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Obituary: Dr James L Crighton

Jimmy Crighton died in Leicester on December 23, 2002. Dr Crighton joined the University as a Medical Officer in October 1966. He was appointed Director of the Student Health Service in May 1972, a post he occupied until his retirement.

Born in Dundee in May 1924, he started at university, reading for an Arts degree, but this was interrupted by being called up for service in the second world war. On returning from India after the war, he decided to pursue a medical career, and was accepted on a course at St Andrews and Dundee universities, where he studied Medicine from 1946-51.

Following registration, he worked for 14 years in General Practice - firstly in the Manchester area and then in a single-handed practice in Fife before joining Dr Hugh Binnie as a Medical Officer at this University. During the early years of the Student Health Service, they were together instrumental in broadening the Service to include students from the College of Education at Scraptoft and Leicester Polytechnic, and surgeries were held at all three sites. This was an innovative step. Over the next 25 years, Leicester was the only city to provide a joint Student Health Service for all its students.

After the death of Hugh Binnie, Jimmy was appointed Director of Leicester's Student Health Service, a position he held until 1983. He continued to work part-time until his retirement from the practice in 1989.

During his years as Director there was an unprecedented expansion in student numbers resulting in an increase from two to six in the number of doctors in the partnership. There were also many other changes both in higher education and in the NHS, and funding of student services was the subject of major concern. 

In 1983 Jimmy had the foresight to propose a relatively radical change to the University of Leicester and Leicester Polytechnic - that the Student Health Service become an independent practice (until then the doctors and all ancillary staff were university employees). Leicester was one of the first student health services to take this step. By the end of the 90s most universities had followed suit. His action heralded a new era which made savings for the University whilst giving more freedom to the doctors in the running of their practices.

Jimmy Crighton was particularly interested in the psychological problems affecting students. He actively encouraged his staff to be aware of these in the context of students' overall health. He was instrumental in the appointment of Michael Jacobs as University Counsellor in 1973, forging an important link between the Student Health and Counselling services, which continued to work closely together over many years of growth and development.

Jimmy was an active member of the British Student Health Association, later named BAHSHE - British Association of Health Services in Higher Education of which he was President in 1979. He was one of the founding members of the Leicester Counselling Centre, with which he worked for many years.

Following his retirement, he returned to his former interest in the arts, and pursued a part-time course in German which culminated in the award of a PhD from the University of Leicester in 1994, the subject of his PhD thesis being The Portrayal of Madness in George Buchner's Lenz and Wyzeck.

During his time at the University he took an active interest in the work of the Department of Music and gained much pleasure from attending their concerts and recitals. He was also widely read and had broad interests in all branches of the arts, including theatre and music. He enjoyed gardening, walking and the countryside and he and Beth spent much of their spare time at their cottage in Shropshire. They also travelled extensively both in Europe and to India and Australia.

Jimmy was a much loved individual, full of wisdom and compassion, who was held in great respect by all who knew him. He always had time for his patients and was ready to help and advise those of us who worked with him. He had many interests and talents, but was quiet and modest. He bore his illnesses in later years with patience and without complaint. He was a family man, married for 54 years. He leaves his wife Beth, four children and five grandchildren.

Alison J Edwards
January 2003

Postscript from Professor Richard Littlejohns:

After his retirement, Jimmy began research on a PhD in German Literature, concentrating - appropriately enough - on two plays by Georg Buchner (1813-37) with significant medical themes.

He was supervised in the University of Leicester's Department of German by my former colleague Patricia Boswell. The PhD thesis was not only successfully completed but was also published appearing in 1998 in a series entitled Bristol German Publications under the title Buchner and Madness: Schizophrenia and Madness in Buchner’s Lenz and Woyzeck – a tribute to Jimmy’s versatility and stamina!

February 2003

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