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BMJ. 2007 June 30; 334(7608): 1379.
PMCID: PMC1906629

William Todd

William Todd (“Bill”) was the son of Dr John Todd, medical missionary and African pioneer, who worked with Dr Laws of Livingstonia Mission. He left idyllic Nyasaland and moved to Rothes in 1932, where his father had his first general practice. He developed enduring interests in natural history in childhood.

Bill married Muriel in 1948 and, as a Church of Scotland missionary, sailed to India, where he was to work in Jalna for nearly a decade. His three children were born there. Bill undertook thousands of operations, of all types, and was absolutely dedicated to his work, which also extended to good preventive public health measures, including constructing an effective water supply system at Jalna, and shooting rabid dogs with his revolver. He left Jalna in 1958, and became a general practitioner in the Gorbals in Glasgow. This was before the days of the general practice charter and was an extremely unpleasant job with very little time off. The process of undertaking frequent night visits was only completed after he had rid himself of fleas in the bath!

Bill eventually became disenchanted with life as a general practitioner in Scotland. He worked briefly at Quarrier's Homes orphanage, and in Irvine, before undertaking a six month surgery refresher course at Kilmarnock Infirmary in 1964. In 1965 he then headed back to the African sunlight—to the Zambian Copperbelt, where he achieved the status of chief medical officer, Nchanga Consolidated Copper Mines, Kabwe. He had his own hospital and performed major surgery once again. He left Africa for the last time in 1976, and once again found himself in general practice. He practised for a short time in Hamilton before finally working out his remaining years to retirement in Linwood, where he was loved and respected by his patients for much dedication and hard work. Throughout he was a devoted parishioner of Houston and Killallan church, and a Church of Scotland elder for 40 years. He received a bravery award from the Humane Society in his 60s, when, as a passer-by, he climbed into the swollen flooded waters of the Gryffe in winter and in the dark to rescue a man who was being swept along to his death.

His later years were devastated by ill health. In 2001 he had a stroke, which left him disabled and requiring 24 hour nursing care. Muriel died on 14 April 2006. Sadly his cerebrovascular disease progressed relentlessly until he was left pitifully chairbound and depressed, his endless energy and enthusiasm for life and its mysteries extinguished. He died in his sleep on 9 November 2006, aged 82 years. His death comes as a release from cruel disease. His whole life was taken up with healing in a combination of practical Christianity and the medicine which he had been taught at Glasgow. He leaves a daughter, Heather, who is a teacher, and two sons, Gordon and John, both of whom are NHS consultants.

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