Geoffrey Harold GreatrexBMJ 2018; 361 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.k2211 (Published 25 May 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;361:k2211
- Peter P Dawson
Geoffrey Harold Greatrex lived most of his childhood in Earls Colne, Essex. His grandfather, Thomas, was a sergeant major who had served in the Boer war and lived near the gunnery ranges at Shoeburyness. His father, Harold, was the local headmaster of the village primary school. Harold was an enterprising man on a very modest income. He supplemented this by rough shooting for the pot and running evening ballroom dancing classes. To do that, he bought a disused chapel in the village and the oak floor of another chapel and married the two together. Initially the bicycle was the only means of transport, and father was known to cycle to Cambridge and back (100 miles) when a bargain was found. Geoffrey’s love of cycling came from this period. By the age of 7 he was a crack shot with the air rifle, and his early diaries detail the demise of unlucky sparrows and starlings shot around the village—no health and safety regs in those days. It was a very rural and wartime existence, and to earn pocket money, Geoffrey would work in the fields for local farmers for a few pence. With his marvellous memory he would relate all the names and occupations of the villagers. His younger brother, Tim, made up the family. The boys were always close, and it was a great loss for Geoffrey when Tim predeceased him a few years ago.
In 1952 Geoffrey enrolled at Durham University to study medicine. This took place at Newcastle. Here he met many new students, some of whom he is still in contact with. Money was always tight, and for one summer term, he saved on accommodation by living in a small tent in a farmer’s field. As winter approached, a colleague induced him to join him in very …