gathering that he attended in the University. His other lifetime interest was in trains, and at one time had a large collection of model railway engines.

It was five years after retirement that he noticed a weakness down his left side. His neurological knowledge soon led him to the understanding that this was an early manifestation of Parkinson’s disease, a disease which became progressively worse after his move to Melbourne Cottage, a second home for many years, in Milfield near Wooler in Northumberland. He spent the last ten months of his life in Berwick Care Centre.

Deryk and his wife had three children, Kate, Jonathan and Peter and six grandchildren. Rachel and the children will sorely miss him, as will all of us who knew this man. A giant in many ways if not in physical stature.

Roger Flinn