Monday, 24 January 2022

Read in 2022 - 2: It's Nobbut Snow, Doctor!

Charles Hainsworth recollects the life and times of a GP in Yorkshire in the 1960s, when the NHS was still in its infancy and much of what we take for granted in medicine had only just been invented or discovered.

The author's father was the source of this book; he did indeed practice as a GP in the village of Queensbury, and his son Charlie in the book is the little boy who became the author decades later. 

The world as a whole and the daily life of ordinary people was rather different back then, as most of you who were around in the 1960s and 70s will confirm.

I enjoyed this free ebook very much; there is humour as well as sadness and drama, with real events being told. Think of contergan - a true medical catastrophe with its consequences still felt today in the lives of many sufferers. But think also of the first answering machines; they were the size of a suitcase but made life so much easier for doctors and their families, almost all of which ran their practices from their own homes and were out to visit patients on their daily rounds. The handling of a smallpox outbreak in 1961 in the Bradford area is described in much detail, and make a particularly poignant read in our current pandemic situation.

Of course it was extra nice to read about winter in Yorkshire just now, when we have wintry temperatures outside (although at the moment no snow to write home about). 


  1. Sounds like a fun and interesting read - reminds me of the "All Creatures Great and Small" books. The series is being shown on my public television station right now and it is terrific!

    1. It is a bit like that, with a mix of quirky and touching characters from the village and the harsh realities of country life which were even harsher at the time in which the James Herriot books are set, almost 20 years earlier.

  2. Smallpox killed as many as 300 million since 1900 leaving many survivors scarred.
    Hence the phrase, beauty is only skin deep.
    The Bradford outbreak late 1961 about which Dr Hainsworth writes seems to have come from Pakistan. Six of the 12 persons who developed smallpox died.
    In Scotland we were vaccinated for smallpox upon arrival at senior school, aged 12-13.

    The NHS was in its infancy in the 1960s, and all our parents who had grown up before socialised medicine were very grateful for it, especially when they looked at their children.
    Harold Wilson, our first Labour premier since Clem Atlee, wanted to build a social democratic foundation which the Tories could never demolish, though Margaret Thatcher immediately began to dismantle Welfare and neuter the Trades Unions, her legacy to us.

    The life of a General Practitioner was hard.
    John Berger profiled such a life in his book *A Fortunate Man*.
    Berger said he had no sense that the doctor he came to admire would later kill himself.
    Read online: *Good Doctoring* by Taylor Purvis M.D. (Closeler).

    Also, *Reading the Forest - John Berger* for the book's simplification of the life of a G.P.
    The Dr. John Eskell in Berger's book seems to have identified with his patients too closely. This blog has a video with a group discussion.

    1. Yes, a 5-year-old girl arriving on a plane from Pakistan is named as the source of the smallpox outbreak in 1961. It is interesting how everyone rallied round to stop it as quickly as possible, and I wonder how much of that community spirit was really there and how much is in the author's mind. Maybe such communities really were better at sticking together in those days than now.

    2. I wonder if the little girl survived?
      Prior to immunization smallpox caused more than one-third of blindness in Europe.
      As late as the 1960s it was a significant cause of blindness in Africa.
      Someone said that we only began to speak about community with the erosion of real neighbourhoods.
      I can tell you that Glasgow neighbourhoods which were once thriving are now deserts. If any proof is needed I could show you photographs from the 1950s and 60s: you would be shocked to see photos today, the family life of old gone.

      Urban decline interests me, not for its own sake, but as a lesson in what can be done to reverse social decline in our societies.
      Your towns still seem to be thriving though no doubt there are worrying signs.
      *West Side of Detroit at Night.* YouTube.
      *Exploring Vorkuta - Russian Ghost Town in Arctic.* YouTube.

    3. The little girl died; Charles Hainsworth lists her among the victims as well as an ambulance driver who had been taking infected patients to hospital.

      Our towns have similar problems to everywhere else; people live and work differently today as they used to (which is not all bad), and some of those processes have been sped up considerably by the pandemic.

  3. I haven't heard of this book, but will take a look, as it sounds like the kind of thing to relax with. Thanks for the heads up.

    1. Sometimes I use the search option at Amazon's Kindle shop by putting in "Yorkshire" and then sort the results by price - that's how I found this as a free ebook some time ago.