which consists of the villages of Crich, Fritchley and Whatstandwell

Crich Families

Dr. John Stuart Twist 1915–2006

Crich doctor for 50 years, who died 2 April 2006

by Tim Twist

photo of Dr Twist John Stuart Twist (JST to his many friends) came to Crich from Yorkshire in 1946 after his war service. He qualified as a doctor at “Jimmys” in Leeds then worked for his father’s practice among others. He was very proud of his Yorkshire roots which he never forgot.

He bought the Crich practice from Dr Eileen Macdonald. He was single-handed with about 3000 patients and was on call twenty-four hours a day. In those day doctors had to buy their practices – much as a business would be bought and sold. With the advent of the National Health Service in 1948 the Labour Government repaid the purchase price – after a long period, so not much change there then.

During the war he was a ship’s surgeon in the Merchant Navy. On arriving at the docks he was asked by the purser, Douglas Paffard (who later became a lifelong friend) if he was the new ship’s surgeon. He replied he was and was taken aboard the Ormonde – he should have been on the Orcades! Before joining he also “qualified” as a dentist – a three day course ! - although I believe he only did the occasional extraction. Duties were light and there were few mishaps to be attended to. These extended to removing the odd bullet an appendix operation and the inevitable incidents which occur on board ships. The Ormonde was one of the Orient Line ships which later amalgamated with the Peninsula Line to become the Peninsula & Orient Line – better known today as P&O.

My Father always maintained that he enjoyed his war as it took him all over the world and he got paid for it, and together with his interest in people, this made him into the caring GP he was to become.

He travelled the world mainly transporting troops into the various theatres of war – Burma, Mediterranean, South Africa and other exotic places. His lifelong friend Douglas Paffard accompanied him. In later years they enjoyed many holidays together, mainly in the Greek Islands. One holiday in Crete was particularly memorable since when the locals found out they had bought troops to the island they would not let them pay for any meals or drink. On one visit he diagnosed a local dignitary with scabies (after the dignitary had previously visited many Greek doctors) and told him how to treat it – again more free drinks!

He enjoyed the sea and went on holidays sailing the Greek Islands and Turkey. He taught me to row and sail at the tender age of about eight which has come in very useful for my fishing exploits! Not a strict parent he always encouraged my sister and I to follow our various pursuits although he did not ride and didn’t shoot or fish! We were even allowed motor bikes – but not with drop handle bars!

Having made many enquires for short anecdotes of his doctoring in Crich I find that there are too many to mention. Everyone has some story to tell and to write them all down would probably fill the magazine. He was an “old fashioned” doctor and often asked patients about their parents, children, the new TV etc before getting round to their ailments. His method of injecting was probably unique; it was more like throwing a dart than anything and didn’t hurt – too much. However there are one or two anecdotes that spring to mind, although the names have been changed to protect the innocent:

Most Monday mornings, especially in summer, brought the usual crop of ailments to the surgery and certainly the odd one or two were sent away with the admonishment that “there is nothing wrong with you that a good day’s work won’t cure”.
X, who was very healthy, had never visited him other than for the usual childhood injections, turned up at the surgery one day. JST was surprised to see him and asked what was the matter.
“I’m buggered doctor” was the reply.
My Father did no more but gave him a club note for a week!
Y, who had lost his wife of many years, came in one day and said that he had taken to talking to himself and wondered if he was becoming a bit “funny”. JST asked him if he answered himself back, when told “No” he pronounced him normal. He still is!

During all his years he never waited to be asked in to any patients’ house he just knocked and walked in. As like as not he would read the paper or have a long chat with the family before seeing the patient. In doing so he came to know his patients well in both sickness and in health.
One young man, just left school and considering a career, was very poorly and his parents requested a visit. JST called at the same time as the Royal Navy Recruiting Officer. He spent an hour arguing across the patient’s bed about the pros and cons of the Royal Navy versus the Merchant Navy before examining the poorly lad. He did join the Merchant!

Latterly he could not cope with the travelling he enjoyed and took to woodwork, wood carving and tending his garden. In the last year or so he even had to give this up and employ a gardener. He had many regular visitors whose company he always found interesting and kept him in touch with the Crich residents he had so many years looking after.

He was continually amazed about today’s GP’s workloads, salaries and their five day week. He always said that the most interesting cases were the ones that rang him up in the night, when he would put his clothes on over his pyjamas to go on the visit. He assumed that if they weren’t ill they would be asleep.

Both my sister and I appreciated the number of cards, messages of condolence and help we have had from his many friends and former patients. The collection from the church amounted to £400 which has been split between Medcins Sans Frontieres and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. Finally I must express out thanks to the staff at Holly Bank Care Home and Dr Bryan Morland for their care to him in his last few months.

He was one of the last of a line of doctors which has now all but disappeared, and his death will leave a gap in the lives of the many people for whom he was a friend as well as their GP.

A memory from Graham Feakins

How can I forget a GP by the name of Twist, of Surgeon’s Lane, Crich, Derbyshire?

In fact, I am a Londoner and have long been a member of the Tramway Museum Society (TMS), working in the past on the tramway and becoming a tram driver. I made many friends in the village over the years and usually stayed with one or other of several friendly families during my visits. Indeed, I spent more time in your (then many) local pubs than I did up at Town End!

The TMS used to send prospective tram drivers down to Dr. Twist for their medicals and my one was hilarious. The cards to test for colour vision were faded by the sunlight streaming in where he kept them, so I ‘passed’ that. A test to judge the strength of my right arm (for winding on the hand brake of a tram) involved shoving Dr. Twist’s heavy desk into the wall. I passed that one, too. He made no comment that a bit of the wall had dropped off in the process, and so the test progressed similarly.

However, the anecdote which you may particularly like to add to his page is more personal, in the sense that I managed to put the working end of a dumper truck handle into my face, knocking out some teeth and cutting through my upper lip. I was rushed to Dr. Twist for attention, who calmly proceeded to stitch my lip there and then – with no anaesthetic – and I didn’t feel a thing. He told me that he couldn’t do anything about my teeth which my dentist couldn’t cope with upon my return to London.

Knowing full well that most London G.P.’s at the time (and probably still today) would likely pass out at the sight of blood, especially from a deep, gaping wound, I asked Dr. Twist why he didn’t summons an ambulance to take me to the Derby Infirmary. He explained that, by the time an ambulance had reached the surgery and travelled all the miles to Derby, my deep wound would be scarring and so he dealt with me on the spot. He told me to think of him as the James Herriot of the G.P. world. After all, he had to deal with farmers’ injuries and things like wire captured in somebody’s elbow at the wire works or somebody injured down at the kilns at Bull Bridge.

To my eternal gratitude, Dr. Twist repaired my upper lip in such a way that what was left was only slight scarring which could not be detected at all after just a few years.

Yes, Crich lost a man of great skill and character and somebody certainly I will never forget. And look at the G.P.’s today. Can they compare? I very much doubt it.

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