David Alexander Pealing Cooke

BMJ 2002; 324 doi: (Published 12 January 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;324:116

General practitioner who became an internationally renowned bird and wildlife photographer

After working as an air raid precautions warden while at school, David Cooke joined the Royal Air Force as soon as he was able. He flew a full tour of 30 sorties before qualifying as a bomb disposal officer. Upon demobilisation in 1946 he went up to Liverpool University and, after qualifying, continued his service as medical officer with the Royal Auxiliary Air Force. He undertook junior appointments at the David Lewis Hospital and the Liverpool Maternity Hospital. In 1955 he joined a practice in Ellesmere Port with which he remained for more than 30 years. He was a driving force behind one of the first purpose built GP group practice premises in Cheshire, which was established beside the Ellesmere Port Cottage Hospital.

Whatever David undertook was with a determination to achieve the highest standard. A schoolboy interest in photography led to an international reputation as a bird and wildlife photographer. He earned his fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society (FRPS) in 1963 and was awarded a life fellowship in 1987. He sat on the Nature Conservancy Advisory Committee and was a council member of the Zoological Photographic Club for 40 years. His keen committee acumen and knowledge of natural history were combined when he served on the governing body of Chester Zoo from 1985 to 2001.

He used his photographic skills to help build a local history photographic archive. This involved him and a colleague armed with cameras walking the streets of the old town methodically photographing buildings and streetscapes before they were lost to development.

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An accomplished swimmer since his schooldays, David was a university blue in water polo and later served the sport in other capacities. He was medical adviser to the Great Britain swim squad from 1975 and to the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) from 1982. He was Great Britain's team doctor at the European Swimming Championships in 1977 and 1981, World Swimming Championships (1978), and Commonwealth Games in Canada (1978) and Australia (1982). In 2000 the ASA recognised his services with its highest citation, The Harold Fern Award. With his wife, Shirley, he founded the Ellesmere Port Amateur Swimming Club. He was variously medical adviser to Cheshire Water Polo and Swimming Association, Liverpool and District Swimming and Water Polo Association, and Northern Counties Amateur Swimming Association.

David espoused the belief that change and progress in medical practice could only be achieved from the inside—that to make it happen was always better than waiting for it to happen. He was a member of the BMA for almost 50 years and was honorary secretary and chairman of the Birkenhead and Wirral division. He was a member of the faculty board of the Royal College of General Practitioners from 1959 to 1985 (chairman 1976-79) and was provost of the Merseyside and North Wales faculty (1981-84). He sat on the Cheshire local medical committee and was a member of the executive council of the family practitioner committee.

David Cooke was closely involved with other aspects of the local community. He worked to acquire a Welsh mountain cottage at Cerrig-y-drudion as a Scout outdoor activity centre. He was also a member and subsequently president of the Ellesmere Port Arts Association.

A chest infection in 1997 that left him dependent upon domiciliary oxygen curtailed his activities. However, this improved as mysteriously as it had developed and he once more pursued life vigorously until his final months when he developed metastatic carcinoma. He realised that his lack of respiratory reserve precluded any active treatment. He remained steadfastly at home, pleased to be cared for by a colleague from his own group practice and district and hospice nursing staff. He leaves a wife, Shirley (a retired community health physician), four children, and seven grandchildren.

David Alexander Pealing Cooke, former general practitioner Ellesmere Port, Cheshire; b 1922; q Liverpool 1952; AE, FRCGP, FRPS; died from metastatic gastric carcinoma on 29 October 2001.

[David Cooke [junior] Austen Elliott]

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