When Great Yarmouth’s doctors came to your house - and only used your surname
- Credit: Archant
They called me Peggotty – Ham Peggotty. Legend claims that I lived in an upturned fishing boat on Great Yarmouth beach, becoming a local hero when I drowned while trying to rescue seafarers in a storm.
That was in the mid-19th century, but I must have been highly esteemed because a nearby road was named after me, decades later.
Then two others were given names to acknowledge my young friend David Copperfield, and creator/author Charles Dickens.
Road names are regular topics here. Some are locational, others stem from Oxford colleges, national gentry (Beaconsfield, Walpole etc), flowering trees and shrubs, admirals/generals, battles, royalty...
Why there is a Napoleon Place here eludes me - he was no friend of Great Britain.
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Recently I mentioned a road new to me - Banting Close, near the James Paget Hospital in Gorleston, reportedly one of those in the residential neighbourhood honouring clinicians there. It is a pleasant acknowledgement of their services, although perhaps only their patients and JPH staff recognise that link.
Banting Close led me to thinking about family doctors practising hereabouts in my younger days who certainly merited commemoration on new roads, but this category was probably never suggested in the Thirties and Forties.
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Most spent their lives among us, available at all hours and continuing into retirement age. In at least two cases, sons joined GP fathers’ practices to continue the family tradition.
Among those I recall are Doctors Anderson (my family’s GP), Buncombe, Hamilton-Deane, Connell, Perry, Smellie (and Basil Adlington although as a surgeon, he was a Mister). Most locals talked of “Dr Deane”, omitting the double-barrelled Hamilton (for long a Yarmouth road name).
They date back to the pre-NHS era when patients were supposed to pay for house calls or visits to the surgery. But most - if not all - of those medics did plenty for free in economically straitened times.
You did not go to a fully-staffed surgery like nowadays, when perhaps you are seen by a doctor hitherto unknown to you, and in an emergency probably went at any hour to your GP’s house which doubled as a surgery.
Certainly our family’s Dr Archibald Anderson used to treat the Peggottys at his Gorleston consulting room in his cliff-top home on the corner of Marine Parade and Avondale Road.
I cannot remember him having any clerical or medical staff but do recall that he always addressed his male patients curtly by only their surname, omitting the “Mr”.
Decades later, I learned that Dr Anderson was a 1914-18 war hero, being doubly decorated with a Military Cross (MC) with bar and the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty as an officer in the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC).
One citation said: “Under heavy shellfire, he led forward a party of stretcher bearers and collected 25 wounded men who were lying within 50 yards of the enemy lines.”
The Hamilton-Deane family was newsworthy away from their Gorleston home and consulting rooms on Middleton Road and in High Street at the Trafalgar Road East corner, their swimming prowess meriting widespread national recognition.
When still young. William Deane - who died, aged 89, five years ago - had to make a huge personal decision: to continue his medical studies or seek possible fame and fortune...as a film star!
Reportedly, he possessed the looks and physique of a Greek god, and in the pool qualified for the 1940 Olympic Games in Finland. But the outbreak of war dashed the dreams of all expectant competitors because those Olympics were cancelled.
There was a suggestion that William might head to Hollywood to succeed Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan! However, he was screen-tested for the 1949 film The Blue Lagoon, but decided to follow his father Kenneth and become a family doctor hereabouts.
As for Dr Kenneth Hamilton-Deane (1898-1993), he practised for 62 years, acknowledged as the country’s longest-serving GP.