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BMJ. 2007 September 29; 335(7621): 675.
PMCID: PMC1995520

David Tidmarsh

David Tidmarsh was born on 29 December 1932 in Orpington, Kent, into a prosperous middle class family. Early on he showed clear evidence of his superior intelligence by winning scholarships from his preparatory school to Oundle Public School and then to Christ's College, Cambridge.

At Cambridge he read medicine, completing his clinical studies at Barts: he graduated MB BChir in 1958. The necessary house jobs he did at hospitals in Norwich and Maidenhead, during which time he met and married Marlen, a physiotherapist. His mandatory national service was in Malaya in the Royal Army Medical Corps. He was demobbed in 1961 with the rank of captain.

Back in civvy street, David found himself jobless and strapped for money. It was then, driven more by expediency than inclination, that he applied for and succeeded in filling an assistant medical officer job at Horton Mental Hospital, Epsom, Surrey: rarely has such a brilliant career had such an inconspicuous beginning!

It is important to stress the dramatic change at that time in the ethos of Horton as the result of the implementation of the Mental Health Act 1959. Instead of run-of-the-mill patients with mental illness, Horton was obliged to admit an increasing number of offenders, particularly on the male side. Fortuitously, the fascination of forensic psychiatry began to dominate the work of the doctors, an opportunity which I, David, and others working with me grasped with both hands. In 1962 David took and passed the DPM (Eng) in his stride.

David worked with me on the male side at Horton until 1973, apart, that is, for breaks when he was encouraged to find experience of a specialist sort elsewhere. The first, for one year, was at Belmont Hospital, Sutton, Surrey, a prime hospital for the treatment of the neuroses. The second was for two years at the prestigious Maudsley Hospital, London. Here, he joined a team headed by the eminent Professor John Wing. The team looked into the psychiatric aspects of homelessness in men, and David's personal involvement in this project was the basis of a thesis accepted by Cambridge for his MD in 1977.

However, there is no doubt that his consultancy at Broadmoor was his core work. He arrived there at a time when the hospital was undergoing a seismic transformation, from a backward, quasi-prison, no-hope institution into a modern psychiatric hospital, staffed and equipped accordingly. David made an invaluable contribution to the work in hand. Apart from the complex clinical responsibility he shouldered, he served, at various times, as chairman of the Medical Advisory Committee, deputy medical director, director of research, and responsible for medical audit.

Despite his Pooh-Bah activities, he found time to enjoy a number of extracurricular activities as, for example, the National Schizophrenia Fellowship and the Mental Health Foundation. To add to his load, mention must be made of his academic appointments, for example, that of senior lecturer in forensic psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry, and examiner for the diploma of forensic psychiatry.

He was a prolific writer: editors competed to get him to contribute chapters in books, single author papers, memoranda, and book reviews.

However, his most important appointment after his retirement was to serve on the Parole Board, not for the customary three years, but for six years—a Herculean achievement.

A fitting bouquet was presented to him by the Royal College of Psychiatrists in 1992: as a token of appreciation of his valuable services to psychiatry and, indeed, the college itself, the college elected him FRCPsych (Honoris Causa).

David died of cancer of the colon on 9 July 2007. He is mourned by his devoted wife, Marlen; his daughters, Marie-Louise and Olivia; and a host of friends and colleagues.


Former consultant psychiatrist Broadmoor Special Hospital, Crowthorne, Berkshire, and pioneer of the modern specialty of forensic p (b 1932; q Cambridge/St Bartholomew's Hospital, London, 1958; DPM, MD, FRCPsych), died from cancer of the colon on 9 July 2007.

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