Colin Smith obituary | Doctors

When my father, Colin Smith, who died aged 89, was a little boy during World War II, he observed that when someone was sick, there was a general feeling of relief when the doctor arrived. He wanted to be the person whose presence was so reassuring and set out to do so.

He was born in Godalming, Surrey. His father, Sydney Smith, moved from the Royal Flying Corps to running a preparatory school with his wife, Constance (née Sidney) – giving Colin the advantage of a college education.

After the city’s Charterhouse School, then the University of Oxford where he studied medicine, he took a sabbatical year from his training at Guy’s Hospital in London and undertook to cross the North Atlantic aboard a Bristol Channel pilot cutter, that’s how he met his future wife, Celia Perkins, another crew member.

Realizing after graduation that he could perform his military service using his medical skills, Colin went to practice medicine in Lesotho. He wrote to Celia inviting her to join him, and there they were married in 1960.

After three years they returned to settle near the towns of Medway in Kent, living outside the village of Higham, not far from Charles Dickens’ home at Gad’s Hill Place. There he became deeply involved with the local people; both through his work as a family doctor and general practitioner trainer, and in the protection of the landscape.

He was one of those who founded the Dickens Country Protection Society in the early 1970s to protect the North Kent marshes from the incursion of industry – in particular an oil refinery. Methods included riding his 125cc motorcycle selling raffle tickets and making a BBC Open Door documentary, The Forgotten Marshes (1976), to publicize the cause. Colin also hosted a mud-coated shrimp counting “festival” to aid his ecological research. The marshes remain protected to this day.

Colin and Celia retired in 1996 to Dorset where he cared for the local church in Beaminster as a churchwarden, while singing in the choir. The solar panels he campaigned for are to be installed on the roof of the church soon.

Colin was a voracious reader and talented amateur musician, artist and writer; fascinated by all aspects of the world. This curiosity led him to constantly experiment with creative techniques, his extraordinary brain being both scientific and artistic. He was knowledgeable about world events; and alongside his Christian beliefs, he was a strong supporter of other religions. He and Celia even traveled to Ramallah in 2004 as part of a local delegation and visited Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat at his compound.

His once robust health had deteriorated in recent years and eventually collapsed when he suffered heart failure and a stroke. He is widely known for his generosity of spirit and enormous sense of fun, which lasted almost to the end.

Besides Celia, he is survived by three daughters, Philippa, Diana and me; and three grandchildren, Eve, Joe and Isabella. He was predeceased by his son, Pierre.

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