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Dr Neil Stirling MBChB (Dr Neil Stirling)

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I have joined hubpages as I like to help people with the knowledge and experience I have, but also to keep learning myself as I like to keep the old grey matter ticking over. I am interested in longevity, healthy living and technology.

My name is William Neilson Stirling, and I was born on 3rd January 1927 at a Medical Missionary station, in what was then Portuguese East Africa, and is now Mozambique. In 1927 my father was a newly qualified doctor and the son of a Church of Scotland minister, who felt he wanted to spread the word and use his medical skills at the same time. He had studied at Glasgow University but had had his studies interrupted by the First World War. Following the war he completed his studies and married Janet, daughter of the local Bank Manager. Janet had herself attended University and had a degree in languages and was a gifted musician. The young couple went out to Africa where conditions were very primitive – it was at the Missionary Station, which was some two weeks’ trek from the coast that I was born. I was delivered by my father whilst my mother held the paraffin lamp! I was only the second baby to be born at the Station and was the first white baby.
My father was in charge of all aspects of the Station but the medical help he was able to give was restricted by the conditions and medical supplies available there. Most of his patients would have called to see him and many would have had to travel across difficult terrain to get to him. Communications were also difficult with letters to home taking on average 2 months!
After 2 years in Africa he decided to move to India. He went to work for Findley & Co, a large company with interests in tea plantations and forestry. The family went to Assam in the North East of India where my father was in charge of several Indian doctors and also had responsibly for the hospital there.
One of the benefits of the job was the fact that a car was essential to the position and at any one time there were usually about 3 cars as breakdowns took several weeks to get mended and spare parts were very hard to come by. My father had to cover a large area to look after his patients and transport was a priority.
This move was a big change for us, as we now had a large bungalow to live in and a much more active social life. I had lots of other youngsters to play with and in my early years, spoke both Hindi and English! I still have a liking for Assam tea which I acquired from the time I lived on the plantation.
Obviously I was very influenced by my father, and from a very young age I knew that I wanted to be a doctor – although I have to admit with a rue smile that I also always wanted to have a car and the only person I knew who had one in those days was a doctor!
My father now had a chance to practice his medical skills to the full; acting as everything from GP to chief surgeon he had to undertake all kinds of work. Although life was a lot easier with Findley & Co it was essential to have a knowledgeable competent doctor in the post.
As a family, we only had 6 months off every 3 years so the first time I came to the UK I was 5 years old. I went to live in Glasgow with my paternal Grandmother, and also had to start at school! I must confess that it was very traumatic when my parents returned to India, knowing it would be another 3 years until I saw them again.
My parents moved back to the United Kingdom on a full time basis in 1948, after the Second World War. By this time I had a sister, Irene, who was of course born in India. It was a difficult few years for us as the war came very close to Assam and the women and children were evacuated to Lahore so large amounts of time were spent apart.
My father returned to Glasgow and worked in the hospital there, specialising in Psychiatry. He was still working when he died – sadly from a heart attack at the very young age of 60.
Meanwhile, I was pursuing my dream of becoming a doctor (and owning my first car!), attending primary and public school, and then following my father’s footsteps to Glasgow University, which I attended from 1945 – 1950 studying general medicine. I continued to live with my Grandmother, and traveled to University on the bus every day. There were no grants available in those days and my father paid for my education. I really enjoyed University life, and worked hard to achieve my ambition of being a family doctor. I have to confess to also enjoying the odd drink at the Students Union, having been brought up in a teetotal household!
Following completion of my education, I went straight into National Service, spending the majority of my time in Korea as a Regimental Medical Officer. Although no stranger to foreign parts, I found the climate there very harsh with very hot summers and very cold winters. There was no opportunity to return to Scotland during my tour of duty, the only leave I managed being a couple of short stays in nearby Japan for some R&R, where conditions were rather bleak in the aftermath of the war.
Happier times were ahead after National Service, with my first job. I found a position as a trainee in Loch Lomond, where I acted as assistant to the local GP. I stayed in lodgings with an Italian landlady known affectionately as Mrs D. Once again I found myself in a very busy post where I was forced to learn quickly,
but I did have the opportunity to make some new friends. My most notable new acquaintance was a midwifery student named Marguerite, who by coincidence was born in Cheshire. Whilst it was work that brought us together, I knew from the outset that this was to be a special person in my life. Our first date was at the local Police Ball, where we got to know each other a lot better.
Marguerite and I got married in December 1955 at her family church in Doddington, Cheshire. My parents and sister traveled south to attend the wedding. We honeymooned in Stratford-upon-Avon, with a visit to the theatre to see Much Ado About Nothing!
In 1956 Marguerite and I moved to Liverpool and bought a house in Penny Lane. I had gained a position as an assistant to a GP and was again learning my trade with a hands on job. My two daughters Helen and Fiona were born during our time in here.
Three years later, in 1959, we moved to Newcastle under Lyme where I became a partner in a family practice in Burslem. I worked here until 1976, and my two sons Neilson and Crawford were born. Although a partner, I still had to work hard as GPs in those days had to do everything from taking blood pressure to making home visits – plus being on call! But it was what I had always wanted to do – look after people and make them well again.
Although my father sadly died at the young age of 60, my mother lived to be 92, apparently none the worse for the exciting and adventurous life she had led, and so I returned to my native Scotland on a regular basis to visit her. My daughters followed in the family tradition of medicine with Helen becoming a radiographer while Fiona trained as a midwife. My sons however found alternative careers one studying at Agricultural college and the other becoming a financier in The City.
In 1976 I took the decision to resign from the NHS to go into private practice – this was a huge step to take with a large family support, but it turned out to be a good decision as it gave me the opportunity to go back to old fashioned medicine with time to talk to my patients. The practice had its own dispensary, which
enabled patients to be treated straight away. I continued here until 1987.
From 1959 to 2003, I also had the privilege of serving as the local Police Surgeon. This was a job I enjoyed immensely as it was both interesting and eventful, with call outs day or night to attend such things as murder scenes, accidents or drink/driving incidents. I have many amusing tales to tell, including how I
would decide if some was over the limit or not before the breathalyser came into being.
My other commitments included a term as Chairman of the local British Medical Association, and as a member of the Stafford Local Medical Committee. I was also a senior officer with the Red Cross.
The one tragedy during this time resulted from my dear wife Marguerite contracting Motor Neurone disease. She very sadly passed away in 2001.
Although I am now officially retired, I am the honorary consultant for Castle Comfort Centre and spend time with the company giving them the benefit of my vast experience and knowledge.
In recent years, I have acquired an in depth knowledge of the mobility products sector – in particular stairlifts. As a result, I now enjoy life by enthusiastically providing free impartial advice, in response to constant requests for information. The ultimate result of this work is my website.
Finally (until next time!), I have been lucky enough to meet another special lady – Sue, and we were married in January 2006. We now live a happy and active life in Cheshire.
I work for the Castle Comfort Group as a special advisor and have my own website stairliftsdoctor.co.uk through which I help and advise people concerning living independently at home.

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