Dr John Wetherill

Dr John Wetherill

Dr John Wetherill

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JOHN Homer Wetherill, who has died aged 76, was a former chairman of the Dewsbury division of the British Medical Association.

Born in Hexham, Northumberland, he was the only child of the Rev Edward Homer Wetherill, a Methodist minister, and his wife Edith.

With his father’s moving from one congregation to another in accordance with Methodist practice, his early life was peripatetic but when he was seven, he and his mother settled in York following his father’s early death.

He was educated locally until, at the age of 12, he went to Kingswood School in Bath, where he spent five years.

At Kingswood he competed in cross-country running, and in later life took up orienteering, a sport to which he was introduced by his sons when they attended the same school.

After leaving school in 1954, he went to the University of Leeds School of Medicine and qualified in 1959 with honours.

House jobs in Leeds and York followed, and he then joined the Professorial Medical Unit at Leeds General Infirmary, first as registrar and then as tutor in medicine.

It was during this time that he met his future wife Diana Brocklehurst, a medical student.

They married in 1966, and in 1970 moved to Dewsbury with their young family when he was appointed as a consultant physician.

With a particular interest in diabetes, Dr Wetherill was proud of the fact that he was a general physician, a dying breed by the time he retired in 1997.

While still a medical student, he trained as a Methodist lay preacher and continued to preach and take services for much of his adult life. He was delighted to have been chosen to preach at the 50th Anniversary service of the British Diabetic Association held in York Minister in 1986.

Dr Wetherill was soon established as a well-liked and influential figure in the medical community of the area, developing many close friendships, both inside and outside the profession.

The care of his patients reflected the deep personal responsibility he took for them; he frequently telephoned his general practitioner colleagues to discuss patient management, and long before they were instituted by NHS management, he made weekend ward rounds a regular practice whenever he was on call.

He encouraged junior staff to advance their careers, and played a large part in the establishment of the Dewsbury Postgraduate Centre. He served on numerous hospital committees, often elected as chairman.

Dr Wetherill was interested in medical history, attending meetings of the Yorkshire Medical and Dental History Society. While a student and living in York, he was surprised to discover the existence of the York Medical School in the 19th century. Hoping to learn more, he found that there was no written history of the school and so he researched and wrote it himself. It was published in 1961 in the journal Medical History and remains the definitive account.

His interests were wide, but did not extend to the use of modern technology and did not embrace anything more recent than the typewriter and the fountain pen, filled with green ink, with which to adorn his clinical notes.

He was an omnivorous reader and often had several books on the go at any one time, rarely fiction unless it was by Charles Dickens. Biographies and trains, especially steam trains, were favoured topics, and train timetables were considered light reading.

He was thrilled to be given a day’s outing learning to drive a steam train for his 60th birthday, and many years previously had managed to receive an invitation to spend a day on the footplate of a diesel locomotive, ostensibly to investigate the problems of firemen or drivers with diabetes.

Other interests included classical music and opera, Opera North and concerts by Huddersfield Choral Society.

After his retirement, he and his wife were able to travel more widely, especially when his wife attended conferences in connection with her work as a forensic physician. This meant travelling to destinations such as Hong Kong, Vancouver, Sydney and Quito, and they also visited more unusual ones, including Svalbard and Madagascar, to see the wildlife.

With a cheerful greeting and ready smile, and kindness and concern for others, Dr Wetherill was a man with a unique mix of talents and interests, and of strong and clearly stated opinions.

He is survived by his wife Diana, sons James, Philip and William, and by his grandchildren Thomas, Oliver and Laura.

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