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Biographical entry Talbot, John Raeburn (1940 - 2015)

MB ChB Otago; FRCS 1972; FRACS 1981.

28 July 1940
Ealing, Middlesex
25 October 2015
Orthopaedic surgeon


John Talbot was born to Graeme Talbot, a New Zealander who following postgraduate training had secured a consultant position as an Ophthalmic Surgeon in London, and Joan Betts, the daughter of a London journalist and newspaper editor. John had an identical twin brother, Richard, and a younger sister, Elizabeth. At the end of the War, and following his de-mobilisation from the RAMC, Graeme decided to return to New Zealand with the family, settling in Auckland. There John attended King's Preparatory School and King's College where he was a very capable student. With a fine treble voice, he shared a Choral Scholarship to King's College with Richard. He was a soloist in the chapel choir and took principal parts in the annual operas.

Following two years at Auckland University John gained entry to the Otago Medical School in 1960, residing at Selwyn College. On completion of his MB ChB he returned to Auckland as a house surgeon. In 1968 John moved back to Dunedin for a year as a physiology demonstrator, preparing for the surgery Primary examination. Returning to Auckland in 1969 as a surgical registrar, John had several unsuccessful attempts at the RACS Primary examination. Seriously considering general practice as an alternative, John moved to London where he quickly completed the Primary FRCS examination and secured a position as a surgical registrar in the London Hospital. From there he obtained a post in the Barts rotation, working there 1971-77 initially as registrar and subsequently Senior Registrar, and obtaining his FRCS (Eng) in 1972. While working at the London Hospital John met Georgina Creffield, a physiotherapist and they married. They had two children, Matthew (1974) and Rachel (1976), and separated in 1982.

In 1977 John secured an appointment in Christchurch and the family returned to New Zealand. There, through his trauma and general orthopaedic experience, he provided a valuable contribution in both public and private practice. In his practice he demonstrated a conservative and safe approach in the care of his patients, being ready to refer to colleagues where he felt they could offer greater expertise. In some ways John was something of an orthopaedic physician who, in addition, operated. He took pleasure in meeting with his patients, reaching a diagnosis and developing a plan of care with them. John gained his FRACS (Orth) in 1981.

On ceasing surgical practice in 2001, John continued to work actively as a medico-legal consultant, predominantly in Australia. With his extensive clinical experience, he readily acquired a newfound set of skills and obtained satisfaction in this work. He was always generous with his time, appreciating the necessity to scrutinise each case, and he developed deep interest and insight into the interplay between cultural background, psychological and behavioural influences on injuries. John was held in high regard by all for the quality of his reporting and his ability to bring humour and sound advice to often difficult assessment interactions and he became a respected mentor to his colleagues.

John had a wonderful capacity for sharing himself with others and his friendship embraced people from all walks of life. He readily made new friends of varying backgrounds and ages, and was well liked by medical and administrative work colleagues wherever he travelled. Conversations were always full of richness and he had a great store of stories and humorous anecdotes, and a charming - often intellectual - sense of fun. John was widely read and had an amazingly broad knowledge of music. He was passionate about his home, high in the Port Hills, with its open space and wonderful views. Fond of the outdoors, he climbed Mt Cook in his youth and remained a keen hiker throughout his life. A runner, he participated in the multisport Coast to Coast race on three occasions. With a life-long love of sailing John joined the Naval Reserve, resulting in travel to the Pacific Islands and the Antarctic on several occasions and service as honorary surgeon to three Governors General.

John was a member of St Mary's (Merivale) parish and, following the destruction of the church in the earthquake, a member of St Michael and all Angels, finding great strength and direction from his Christian faith. In retirement John regularly set out on a Friday evening with the Salvation Army's Street Outreach food truck. This selfless commitment was based on St Paul's words that, 'through us God spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing Christ' (2 Corinthians 2:14).

John developed multiple myeloma seven years ago, but coped stoically with chemotherapy, two stem cell transplants and increasingly severe symptoms while continuing his medico-legal consultancy until his final three months. During this time he managed at home with the support of his family and friends until severe pain eventually compelled his admission to the Christchurch Hospice, where he died peacefully ten days later. Despite his illness, he continued to bring positive influences to the people he worked with.

John is survived by and greatly missed by his brother Richard (cardiologist), sister, Elizabeth, children Matthew (IT Designer/consultant) and Rachel (Swim School owner & teacher) and three grandchildren.

This obituary is based upon contributions from Dr Richard Talbot FRACP, Canon Craufurd Murray, colleagues and John's family.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Republished by king permission of the President and Council of The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons from In Memoriam (].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England