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Dr Ivor Johnston: Much-loved Lymington GP with personality and humour

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Dr Ivor Johnston, a Lymington GP for four decades, died aged 85
Dr Ivor Johnston, a Lymington GP for four decades, died aged 85

MUCH-LOVED loved Lymington GP for four decades, Dr Ivor Johnston, has died after battling cancer, aged 85.

Born in Manchester in 1934, he grew up in the Wallasey area of Liverpool where his father was also a GP.

Bombers regularly mistook the streets of Wallasey for the docks of Liverpool so from 1939 until 1944 the family were evacuated to live with their grandparents, Norman and Elsie Smith, and Ivor fondly attributed to them the non-judgmental values that he held all his life.

In 1944 the family were reunited, and Ivor enrolled in Wallasey Grammar School. He loved science, where he excelled academically, including being presented with a national essay competition prize by the then very young Duke of Edinburgh.

Ivor enjoyed the outdoors, and was keen to escape at weekends. Scouting provided an opportunity, so he attended camps and Jamborees, and became a King’s Scout.

In 1950 he won an open scholarship to Emmanuel College, Cambridge. He was to study chemistry, but during two final school terms he crammed in a course of biology and switched to medicine.

While still training at Guys, he and best friend Malcolm Begley rented a room in Putney, where he met a medical secretary, Maralyn (Marlo) Davies. Ivor and Marlo married, bought a house, and produced both Miranda and Sebastian by the time Ivor was 24 years old. He held junior posts in Putney and Kingston while he and Marlo improved their first house.

He delayed his National Service until after his medical training, preferring to serve a short service commission in the RAF, knowing that would have accommodation. Not a military man, his proud boast was to have avoided ever appearing on the parade ground in uniform!

Another daughter, Charlotte, arrived while he was stationed at RAF Lyneham.

Ivor decided that he wanted to dedicate his career to general practice and in June 1960 he was delighted to join Dr Sam Johnson’s Lymington practice at 48a High Street. He remained a dedicated GP for the rest of his career until he retired at the age of 70.

He loved his work and became the respected senior partner of Dr J.D. Rogers and Dr Tom McEwen, and thanks to his brilliant leadership, the practice relocated to its current premises at Chawton House where it continues to provide care to the community today.

The family was completed with the birth of Megan when Ivor was 33 years old and having bought a home at Chantry Close, Hollywood Lane, Lymington, where he lived in the various iterations of the house and its vegetable gardens for 56 years.

Ivor and Marlo created a lively family home with a focus on education and medically inspired chatter, expert cooking, convivial eating, vegetable gardening, walks and dogs.

They took the family almost every year to France for holidays and in the early 1970s they bought a charming but very dilapidated property in a tiny hamlet in the Charente-Maritime. Ivor renovated with gusto and Puygard was to be a very happy holiday destination for the family and many friends for many years.

In 1979 Ivor and Marlo bought a 127-foot working river barge in France. With the help of friends they brought it across the Channel to Lymington and converted it to a very successful restaurant.

They also bought Buckland Cottage, the other half of their semi-detached house. This provided another renovation project for Ivor, assisted by a local builder; knocking out the dividing wall so the two houses were restored to the original large house.

However, after 28 years of marriage, Ivor and Marlo divorced. The builder duly bricked up the dividing wall and they lived next door to each other for some years in the newly separated houses.

Eventually Ivor was introduced to Daphne Knight and they were married in 1989. She brought with her three children, Alex, Rosie and Jessie, providing a new young audience for Ivor’s popular jokes and his great fathering skills and affection. They were married for 30 happy years.

Ivor and Daphne enjoyed many visits to the opera and he supported her amateur choral singing in Winchester Cathedral, being involved as ticket secretary for many years.

Ivor enjoyed new challenges, the more so if they could incorporate travel with a purpose. Persuaded by Bernard Levin’s articles in the early 1980s he became involved in the Conscience movement and befriended Russian refusniks.

He learned Russian and made several trips behind the Iron Curtain to provide assistance to dissidents, including a visit to Georgia to meet then President Zviad Gamsakhurdia.

He also did a work exchange with an Australian GP in 1988, in Frankston, Victoria, allowing him to visit family in Melbourne. He volunteered for the Jubilee Sailing Trust, as the doctor who assessed disabled applicant sailors but also being the ship’s doctor for voyages in the North Sea and to Norway.

In retirement Ivor energetically supported local causes. He served as secretary to the Lymington Society, and as a trustee of Lymington Hospital League of Friends. With Daphne he has established the Solent Music Festival.

He developed cancer in 2017 but responded well to treatment initially and enjoyed trips to Malta, Venice, and Munich and, amazingly, just four weeks before his death, to Amsterdam.

He spent his last weeks at home, nursed by Daphne, with Oakhaven support, and enjoying his family and friends. He passed away peacefully in his sleep on the morning of 6th May.

His family said: “He leaves a legacy of tolerance, kindness, ethical practice, and sustained scientific curiosity which those who have worked with him over the years and those who work in the practice today attribute to his unassuming yet strong influence.

“He had a personality and humour that was always an instant hit with children. Consequently, as his now thoroughly modern and blended family have expanded, he was always held in deep affection by all.”

A service of remembrance is to be held in St Thomas’ Church, Lymington at 3pm on Thursday 30th May.

No flowers but donations can be made to Oakhaven Hospice Trust, c/o F W House, Lymington SO41 9NE.

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