Obituary – Dr Thomas Anthony

DR.Thomas Anthony.
DR.Thomas Anthony.

Dr Thomas Anthony, general practitioner. Born: February 21, 1922, in Edinburgh. Died: August 26, 2011, in Melrose, aged 89

WHEN people speak about old-fashioned family doctors, the sort who would turn out at all times of the day and night – even in their pyjamas – to attend their patients, it is physicians like Dr Thomas Anthony of Galashiels they have in mind.

He and his wife Mollie, a nursing sister, formed a medical professional partnership that put them at the heart of life in the Borders for more than 60 years.

Together they ran a busy GP practice from their home, raised twin sons and a daughter and became part of the fabric of Galashiels.

With Mollie as practice nurse, receptionist and records officer, they provided the dedicated round-the-clock service that was expected in an era that offered open surgeries and your own doctor on call out-of-hours, and that ensured everyone who turned up was seen, without the need for appointments.

Coupled with duties as a local office-bearer in the British Medical Association and a permanent post at the town’s Sanderson Hospital, it was undoubtedly a hectic life, but one he relished.

The son of a reporter to the health department of Edinburgh City Corporation, the young Thomas Anthony had decided when he was a pupil at the capital’s Royal High School that he wanted to read medicine.

He was accepted to do so at Edinburgh University, where he also served in the Home Guard.

Qualifying in 1945 as the Second World War drew to a close, he went on to house jobs at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and at Bangour Hospital, followed by locum GP work around the country.

While he was at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary he met his future wife, a sister tutor, whom he married in Bathgate in August, 1946.

The following year he joined Dr Willie Weatherhead as an assistant in Galashiels and later became a partner. In 1955 he bought the practice premises and the house, Ballencrieff, in which he would live for the rest of his life.

On moving to Ballencrieff, Mollie returned to nursing, supporting the practice, and they worked as a team both professionally in the surgery and privately at home with their family.

Dr Anthony had a particular interest in obstetrics, an area he felt was important for a GP, particularly as at that time there was no maternity unit in the Borders.

He was deeply committed to Galashiels Cottage Hospital and especially to its midwifery unit.

It was an area of work that he enjoyed immensely and he delivered generations of babies, including one of the current local rugby stars.

He recalled an incident during his student years when, during a night-time emergency, he and a colleague were dispatched to the local cinema queue to drum up blood donors to help save the life of a new mother who was haemorrhaging severely.

Fortunately, unorthodox though it may seem today, their mission was successful and they talked enough moviegoers into donating.

He also held a permanent post in the geriatric assessment department at the Sanderson Hospital and represented Borders GPs on the Scottish Executive committee, prior to the creation of Borders Health Board which brought the GP service and hospital services under the same, single administration.

From 1974 until retiring in 1986, he was secretary of the area medical committee and was elected a fellow of the British Medical Association, having been secretary of its Borders branch for 25 years.

He also spent a quarter of a century as secretary of Borders Clinical Club and he and his wife regularly provided generous hospitality to guest speakers at their home, laying on a Clinical Club lunch before meetings.

During their working life, Thursday was the couple’s day off and they religiously made a point of having a day out to relax away from house and surgery.

Dr Anthony organised annual day trips all over Scotland for the staff of Galashiels Cottage and Sanderson hospitals and their families.

After he retired, the practice moved to alternative premises and he and Mollie continued to live in Ballencrieff. They also continued to enjoy frequent short breaks to their favourite Scottish haunts: Inverness at Easter; Ullapool in late spring.

A lifelong interest in the steamers and ferries of Caledonian MacBrayne, which stemmed from childhood and his parents’ love of holidaying in Arran, meant that most holidays included a trip on a Calmac ferry. A member of the Clyde River Steamer Club, he was an ardent supporter of the paddle steamer Waverley.

He managed to combine all this with a keen interest in gardening, propagating his tomatoes from seed under a 60 watt bulb in an obsolete neonatal incubator.

One of his greatest joys was seeing his family develop, seeing his children and grandchildren grow up and graduate, comparing degree ceremonies at Scottish universities.

He was particularly pleased to see his grandson, Iain, receive his PhD from Edinburgh University, 58 years to the day after his own graduation there.

Dr Anthony is survived by his wife Mollie, with whom he recently celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary, their children George, William and Aileen, six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.