A FORMER Wantage GP, medical historian and artist has died aged 90.

Irvine Stewart Lees Loudon was a GP in the town from 1952 to 1981, a forceful proponent of the NHS and devoted to his patients.

His speciality as a physician was obstetrics, and during his clinical career he delivered 2,200 babies in Wantage and its surrounding villages, the majority of them in Wantage Hospital’s maternity unit.

The pleasure and gratitude this engendered in Dr Loudon was enormous. Later his work to raise national standards in general practice, something he undertook with fellow Wantage GP the late Dr John Hawkey, earned Dr Loudon a place in the National Portrait Gallery in London.

This week’s obituaries:

Dr Loudon was born in Cardiff on August 1, 1924 to Dr and Mrs Andrew Loudon.

He had an older brother, Joseph, who practised medicine before becoming an anthropologist. Joseph died in 1999.

Dr Loudon’s Scottish father was a GP whose consulting rooms were in the family house, as was common practice then. As a child Dr Loudon became fascinated by medicine and remembered how, when a cat was injured in the road outside, his father performed emergency surgery on the animal.

A nine-year-old, Dr Loudon was allowed to administer chloroform to the cat, which survived. It was his first joint surgical procedure.

Dr Loudon attended the Cathedral School in Cardiff and Queen’s College, Oxford, where he read medicine and met his future wife, Jean Norman, after completing his studies.

The couple were to have five children: Andrew in 1950; twins Michael and Catherine in 1952; Elizabeth in 1957 and Mary in 1966.

Catherine died in 2001 from cancer.

While at Oxford Dr Loudon also took drawing courses at the Ruskin School of Art. His studies were temporarily interrupted by the war and he joined the RAF from 1943 to 1945, qualifying as a pilot after training in Canada’s western provinces.

He distinguished himself by writing-off the engine of a small plane at standstill, by starting it up when the oil level was too low. He described the noise as being “like 20,000 dustbin lids dropped on to concrete” and said he avoided a court martial “by the skin of my teeth”.

In 1982 Dr Loudon embarked on a second career as a medical historian with a research fellowship at the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine in Oxford, where he began a long association with Green Templeton College.

His books were mainly on the evolution of general practice, maternal mortality and childbed fever, and earned him international recognition.

He also edited Oxford University Press’ Western Medicine: an Illustrated History (1997).

While in Oxford he trained as an etcher at the Oxford Printmakers’ Co-operative, and was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers. His etchings were widely sold and exhibited, but he etched purely for pleasure.

Dr Loudon’s sense of humour was notable and he was a dedicated practical joker. No family member was spared hoax phone calls or pranks.

He was encouraged as a medical student by a surgeon leading a practical examination, who asked him to identify a range of surgical instruments. “So what is this?” asked the surgeon, finally, producing from under the table a large, iron implement. “A car’s starter motor handle, sir,” Dr Loudon replied. “Correct,” said the surgeon. “Examination over.”

The last two years of Dr Loudon’s life were constrained by illness. His wife, Jean, to whom he was married for 66 years, looked after him devotedly at home until the last month of his life. His final month was spent in Wantage Hospital.

His youngest daughter, Mary, said: “There was a lovely symmetry to his own life ending peacefully in the hospital where he had been joyfully present at the beginning of so many new ones.”

Dr Loudon is survived by his wife Jean, two sons, two daughters and 10 grandchildren.

Dr Loudon’s funeral is at Wantage Parish Church at 2pm on Thursday, January 22.

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