Biography of Henry Tegner
2nd December 1946 born at 28 Abbey Gardens, London NW8, to
Mary Tegner, née Roberts and Dr William Stuart Tegner.
1948 Moved with parents from north London to Buckhurst Hill in Essex.
C. 1950 Parents bought a second home in Knodishall in Suffolk, for weekend and
holiday use - a rather unattractive bungalow set in two acres of gorseland and rough
1951 Began attendance at a small private primary school, the "Daiglen"
in Palmerston Road, Buckhurst Hill.
1953, August. My mother died after a short illness, at Ipswich General Hospital.
Until recently I was uncertain as to the exact cause of her death. My father referred many
years later to her having had pellagra. This is a condition resulting from a dietary
deficiency of the vitamin niacin or from a fault in the conversion of the amino acid
tryptophan. I have now obtained a copy of her death certificate from the Registrar at
Ipswich which does indeed the causes of death to have been pellagra and pulmonary
embolism. She was buried at St Lawrences Church, Knodishall.
1954, May. Joined my elder brother Bill as a boarder at The Old Hall School in
Shropshire. Found the separation from family and home a traumatic experience. Pastoral
care was minimal in an austere environment. The regime was strict, although mostly fair.
My peers were generally older than I, and I found it difficult to achieve either
academically or in sports.
My father kept all of the letters I sent to him each week during my six years at
preparatory school and four years a public school, and I still have these filed in my
possession. They do not form a very edifying collection. Writing letters to home was a
chore, required of the boys by the authorities at school. Those written from my
preparatory school were more or less pathetic - particularly in my early years there. In
my final year at public school it could be said of my correspondence that it did reflect,
at least, the developments in my school work, in other activities such as art and
astronomy, and my ambitions for the future.
My academic record overall was erratic. My father had hoped that I would follow my brother
to Winchester College. This was not to be: due to an oversight (I am told) my name was not
put down for a place at Winchester at the appropriate time as apparently my father was
under a misunderstanding that I would be somehow "exempted" from the list of
boys waiting for entry on the premise that my brother was already attending the school. I
was given the option of sitting the examination a year early, aged twelve. I did this and
failed. My name was then put down for Felsted School in Essex. I chose this only because
it was near to my home and my late headmaster, Mr Fee Smith, had been an old boy there.
My last year at The Old Hall was the happiest for me. I had become interested in science
in general and astronomy in particular. I was also given the opportunity to paint in oils,
thus starting an interest that I still pursue. The study of the sciences was not
encouraged in preparatory schools at that time.
I sat the common entrance examination in July 1960 and achieved a good result with an
overall mark of 68 percent.
1960, September. I entered Felsted School and as a result of my mark in the
Common Entrance I was placed one year ahead of the majority of new entrants. I struggled
to keep up with my older peers. I was able to specialise in three sciences, chemistry,
physics and biology, immediately on joining the school. I had an unhappy first year in an
environment where there was a hero worshipping of the senior boys and high achievers in
sports. I struggled with mathematics and was felt intimidated by the master who taught me
that subject. At that time I hoped to go on eventually to Cambridge to read astrophysics,
but in the days before computers a high standard in maths was a prerequisite for admission
as an undergraduate in the field.
1962. Sat eight O levels and passed all of them. Mathematics was
weak, however, and I did not do sufficiently well to be able to continue this subject in
the sixth form. I had to put aside my ambitions so far as astronomy was concerned. I
studied biology, chemistry and physics for A level, and decided to apply for a
place in medical school. The reasons were pragmatic rather than altruistic. My father was
a doctor, a consultant in Rheumatology at The London Hospital (now The Royal London
Hospital). He encouraged me in my decision without pressurising me - rather unusually for
a doctor, he did not entirely approve of medical "dynasties". But I have little
doubt that he was quietly delighted, and proud, of my decision.
Boarding school was not, overall, a happy experience for me. I always regretted that my
father had not taken the option of sending his sons to one of the excellent day schools in
the locality of our home, or in London. My last year at Felsted was, like that at The Old
Hall, my least unhappy. It was a rather brutal regime, with day to day discipline made the
responsibility of the older boys, a system that I found abhorrent in its concept even
I was able to indulge and develop my two interests: astronomy and oil painting. We had a
fine 4½" refracting telescope by Cooke at the school, and I became honorary
secretary of the Astronomical Society. While in the sixth form I was able to build a
6" Newtonian (reflecting) telescope, grinding and figuring the primary mirror myself.
During my last year, 1964, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother visited the school for the
450th anniversary celebrations, and I have a photograph of me demonstrating one of the
schools telescopes to her.
I seem to recall that I was the only boy in my physics class who passed at A
level. I attribute my pass to my own study of optics and radiation from reading the
Scientific American. With hindsight I can only describe the master allocated to teach us
as lazy, brutish and disinterested.
1963 My father married Katherine Elizabeth (Betty) Wilson. We had known her as a
family friend for some years. At that time she must already have been entering the
terminal stages of disseminated breast cancer. At her instigation my father sold the
bungalow in Knodishall and bought The Potash - an attractive 16th/17th century house
between the villages of Brandeston and Cretingham, not far from Framlingham in Suffolk. A
huge amount of restoration and refurbishment was undertaken: the property had no drains,
no running water and no electricity. The work was completed early in 1964, ready for their
1964 Entered The London Hospital Medical College at the age of 17 years and 10
months. The culture shock was considerable, changing from a male dominated environment
almost monastic in its regime, to the far more liberal atmosphere of a university in
London. Within days of entry I saw death for the first time in the dissecting rooms -
dismembering formalin preserved cadavers without the benefit, in those days, of rubber
gloves. The volume of information we were expected to absorb was almost overwhelming, and
I was ill prepared for it.
In November my stepmother underwent exploratory abdominal surgery and was found to have
hepatic secondaries to her cancer. It was evident that curative treatment was not an
option. I was shocked by this news, and it was the harder to accept as I had grown very
fond of her.
In December I had my eighteenth birthday, and was given my first 35mm camera. I took
photography quite seriously from then onwards.
1965 Our house in Buckhurst Hill was sold and our London domicile shifted to
Myddelton Square in Islington.
In July I flew to Denmark to stay with my stepmothers sister at their farm north of
Copenhagen. I occupied most of my time with painting as Joan, Bettys sister, was an
accomplished semi professional artist.
1966. In May I sat my first major university examination - the 2nd MB -
and failed it. At that time one further attempt was allowed, with the requirement to leave
the college in the event of failure. I re-sat the examination in October and learned that
I had passed it just days before the death of my step mother at The London. My father and
I were, I think, prepared enough for her death and relieved that her suffering was at an
end. Latterly she became comfortable under liberal doses of diamorphine, and found
spiritual solace through the Roman Catholic chaplain, Father Marteau. She converted to
Catholicism a few days before her death, with the blessing of both my father and me. She
was cremated and her ashes scattered at a cemetery in east London.
1967 August. I travelled to Iceland for the first time, to satisfy a long held
interest in the volcanic nature of that country, first inspired by reading Jules
Vernes "A Journey to the Centre of the Earth".
1967 December. During my student obstetric attachment I met Agnes Forde, a staff
midwife, and started going out with her.
1968 My father retired from the National Health Service at the age of 63. We
moved out of the flat in Myddelton Square - I to a basement flat in Stoke Newington and my
father to the Potash.
1968 July. I travelled for the first time to Ireland to meet Agnes parents
and family, and during this visit we became engaged.
My fathers health began to cause concern. He was clearly isolated and lonely and
found solace in drinking spirits.
1969 Agnes and I were married in Dublin on the 24th May. Many friends and
family joined us for the celebration. We had our honeymoon in Malta, and, sadly, were
recalled owing to Agnes' fathers ill health. It was feared he would die. He rallied,
and Agnes stayed on at the family home to nurse him. In the meantime I was admitted to
hospital, rather toxic from facial impetigo secondary to sunburn.
Throughout the summer I studied for my final examinations. We moved out of London to a
more comfortable flat in Newberry Park in Essex. Application to preparing for examinations
was easier now than it ever had been, with the support and encouragement from Agnes.
1969 October. I sat my final examinations and, to my surprise, passed all of them
at the first attempt, qualifying MB BS at the age of 22 years and 10 months. It should be
said that I owe much of this success to Agnes and to dedicated teaching from the more
inspired consultants and to my tutor, Dr Mike Floyer. I think it fair to say that Dr
Floyer, an able and distinguished clinician, made a point of taking the weaker students
under his wing and regularly produced unexpected and occasionally spectacular results. The
grounding he gave me in essay writing and properly conducted literature searches has
served me well throughout my career. It was he who launched me in the direction I took in
teaching and the achievement of higher qualifications.
1969 December. I started my first preregistration house appointment the day
before my 23rd birthday, as House Physician at The London Hospital (Mile End). I quickly
lost the confidence of my consultant, an elderly physician who was inclined to leave much
of the routine work to his registrars. His fault finding, justified or not, undermined my
own confidence in myself. My anxieties were compounded by the state of Agnes health
in the latter months or her first pregnancy - she developed severe toxaemia and had to
spend much time sedated in hospital.
1970. On the 28th February our elder daughter, Mary Nicola, was born at The
London Hospital. She was named after my mother Mary, to the delight and great joy of my
The second three months of my first house appointment was an altogether happier experience
as I had an enlightened and able young woman consultant.
In June 1970 I commenced my second preregistration appointment
at the Accident and Emergency Department at The London Hospital.
December 1970 We moved to Hampstead for a six month post as House Officer at
Queen Marys Maternity Home. This was a happy time in spite of the sparse off duty -
one night a week and every second weekend off - as the job came with a small but
comfortable flat, and had all the advantages of the Hampstead environment.
1971. In July I took up a short service commission in the Royal Air Force,
initially with the rank of Flight Lieutenant. At that time the RAF was offering vocational
training in general practice which was not, at that time, mandatory for aspiring GPs. I
had never had any inclination towards a military career, and my reason for entering the
air force was purely in terms of the advantages it would offer us as a family. We moved
straight from a small flat to the three bedroom semi detached house at RAF Scampton (after
my two months basic training). For much of my initial two months Agnes and Mary stayed
with my father in Suffolk.
At that time Scampton was a V Bomber base, with two squadrons of Vulcan bombers, and
famous for its association with the Dam Busters.
In November 1971 my father died quite suddenly. He had tended to
be neglectful of himself, gaining calories but little other nourishment from alcohol. He
had developed a cardiomyopathy which killed him. He had never ceased grieving for my
mother and his unhappiness and loneliness was compounded by the death of my step mother.
He was disappointed and isolated in his retirement. We regretted very much that he did not
move in with us. He and Agnes were devoted to each other, and she would without doubt have
cared for him and nursed him back to a better quality of life had he allowed her to do so.
But he was unwilling to leave The Potash and stubbornly insisted on carrying on by
himself. He was cremated and his ashes buried in my mothers grave at St.
Lawrences Church in Knodishall.
1972 February. The Potash was sold.
1972, 8th March. Our son, John Henry, was born at RAF Hospital Nocton Hall,
1972 July. I travelled to Iceland for the second time and undertook some solo
back packing in the south east of the country.
1972 September. Started a posting to RAF Episkopi in Cyprus, working at the
Families Clinic in Limassol. This was a busy posting caring for the wives and children of
1973 April 5th. Our younger daughter, Sarah Louise, was born at RAF Hospital
1973 October/November. Returned to the UK to sit the examination for the Diploma
of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and passed it.
1974 July/August. We were embroiled in the military coup and subsequent Turkish
invasion of Cyprus. We were trapped in our house by sniper fire for two days, and were
then evacuated under gunfire from Limassol. Subsequently, Agnes and the children were
flown back to the UK. I remained on with my medical officer colleagues for the duration of
the crisis and was involved in the care of Turkish refugees.
1974 October. I was posted to RAF Benson in Oxfordshire, famous for its role as
the base for the Queens Flight.
1975 was highlighted by a glorious holiday with Agnes' parents in the
west of Ireland in May when we had three weeks of sunshine.
1976 I was promoted to the rank of Squadron Leader.
1976 June. I completed my Short Service Commission and left the Royal Air Force.
1976 July. I the Forest Hill Road Group Practice in East Dulwich, London. This
was a teaching practice and had a high reputation in south east London.
1977 We returned to Suffolk to see our old haunts and meet up with
friends of my late father. In November Agnes and I had a holiday in Teneriffe, leaving the
children in the care of a family friend.
1978 I Started teaching medical undergraduates in the practice. We had our first
family camping holidays.
1979 I Accepted a position as Clinical Assistant in Dermatology at Kings
1980 May. I Sat the examination for Membership of the Royal College of
General Practitioners, and failed it.
1980 October. I re-sat the Membership examination and passed.
1982/3 I attended the course at Guys Hospital in preparation for becoming a
1984 I was appointed a GP trainer
1989 I was appointed Course Organiser for the Lewisham Vocational Training Scheme
for General Practice.
1991 I was accepted on the Masters Degree course in General Practice at the
United Medical and Dental Schools of Guys and St Thomas Hospitals (UMDS).
1993 I Graduated Master of Science in General Practice, UMDS.
1995 February Our son John left for Japan, in order to work for one year
as a teacher to earn the funds to put himself through a Master's course in Sound
Technology having been offered a place at York University to do this. As it happened he
did not return as planned and remained as a teacher at a secondary school in Tokyo
for twelve years.
1995 April. Agnes had major surgery for cancer.
1995 August. Paper published in "Education for General Practice entitled Raising
Issues using Role-play in General Practice Training.
1995 September. We purchased a plot of land in County Wexford in the Irish
Republic with the intention of building a retirement home there in due course. In the
aftermath of Agnes illness we made the decision that I should retire on my 60th
birthday, in December 2006. Her devastating experience had confronted us with the fact of
our own mortality, and I had developed a sense of déja vue and a desire, if at all
possible, not to experience the same tragedy as had befallen my father.
1996 Agnes had major reconstructive surgery in January and made a good recovery.
1997 May. Paper published in "Education for General Practice" entitled Summative
Assessment - A Front Line Perspective"
1998 March. I was appointed as an assessor for the video consultation
component for Summative Assessment of doctors completing their training in general
1998 April. Building work commenced on our house in County Wexford.
1999 January. The house in County Wexford was completed and we stayed there for
the first time.
2000 November. I was elected a Fellow of the Royal College of General
2001 January. We embarked on our first long haul flight - for a winter holiday in
St. Lucia in the Caribbean. Before this time we had never intended to travel away from
Europe, even in our retirement. Not only was the holiday a wonderful experience for us,
but also the door to intercontinental travel was opened to us for the first time.
We were aware at about this time that our son, John, wished to marry his partner, Kyoko, a
Japanese national. There was to be a civil ceremony in Tokyo that summer, with a
traditional Japanese ceremony to follow in the autumn. Having found that we were capable
of undertaking long distance travel we were confronted with the exciting realisation that
we might join them for this once-in-a-lifetime event.
2001 September. We gave a reception for John, Kyoko and her mother, Kumiko
Hayashi-san in the Long Room at the Royal College of General Practitioners which at that
time was located at Princes Gate in Kensington. It was a wonderful occasion and provided
an opportunity for friends and family to meet up, in some cases for the first time in
2001 September. In anticipation of our visit to Japan, Agnes and I started to
attend classes in Japanese at Morley College, London.
2001 November. We flew for the first time to Japan for the occasion of the
traditional ceremony to celebrate the marriage of John and Kyoko at the Meiji Shrine in
Tokyo. We were accompanied by our daughters, Mary and Sarah, and joined in Tokyo by my
brother Bill and his partner Pamela. We were very kindly accommodated by Kumiko in her
apartment in central Tokyo where as well as being completely involved in the preparations
for the ceremony, she was a most generous, gracious and attentive host to us. We were
honoured indeed to be welcomed into a Japanese family.
At this time, too, we were able to renew our links with our past and completely
coincidental connection with Japan. My father had in fact been born in Yokohama, his
grandfather, Stuart Eldridge, having worked as a doctor there in the latter part of the
19th century. I was honoured to give a presentation on the journals of Dr Eldridge to a
group of Japanese historians who had a particular interest in his life and his work.
February 2002. Our younger daughter, Sarah, married Dr Ben Sessa at St. Pancras
Church in London. The reception was held at University College, London.
December 2001. My brother Bill, who had taken early retirement from his position
with the West Sussex County Council, emigrated together with Pamela, to Brisbane,
March 2002. We flew to India for a holiday in Goa. We were joined for two nights
by Sarah and Ben who were on honeymoon and travelling widely in the subcontinent.
January 2003. I became an appraiser for the new scheme of GP appraisals, devised
to improve and monitor standards in primary care. In the same month I was also elected to
serve on the Metropolitan Multi-centre Research Ethics Committee, which meets monthly in
London to assess the suitability of proposed medical research studies to be granted
February 2003. Sarah was safely delivered of a son, Huxley Henry, our first
grandchild on the 20th of the month, at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford.
March 2003. We travelled for the second time to Japan, staying again with
Kumiko-san. On this occasion I achieved my ambition and saw Mt. Fuji close up and in
spectacular weather conditions. We explored Tokyo more thoroughly and enjoyed the cherry
blossom at its best. We also visited the famous shrine at Nikko, about a hundred miles
west of Tokyo.
November 2003 We travelled to North America for the first time, at the
invitation of Padraig Carney, a cousin of Agnes', and his wife Moira. Padraig had
emigrated to the United States in the early 1950s after graduating as a doctor in Dublin.
In Ireland he is still acknowledged as a celebrity, having been a champion Irish
footballer. He pursued a distinguish career as an obstetrician in California. His wife is
also a doctor. We stayed with them at their home at Long Beach and were also able to visit
San Francisco for a weekend in fine autumn weather. We visited the John Paul Getty Museum,
the Huntington Museum and Catalina Island. From San Francisco we crossed the Golden
Gate bridge on an excursion to the Muir Woods to see the giant coastal redwood trees.
May 2004 Sarah was safely delivered of a daughter, Kitty Lola, on the
18th of the month, at the maternity unit at Banbury Hospital.
June 2005 My brother bill and his wife Pamela returned from Australia and
in August took up residence in Ireland, later buying at house at Rosbercon, New Ross
July 2005 Our elder daughter, Mary, married Anthony Harris at the
Marylebone Registry office where her paternal grandparents (my parents) had married over
60 years previously. The reception was held at the Royal Air Force club on Picadilly.
November 2005 I was appointed as an examiner for the Consultations Skills
module for the membership examination of the Royal College of General Practitioners.
December 2005 On the 10th December Mary was delivered safely of a healthy
daughter, Imogen Cassia, at King's College Hospital, London.
July 2006 To our joy, our dear son, John, returned permanently to the UK,
initially living with us and then moving to Bristol.
August 2006 We sold our house in Sydenham, London and bought an apartment
in Wedmore, a village in Somerset some eight miles from the city of Wells and Cheddar.
This was in preparation for my retirement from the Forest Hill Road practice in December.
For the remaining months in the practice I worked three days a week, staying with Mary and
Anthony in Chelmsford and commuting to work, returning to Wedmore at the weekends. It was
a time of considerable strain.
December 2006 I resigned from the partnership on my 60th birthday and
moved from London.
May 2007 I was asked to consider becoming an examiner for the Clinical
Skills module of the new examination for Membership of the Royal College of General
Practitioners. In order to be appointed, it was necessary for me to sit the multiple
choice paper for the examination and pass it. To my surprise I was successful.
We were becoming increasingly unhappy with our new location, not taking well to living in
an apartment. Additionally we disliked the environment in Wedmore - a considerable
proportion of the population being retired people from the cities - as indeed were we -
and we developed a disturbing perception that we were in an enclave, cut off from the real
world. We put the apartment up for sale in the hope of selling it in a market that was
already showing signs of failing. In October, after much searching, we found an attractive
home in Chippenham, Wiltshire.
January 2008 We sold the apartment in Wedmore and moved into the house in
Chippenham. For the first months we undertook a considerable amount of work on the
premises and were well pleased with the result. In all, we felt that we had made the right
choice, having the advantage of good facilities in the town, and good connections to
London and Bath by rail. Additionally we found that we were living in some of the
loveliest countryside in England.
February 2008 Kyoko joined John in the UK, and they moved to south east
London when John received the offer of a job training clients in the use of software.
September 2008 Both of our daughters were delivered of healthy babies on
the 5th of the month: to Mary her second daughter, Charlotte (Lottie) Tallulah and to
Sarah her third child, a son, Jimi Lennon. This amazing coincidence of timing necessitated
our driving some 300 miles in one day in atrocious weather, to be with Sarah in Taunton
within minutes of the birth of her son in the mid morning, and then with Mary in
Chelmsford at 9.00 p.m. just after the arrival of her little girl.
Present Time (2011) We have settled well in Chippenham, and are widening
our network of friends. I am undertaking some part time GP locum work to supplement my NHS
pension and to continue to contribute to Primary Care. I can look back upon my career with
a measure of pride, but much has changed over the years and it may not be very long before
I decide to finish work entirely. I will be 65 in December 2011.
I have started to write some fictional work over the past few years and have engaged in
two courses on writing fiction. I enjoy this and have had a measure of success, but I have
much to learn still.
My other passion that for walking in the lovely Wiltshire countryside, and in the
surrounding counties of England and south Wales.
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