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Medical Graduates of 1974

The year of ’74: Still having fun

30 year reunion for the graduates of 1974


Sir Arthur Thompson could have had no idea how much fun and good humour he would generate when he set up his Charitable Trust for the 30 year reunion dinner.


Looking back over the reports in this journal over the years, each year in the autumn he has succeeded in bringing large numbers of old friends back to the University to reminisce in the most enjoyable of ways and our year was certainly no exception. Sixty five of us attended the dinner at the Staff House on Friday night when it was encouraging to see everyone look so well and fit. Certainly our particular year has been very fortunate in only having lost Andrew Martin.


Saturday morning in the Medical School


On Saturday morning we were very fortunate that Bob Arnott was kind enough to give us a tour of the new Medical School and for us to re-live time spent, if not necessarily happily or constructively in the dissection rooms which have now been completely transformed. We were able to see how the museum has been revolutionised into some sort of control tower that dominates computer learning for the new generation of students.


We then had a series of talks which were enormous fun and at this point in the narrative I will confess to being a closet anorak. We managed to trace all members of our year (these things worry obsessives like myself), giving us a complete stamp collection.


Our year, then and now


In these days of Gamstat tests as well as the importance of having enormous medical experience and to have achieved outstanding sporting and charitable success before applying for a place at Medical School, the old selection process seems to have worked extraordinarily well, especially since we belonged to the ‘Flower Power’ generation. Only two of our year are no longer practicing medicine out of the 131 that qualified. Sadly 72% of our year were boys and only 28% girls compared to the sex ratio in 2004 of 45% boys to 55% girls.


There were only ten mature students in our year making a total of 8% but it was a great delight to us all to see that Caroline Bedford’s daughter had managed to obtain one of the very competitive accelerated four year course places in 2005 in Birmingham.


We were the first year to be included in the Parkhouse survey of medical students’ career path intentions. It was interesting to compare our own progress with that of the rest of the country. We had a slight excess of General Practitioners 36.4% (nationally 32.9%) but small numbers going into medicine and no-one going into Obstetrics and Gynaecology. This was offset by the clear enthusiasm of Tony Betts that gave us twice the National average number of Psychiatrists at 6.5% of our year.


This generated a muse within myself to see if we were able to staff a whole regional health service from the various specialties that our year pursued. We were able to cover everything apart from cardio-thoracic surgery but with a Professor of Cardiology and the move to interventional treatment, this may not have been quite such a loss. The absence of an Obstetrician and Gynaecologist was felt not to be such a serious blow as many had actually worked abroad and with Urologists within our number, it was felt that we would be able to cope with caesarean sections satisfactorily. Furthermore as there are only three things that essentially go wrong in gynaecology we felt that the general surgical expertise would cope with most things at that level. In the absence of a Dermatologist we did have a Plastic Surgeon who would be able to remove the lumps and we felt probably a visit to the text books would enable us to cover that specialty reasonably well!


In every other respect we were able to cover the whole of the Healthcare system in all its colours and evidently selection worked very well. We have managed to produce seven Professors and most recently we were delighted to learn that Brenda Billington had been elected as President of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists.


Not being great victims of the brain drain, 93% of the year is still working in the United Kingdom. Of those who have moved abroad Alison Webster won the prize for furthest flung living at the South end of South Island, New Zealand whilst Bernard Cammack (always a top student) also lives in New Zealand in the elegantly named Para Para Umo Beach. That said, 34% of the graduates had worked abroad at some time or another within the first twelve years of qualifying.


The prize for the best house name went to Alan Mills living at Bowral, the natural home of Sir Donald Bradman although sadly none of the other graduates were aware of this important fact. The grandest address went to Richard Latcham living at Papworth Manor although Lilliput and Sunset Lodge had their advocates. Alan Timmins only address is the HM Young Offenders Centre, none of which have we visited just yet.


Observational skills, a comic surgeon and a sabbatical in India


Mike Court then tested our observational and communication skills, none of which seemed to be particularly acute but were all good fun. Del Kahn whom we were delighted to welcome back from South Africa where he is Professor at Groote Schure demonstrated yet again that his skills as a stand up comedian have been seriously wasted. He showed a series of photographs with very famous and eminent surgeons, albeit with him holding a glass in his left hand on virtually all occasions. Pauline Miller then described her sabbatical year away in India and just demonstrated what a resourceful and bright lady she is. Andy Malins, never far from a car, gave an insight into being a medic at Formula One car racing. 


‘How did a nice girl me become a sex therapist?'


When the idea of giving talks was first muted, Diane Higgs offered to give a discussion on “why do we create art” which personally I was very interested to hear about but also offered an alternative title of “how did a nice girl like me become a sex therapist?” I felt forced to bend to the greater interests of the year and therefore she entertained us with tales of life in Australia and pictures of the wonderful tree house that she lives in looking across Bedouin Bay.


And finally .......


Finally Anne Sutcliffe who has now become a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society gave a talk which, because of lack of time was far too short on life at the old Accident Hospital and a montage of super loos across the world which was part of her application for her Fellowship.


The whole morning was great fun and it could really have gone on longer but we had tee times fixed for golf in the afternoon and a voyage on Second City Cruises booked. If other graduate years want to have some fun then we can seriously recommend this trip that sets off from the canal basin where, for an hour’s trip, you will be regaled with philosophy, natural history, scientology, political debate and the history of industrial Birmingham. The trip was enormous fun and gave us enough time to get ready for the final evening meal at the Botanical Gardens.


It really was a pleasure to see so many old friends still able to laugh at themselves and the human condition. We still retain a positive attitude and have to feel lucky that we have been fortunate enough to have the privilege to pursue a career in medicine and to hope that the generations coming up behind have as much fun.


Bob Grieve

40 year reunion 1974


The 40 year reunion met at The Falcon Hotel in Stratford and proved to be a very relaxed and reflective one as we reach the sunset of our careers.


Roger Davies organised golf on Friday at the Welcomb Course, a pleasant parkland course, blessed with late Autumn colour and lacking the need for ferocious distance of the tee. A good start and to be recommended.


Whilst some went to the theatre on the Friday evening, the others attended a buffet and attempted to recognise each other.


The Malcomsons had produced name badges with our photos from 1974, a grand device saving embarrassment and causing great fun as we rediscovered the clothes and hairstyles of the seventies. A happy evening!


120 graduated in 1974 and 66 graduates and 36 partners attended. Andrew Martin, Derek Hall, Peter Ashby, Carolyn Bedford and Ros Price have died and were fondly remembered with a ringing round of applause at the evening dinner.


Seven folk were untraceable (but alive) and thirteen abroad doing work they had chosen to do or healthy pursuits that most of us can, thankfully, still perform.


Before the meeting everyone was asked to send in short autobiographies and photographs which were made into a mini-book and has been e-mailed to everyone including those unable to come.


Once our inevitable battle was won over the IT system on the Saturday morning we heard a series of excellent talks.


We learned that 81% of us are retired or semi-retired but nineteen hospital based doctors and six GPs are still working full time. Eight of the ten who moved abroad are still working, with the single-handed GPs in beautiful but remote parts of the world working especially hard.


We were selected to do medicine in a far less educationally correct way than today but only three of us left mainline medicine. We have produced one OBE (Brenda Billington), four MBEs (Roger Gadsby Rowan Hillson, Jeremy Johnson and Ros Proops), twelve Professors, a Commonwealth Bronze and National Champion fencer (Norman Milligan) and the unique Theodore Dalrymple (Tony Daniels) described as “characteristically brilliant“ (The Sunday Times).


Brenda gave a very funny talk about the tribulations of becoming the first female President of a Royal Surgical College and Rowan showed just why she is so respected by everyone as she explained similar “challenges” of being the UK Diabetes Tsar. Sitting in a room behind the Speaker’s Chair and having to provide immediate figures on any question relating to diabetes as a health minister stalled for time at the Sykes in the Doncaster Rovers dugout. Martin Culwick was “Living the Life” in Australia battling with snakes whilst Anne Sutcliffe again showed her remarkable photographic talents and Di Summer gave a very reflective view about retirement and being alive to the experience.


The afternoon was spent on a guided walk of Stratford, going to the Theatre or even shopping! Our dinner was enlivened by Rhodri Ceredig playing his fiddle underlining his enormous ability at whatever he turns his mind to and we all really had the very best  of evenings.


Our final curtain was a behind the scenes tour of the Theatre, coffee, a round of farewells and a firm desire to meet again in five years’ time.


Bob Grieve, Roger Davies, Dave and Liz (Allen) Malcomson

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