Down English Memory lanes

Just back from three great weeks in England, visiting our special families, as described in my last blog. I took the opportunity to reconnect with several friends from the (very) distant past, and cannot resist sharing them with you.

Joe Clayton and I met 60 years ago, in 1957, when we both represented Cambridge University against rivals Oxford in the annual Athletics match. He competed in the Javelin (as holder of the British junior record) and I was in the Pole vault (not a pretty sight). He took law and had a successful business career. We bounced around each other’s families while I was still living in England, but then lost track. We connected again last week in Essex for a nice lunch with his wife Pat, just 60 years later.


After 3 years at Cambridge, I went to Medical School at St Thomas’s in London in 1960, where I fell among golfers, notably Pat Preece and Mike Anderson.

The golf interfered mightily with my medical studies, but dragged my handicap down enough to represent London University. They both became Family Physicians, Pat in Norfolk and Mike in Devon.

Pat and Janie kindly hosted us to lunch at historic Brancaster golf club. Mike and I rekindled our prior rivalry on the special Burnham and Berrow golf course on the west coast (of England).


I did my specialist postgraduate training at St Thomas’s, which included starting the endoscopy unit in the late 1960s. The reports were typed by a vivacious young secretary, Dorcas Sharp, who happily agreed to organize my professional life, from 1973 until I left for USA in 1986.

Mike Hellier was 2 years behind me training in gastroenterology at St Thomas’s, also lucky to be under the influence of Brian Creamer. He had a distinguished career at Swindon, including leading the British Society of Gastroenterology. We caught up over a lovely pub lunch at his local village.

Dorcas married Malcolm Chapman, my close Radiology colleague at The Middlesex Hospital, and we have kept in close touch. Malcolm was a mentor to two young Medical registrars (UK speak for residents) of mine at Middesex in the early 1980s. Both became Radiologists, Phil Shorvon at Central Middlesex,    and Roger Frost in Salisbury. And both were unusual as Radiologists, continuing to perform endoscopy procedures and ERCP. Phil, Dorcas and Roger joined us for dinner in London last week.


In London in the 1970s and 80s I collaborated with Christopher Williams, the king of Colonoscopy, based at St Marks. We opened the endoscopy unit at the private London Clinic, developed the first ever endoscopy database reporting system (PEDRO), and published the first edition of Practical Gastrointestinal Endoscopy in 1980 (the 7th edition was published 35 years later).


We enjoyed a special lunch with Christopher and Christina at their home in Hampstead and visited Heywood house.

Adrian Hatfield is another favorite long-time gastroenterology friend. Early on he pioneered our collaboration with Solly Marks and his GI unit in Capetown. He took over the position I left at Middlesex in 1986, and became a long time leader in pancreatic and biliary intervention. It was great to catch up with him over dinner.

Which brings us to the most “recent” reconnection. Just 29 years ago, Simon Jones, a British radiologist, came to work in my GI department at Duke University in North Carolina. He survived to return to UK to lead a department in Poole, Dorset. In retirement he is currently a popular Captain of Parkstone Golf Club.


Amazing how little we have all changed in just a few decades…….

5 Responses to Down English Memory lanes

  1. peter down says:

    I found this fascinating. What a trip down memory lane. Retirement seems to be suiting everyone judging by the youthful appearances.

    Great to get your cotton tales.


  2. Hugh Chaun says:

    Lovely stories, inspiring memories…
    An ardent fan of Cottontales (HC, Vancouver, BC)

  3. Simon Jones says:

    Great to see so many familiar faces. Everyone seems to have had and having a lot of fun. Long may it continue.

    I look forward to the next episode of Cottontails!

  4. Simon Jones says:

    Great to see so many familiar faces. Everyone seems to have had and having a lot of fun. Long may it continue.

    I look forward to the next episode of Cottontails!

    great stuff Peter.

  5. Janice Crean says:

    Wonderful for me to read all the names of the Greats of gastroenterology, some of whom I met over the years but mostly Gerry spoke incessantly of them. Great to see Brian Creamer and Chris Evans. Loved your repeat of your unexpected grounding in Newfoundland. You sure can write Peter.

    Gerry’s musical genes are alive and well, one grandson Tom ( age 15 and six foot two) is at Wellington and has a music scholarship there. His sister Zoe has a violin music scholarship to a school in Regents Park. Elder daughter has a daughter in 2nd year medicine at Barts, another aiming for Cambridge and politics. Grand children are wonderful. I am flying over you next weekend en route for Mexico to visit my very good English and really funny friend Andy’s daughter for the second time this year. Broken ankles almost mended. I would love to visit you both. It’s called “visit interrupted” and I feel of course I would love to see you both.

Leave a reply