There was a Heath Robinson affair rigged up for summoning us up to the next floor, where a light flashed for each doctor when his surgery was empty!
A trip to the doctor when I was young always filled me with fear and trepidation, possibly because they were always men and because I wasn’t feeling too good anyway. Our mum used to make sure that we had a bath and had clean clothes on before we were allowed to step into the doctor’s surgery. The receptionist was always a formidable person, you felt that you had to get past the test before you could go in. This hasn’t changed much today.
Our doctor was called Dr Patterson, he had a surgery in Northumberland Square, North Shields. I was not very old when he either died or retired so I don’t remember much of him, except that he used to wear half glasses and looked very officious. The family had previously had Dr Weidner as their doctor. He had a surgery in Percy Main, St John’s Terrace, and his name was on the fanlight of the house he had as his surgery until recently. I’m not sure if it is still there. As far as I know he also practised in the surgery in Northumberland Square.
The surgery was in the basement and ground floor of a very old house, the waiting room and reception and nurses room being in the basement and the consulting room on the ground floor. The upper rooms were inhabited by someone, maybe the caretaker, but I am not sure as it was always locked and I never noticed anyone coming or going.
There were hard plastic chairs to sit on. Not very pleasant when you were not feeling very well and it was always packed with patients before the days of appointments. There was a Heath Robinson affair rigged up for summoning us up to the next floor, where a light flashed for each doctor when his surgery was empty. It didn’t always work and the receptionist had to ring him up when she heard the last person’s footsteps on the floor below as they were leaving.
As I said, my doctor was Dr Patterson, followed by Dr Gordon. He was a big man and very nice to me. The first memory of him coming to see me at home was when I got measles. I must have been about four years old and we had just been on holiday to Wark on Tyne, to my uncle’s cottage, when I got the infection. Fortunately, my aunt and uncle were here on holiday from Cambridge and they came through and brought me and my mum home in the car, to save us having to get the Wright’s bus home. This would have taken us all of half a day to get as far as Newcastle. I remember having to stay in bed in a darkened room so that my eyes were not affected, it seemed ages before I was able to go out to play with my cousins who lived with my grandmother downstairs. My mum put the bins across the narrowest part of the yard to stop me getting through to them and passing on the virus.
Dr Gordon died quite young I believe and he was replaced by Dr Jamieson, who was more interested in motor sport than in being a doctor. If you were on the same wavelength as him you were ok, as he used to talk about car rallies etc. He was also the doctor for Tynemouth Motor Club of which I was also a member, so we got on well enough. There was also a Dr Martin in the practice and he was a lovely man. He was very kind and really did listen to what you had to say. He always had a cure and perhaps that was because he still believed in some of the old medications that really did work.
In the seventies there was quite a radical change in the practice with the retirement of the old school and a new influx of doctors who were all innovative. They had the place refitted with upholstered seats and new flashing lights to summon the next patient. The main doctor was Dr Graham, followed closely by Dr Roberts, Dr Morpeth and Dr Young. Dr Roberts is still practising. He is a surgeon and does his own small operations in the surgery, which is a boon for patients who do not have to wait for ages to get onto hospital waiting lists.