Dr. David Widgery

Next door to St. Anne’s, Limehouse, I discovered a charming small set of circular benches dedicated to the memory of Doc Widgery, who I discover died as long ago as 1992.   He was a big figure in Limehouse when we moved there in the early 1980s, as a GP at the local Gill Street Health Centre and ex revolutionary socialist (not very ex).   He published a book about his medical practice called Some Lives: a GP’s East End in 1991, not long before he died of some form of overdose.   I never met him, but he clearly belonged to the era of passionately committed and socially oriented GPs who came into medicine as much to change society as prescribe paracetamol.   The formative moment of his youth was having sex with Allen Ginsberg:-

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4 thoughts on “Dr. David Widgery

  1. Jennifer Beels says:

    For some reason I woke up this morning thinking about Dr Widgery and decided to google him. What a surprise to find out so much about him on the internet! He was just my doctor who was based in Bethnal Green, where I was brought up. He was young and trendy, very different to Dr Leibson, who I considered a very good doctor, who had seen me through a severe bout of Hepatitis A when I was 16 in 1976.

    I have 2 memories from the Bethnal Green Surgery, situated by the side of the arch, Salmon and Ball end. The first was talking to him about how I could become a doctor, even though I didn’t have any science A levels. He told me that he had gone to medical school at the Royal Free, without science A levels or (was it a delayed start?) and advised me to try the Elizabeth Garret Hospital who were very supportive of women. This is something that I never did but it was kind of him to encourage me and to talk to me me a though I were a human being and not a five minute appointment.

    The second incident was when I asked in passing about a friend of mine (yes it really was a friend) who was having unprotected sex with her boyfriend. He began an explanation of some kind with the words ‘When you fuck …’ well to say I was mortified grossly understated my horror! A doctor saying the word ‘Fuck’ what kind of person did he think I was? This was the kind of language the local kids spoke! And certainly not to me! I may have been only 16, but I WAS engaged to be married (and did) I wasn’t some sleep-around even though I’d had sex! How funny! I was so outraged and embarrassed that I didn’t go back for a long time. When I did, he remembered my friend and asked after her. I told him she was now pregnant. He must have despaired.

    I lived in poplar for a short while in the early 80s and was surprised to find him working at the local Health Clinic with Dr John Roberts who was another outstanding doctor, who was willing to give me a home birth for my first child if I’d have wanted to, and stayed throughout the hospital birth of my first child, because I was ‘frightened’.

    I was very sad to learn of Dr Widgery’s death, my mum told me about it, he was a very sympathetic and human kind of doctor.

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