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Dr Sukhdev Pershad Bhatia
03.12.1902 - 06.10.1988

The retirement of Mexborough GP Dr S P Bhatia in the mid 1980s marked the end of an era in the town which began with his arrival in 1931.
More than simply a well-loved medical practitioner, Dr Bhatia had at his heart the care and nurturing of both the physical and spiritual well-being of his patients.
His dedication to medicine, the town and Labour party were honoured at a retirement dinner, and this is a verbatim transcript of that evening, and a reminder of the great affection in which he was held.

I have great pleasure in welcoming every one of you here to this representative gathering. We have assembled here today to grace a momentous occasion - the retirement party for Dr. Bhatia, one of Mexborough's illustrious and most-loved citizens.
Be it a colleague, young or old, from hospital service or general practice; be it a patient, man woman or child, he is greatly respected, and his name is a household one.
In this gathering here, we have a Member of Parliament, we have bankers and businessmen, we have consultants, hospital doctors, general practitioner, nurses, secretaries, para-medical personel, friends and patients as well.
All of us here, and many hundreds of others who are not present here this evening admire and appreciate his dedication and service to the community.
Many of us know that Dr.Bhatia is a tee-totaller, non-smoker and a vegetarian. He is a man of peace - and he is at peace with himself.
His life has been exemplary and worthy of emulation.
It is a pity that the ageing process does not spare even the doctors. In my consulting room - and outside - I'm often confronted with the question "How is Dr.Bhatia now ?"; then, the follow-up remark ssuch as - "He's a fine fellow" or "He's a wonderful man" or "He's a dedicated man, he deserves a medal", and so on.
These are spontaneous outbursts of ordinary men and women, and one notices in their tone the ring of plain-speaking honesty, and in their eyes a glow which takes them back down memory lane of their friendly, intimate association with Dr.Bhatia over the years.
In simple terms, they are just simply proud of him; proud of him being their doctor, proud of him being their friend and proud of him being the man whom they can go to in times of need.
I have had great pleasure and pride working with him for nearly nine years. I admire his great capacity for work - his age was never a barrier; he never made me feel my age either.
Dr.Bhatia is one of the few men I know to whom work and leisure means the same.
His cultured, serene thoughts, packed with experience, have been well worth listening to.
Ladies and gentleman, it is to this 'stethoscoped gentleman' and to his loving and ever-supportive wife Ruby that we are assembled here today to pay tribute for the contribution he has made towards the health and tender care of the people of Mexborough, Swinton, Wath on Dearne and Bolton on Dearne, and he has rendered it so gracefully and so generously over the long, long span of 56 years. We salute you, Dr. Bhatia.

Martin Redmond MP
When Dr. Agrawal phoned me to ask me to come here this evening I accepted with great pleasure.
When we were on the local authority we used to have an officers' group and we used to have what was known as the 'short straw', where one had to sing for our supper; and there was always of course a lack of volunteers, and we used to draw the names out of a hat as to who would speak.
But the phone call that was made - I deemed it a great honour to be here this evening, and after having accepted and put the phone down I then started to have doubts about how I, as a humble person, could pay tribute to Dr. Bhatia, because to be truthful, the service he has done to this community, it really ought to be Her Majesty the Queen here this evening.
When the doctor arrived in this country aged 24, I think England's gain was India's loss, because he had intended to stop only one year.
But nevertheless when he completed his training at St.Andrew's he arrived in Mexborough in 1928 and spent 56 years to date here, and of course the many services and involvements he has undertaken while he's been here have been without any hesitations whatsoever.
He has totally immersed himself in the community.
And alongside that medical career has been mentioned that he is a Christian - a lay-reader and Past President of the Sheffield District Association of Unitarian Churches, and of course the unselfish duty as a GP for Mexborough. And one can continue giving a role of honour as it were to the numerous activities and involvement that he has been involved in in Mexborough.
And of course, like every man in public life you require a wife who is understanding and helpful, and Ruby has given him that support; and if you don't get the support you obviously can't compete in public life, because the wife of course is the backbone behind any husband.
Ruby of course, to Dr.Bhatia, has been like that jewel in the crown, and I thank you Ruby on behalf of the community for giving Dr.Bhatia that support.
When I first met Dr.Bhatia in 1982 when we came to the annual Mexborough Labour Party dinner, I was sat next to him and I wondered who was this old lad who was a vegetarian, didn't smoke, and I got talking to him. During the course of that dinner I was tremendously impressed, and I made enquiries as to who this Dr.Bhatia was, because I'm not a Mexborough lad - unlike Dr.Bhatia - and I found out about his good record and so forth, and I had no hesitation whatsoever of recommending to Doncaster Council that Dr.Bhatia should be given the freedom of the Borough, and that was done on the 24th of October 1983, and I think that's recognition from Doncaster.
I do like an occasional cigarette, and as you know Dr.Bhatia is a non-smoker, and I think he's the only person that's lectured me on the smoking habit that I have been able to tolerate. But he put it in sudh a way - he didn't succeed in stopping me smoking, but nevertheless every time I see him I can see in his eyes 'you really ought to stop'.
I do occasionally call and see them at their home and Dr.Bhatia thinks I call to see him, and that's not quite true; I call to see Dr. Bhatia and his good lady when I'm feeling a little bit depressed because the sound quality, the philosophy that Dr.Bhatia has had all his life is a source of inspiration to me and I come away refreshed, recharged to continue the fight.
As I said, in 1931 Dr.Bhatia came to Mexborough, and those were hard times then. And the wheel has turned full circle and we're now back to that era where unemployment and poverty and despair face us again. But I sincerely feel that Dr.Bhatia has equipped the people of Mexborough to cope a little bit better with the problems that face Mexborough. By word and deed throughout the years and throughout the various generations that he's helped to bring into the world, those people are better equipped in their minds to deal with the problems facing them now.
He, without a doubt, will continue to inspire people for years to come.
And what touches me most - the hallmark of a civilized society is the way it treats its people - the less fortunate, the less able in our society.
And Dr.Bhatia, by word and deed has shown how civilized man ought to behave. And that's why I look for the guidance and advice, because while the body may be frail, the mind is very very active.
And I will conclude by saying that Dr. Bhatia has improved the health of the community, and your service as a Lay Preacher has improved their minds.
On behalf of all the people of Mexborough, thanks very much for coming to Mexborough. You are now a citizen of Mexborough.

Dr.John Stevens
Well my friends, I do thank you for both of us, for inviting us here this evening to share in this memorable occasion - Dr.Bhatia's retirement. As a recently retired doctor from this area who after 25 years or so has made a very modest contribution to the medical scene in
Mexborough, I really take my hat off to Dr.Bhatia, who for more than twice that time - 55 years in fact - has dominated the medical scene of Mexborough.
And it's interesting the changes he must have seen over these years; it's interesting nowadays to think how wholistic medicine is such a popular subject; treating all the patient - their mind, their body and spirit. Dr.Bhatia's been doing it for 55 years: No problems at all.
He's the only doctor I know who can diagnose people without seeing them, on the telephone. He has a special manner on the telephone - time is not bothering him (it doesn't bother him at any other time either). You just ring him up and he knows exactly what's the matter with you; no problem at all. So really all the modern sophisticated diagnostic equipment - he did very well without it, and still does.
During a recent trip to America one of the radio stations was doing a current advertisement for Mount Sinai Hospital - you know they have to advertise the hospitals and doctors, heavens knows why. And this quite pleasant advertisement says "Today, a man in Holland is walking the street because of a doctor in Mount Sinai Hospital. Come to Mount Sinai Hospital: We have doctors for your chest, for your tummy, for your nerves and so on.
And I thought which of us in this room could say we are walking the street in Mexborough because of Dr.Bhatia. I should say, hands up those who CAN'T say that !
He has brought so many people into the world who are here, or their parents, and has cared for so many other people over the years, and of course advertisement is quite unnecessary in his case.
His dedication and integrity immediately appeal to Yorkshire folk who know a good thing when they see one.
And of course his name will live not only from the medical point of view, because there's the Bhatia Centre, the Bhatia Close which will be here for as long as we can foresee.
I well remember the first meeting with Dr.Bhatia at his previous house at Rockleigh, an oasis of peace and tranquility in the hustle of Mexborough, run so efficiently by Dev and by Ruby; full of medicine and music and religion and art, and we were indebted as to how welcome we were always made there.
He is a man of deep faith and religion whom we all admire. Some of you, like me, might be a little uncertain about the difference between faith and religion and perhaps I could point it out by a little story of a car which was travelling in the Middle East
It ran out of petrol, but fortunately on this desert road they could see this town about a mile away so the chap said well, afraid we'll just have to walk to town and get some petrol and come back again.
So he looked in the car for a suitable recepticle for the petrol, and all he could find was a baby's potty; so off he went, rather self-consciously a mile or so to this nearby town, and got some petrol. He was very glad he took it because they hadn't got any cans, so back he came to the car with this potty full of petrol and poured it with great difficulty into the filler cap.
And just as he was doing that, the very first car they'd seem came along, and out stepped a very important looking Arab gentleman and looked at him filling this car with the fluid from this potty and said:" I don't know what your religion is - but I do admire your faith."
Dr.Bhatia is of course himself a man of great humour, I always remember his funny stories - especially the ones about the half-past ten at night calls; he said you have to wait till the pubs close, at around half past ten at night , people would call. And of course on the telephone he'd know exactly what was the matter - what it was was that the wife has had a headache for about three weeks , the husband comes back from the pub ; "Ah, poor dear you've got a headache, I must ring the doctor...".
We all wish Ruby and Dev the very best in their retirement, and one little thing I must do , say about Dev (he tells this story as well), is about his writing.
Writing of course is usually the means whereby Doctors keep patients in ignorance about their condition; in Dr.Bhatia's case it's been whereby he keeps everybody else in ignorance. And Ruby has said how she's had cards from him on holiday, and has had to take them down to the chemist's to see what he says .
And then when he's got back, she's shown the cards to him - and he can't understand them either !
Well Dev, we wish you a very happy retirement.

Dr. and Mrs. Bhatia, it's my turn to say a few words; I'm a bit lost for words. I don't think I can match the oratorial skills of our distinguished guest speakers, or my colleague who introduced them in the beginning.
However, I hope I shan't be lacking in expressing the sentiments and regards we have for you Dr.Bhatia.
When the news of your retirement spread across Mexborough, everyone that we came across kept mentioning 'when are you going to have a party for him ?', `He's a grand old man, he deserves a medal".
The problem was not having a party per-se, but how to you have an occasion to befit the man.
In fact I recall visiting a woman who was in agony with a slipped disk, and in between her cries of pain she said `He's a legend lifetime isn't he '; I said `I'll have to pack you off to hospital dear...'.
We decided to have two guest speakers - one to represent the afflicted, I mean the public, and the other to represent doctors: The first one, we thought Mr.Redmond would be the ideal choice, and when I tried to ring him it was an answering machine; I thought, well he's never going to follow my Anglo-Indian Yorkshire accent, so I asked my secretary to leave a message asking if he would ring me, but she did not say what it was about.
Later on I went to a pub and had a pint of beer and was looking at my Guardian newspaper - it was all about immigration problems and demonstrations at Heathrow airport...and I thought Mr.Redmond might not contact me - he might think `Oh, immigration problem again'.
However, he was very prompt indeed and rang me and said `Dr.Bhatia's retirement party 1900 1930 the 11th of April - it's a pleasure '. I was a bit lost for words then, I didn't know what else to say...
As far as out other distinguished guest speaker is concerned, he hasn't even got over his jet lag yet , but here he is. I'm sure he would have been here even if he would have had to fly across the Atlantic directly.
I want to mention about Dr.Bardun; I think he's trying to race across Chesterfield to be here ;he has a long-standing prior engagement there. Dr.Powell thinks nothing of coming all this way to be here today; it's amazing what the mention of a name can do Dr.Bhatia, I mean your name.
When we started off with the party, the Hospital Secretary said `For Dr.Bhatia it's no problem you can have anything', the catering manager said 'we will not let you down for Dr.Bhatia's party', and the medical representatives, they wanted to be a part of it, they wanted to partake in the occasion; our landlord, Ken Paling - I know you're a tee-totaller Dr.Bhatia - he cut short his holiday from Las Palmas to be here to run the bar for us.
On behalf of all the people here - your friends, colleagues- here are the well wishes we have received ; and all this is a testimony to the regard, love and affection we all have for you.
As a little token of our appreciation - that is from your partners -we have procured a little present for you (an electric powered wheelchair ). I hope it will carry you a long way ; from all your other friends we managed to get an electric easyrise, we hope it will be of use to you. May I ask Dr. Agarwal who has been the chief organiser and the prime force behind organising the party to present it to you on behalf of everybody.
Mr.Martin Redmond: Just a little retirement card that we asked the Speaker of the House , Bernard Weatherall, to sign - and all the Labour Shadow Cabinet have also signed it . Happy retirement Dr.Bhatia.
Dr.Bhatia, if you look at the programme it says that I'm the Practice speaker - it means I'm trying to practise speaking... I'm supposed to say a few words on behalf of our Practice, but the spirit of the occasion has overcome me (not alcohol I) and I thought the best thing would be to read the letter that we partners wrote to you when we heard of your retirement:
Dear Dr.Bhatia, thank you for your letter informing us about your retirement from the Practice from first April 87. We realise that it must have been a heart-rending decision, but appreciate that with your pragmatism you felt that it was the only decision you could make in the best interests of the Practice and you.
We your partners would like to express our thanks and gratitude for giving us an opportunity to work with you. It has been an honour and a pleasure.
You will be retiring from practice in name only ; you are a man larger than life, a man of sagacity, perspicacity, foresight and
strength of character, a man of immense patience and time for one and all.
The Practice has been, and always will be, Dr.Bhatia's Practice, there may be offshoots here and there perhaps.
To all your patients you constituted and exemplified a family doctor, a stethoscoped friend in need; a guide and philosopher for your doctor colleagues and a doyen of general practice, setting the standard and norms; we hope to try and emulate your example and carry on the good work.
We hope that we may continue to have the opportunity of seeking your counsel and advice from time to time.
We wish you, on behalf of everybody here a very happy retirement , and good health.
With regards...
Ladies and gentleman, may I give you - Dr. Bhatia (prolonged applause).

You won't blame me if I tell you that I am completely overwhelmed, and almost rendered speechless. It has been a wonderful reception. You have all made me feel so humble; I bow my head in humility.
I have been very fortunate in having had colleagues who have been really marvellous. We have worked in perfect harmony. In fact, an example to many practices. I don't remember ever listening to one dissident note; you have been wonderful colleagues, and I sincerely hope that they will go on serving the community through the medium of General Practice for many many more years to come.
I think it will be hard to find a practice that has worked so harmoniously together; they have spared no effort and no expense in arranging this particular assembly. It has been a moving experience for me.
I also pray God that they will be spared health, and have peace of mind - those are the two essential things in life that have sustained me; health - I thank God that he gave me health for 55 years to be able to serve the community and he also gave me peace of mind. I don't remember ever losing my patience or rag, no matter how busy I've been.
Now I hope and pray that they also will have health, which you can see is the most important thing, and peace of mind, which is just as
important; that with these two gifts they will be able to serve the community for many years to come - and perhaps beat my record, I hope so.
We have also been very fortunate in our receptionists; they have worked loyally and devotedly and diligently. There has never been any back-biting nor any friction between all our receptionists. If I might mention the names of two - Marjorie and Margaret - who presented us with these flowers. They came to me when I was practising at Rockleigh , that's about 18 years ago - so they have been very loyal companions,
receptionists and supporters in time of need. I hope that they will continue to serve the practice also for many more years to come.
Now, I would like to thanks Dr. Nadaraj for all that he has said about me. I hardly merited it: It makes me feel utterly humble. But as I said, I am glad I was able to serve the community for so many years. I thank also Martin and John; John and Anna have been friends of ours ever since they came to Mexborough, and we thoroughly enjoyed your friendship, your warm hospitality, your warmth, and I sincerely hope that you will be able to visit us periodically.
Martin I have known also for a few years; his ambition has been that he may be remembered as a loyal MP representing his constituency - but there is no doubt that over the years he has represented us, he has endeared himself to all his constituents. I can assure you that he is generous to a fault, and he has been extremely generous to me, and visited me on a number of occasions , and I appreciated it because I know Martin, the demands on your time and energy are colossal.
I know this much also - that if any of his constituents approached him with any reasonable problem he would tend to it sympathetically and understandingly.
The election may not be far off - I don't know when because Mrs. Thatcher hasn't consulted me. If she did, I'd tell her `You always have your own way, you might as well decide the date yourself.."; but whenever it comes, I know this much, Martin, you will be re-elected with the thumping majority that you merited.
Now I came to Mexborough as a boy in 1930, and as Martin pointed out the conditions were very appalling. There was a great deal of unemployment, there were slums here - some of you might remember Charles Street, Gentlemen's Row, Sarah Street, Orchard Street - I could go on numerating the slums that were here.
And to conduct confinements under those dismal, dratted conditions was not a joke, but however, we managed it. In those days by the way there was no midwife; they had a woman - who ever had had three or four children she was considered to be the expert in midwifery. But conditions were really appalling.
There was also, if I may mention, only one District Nurse for the whole of Mexborough and she used to cycle, and naturally one did not like to impose too much burden on her and therefore dressings and injections one had to do quite a lot one's-self so the poor girl wouldn't be over-burdened with work.
But - and I say but - in all sincerity that in spite of the appalling conditions, slums, unemployment, poverty and so on there was a great deal of warmth. There was a neighbourliness, friendliness - it was really heart-warming.
Roman Terrace, where I spent most of my professional life was one large family and I found myself as a very integral part of that family. It was a joy working amongst them.
Curiously enough, Mexborough was a very rich town culturally; there was an orchestra here - I still remember Mr.Williams was the conductor of Barnburgh Main Orchestra ; he once obliged me to come to a concert in aid of an earthquake, and he very kindly brought his orchestra. There was a Male Voice Choir, female choir, debating society, Truth Society, WEA classes , there was an Amateur Dramatic Society , there was the Operatic Society - they still function you know - and one took part in as many cultural activities as one could.
It was indeed a great contrast from its outward appearance and its cultural heritage , and you may be interested to know that there were quite a few eminent people who came from Mexborough; the Poet Laureate, Ted Hughes, came from Mexborough Main Street, they had a Newsagent's shop and I used to attend them.
So, Mexborough had its redeeming features.
Now, Montagu Hospital was a cottage hospital. There was only one house physician-cum-house surgeon; all the specialities weren't catered for. The very first consultant physician appointed was, I believe, in 1931 or 1932. He was a Junior Consultant at Sheffield Royal Infirmary and then subsequently he became Professor of Medicine at Manchester Medical College. And he became also President of the General Medical Council. He was Knighted, and then he got promoted to the House of Lords. I knew him very well indeed, in fact we struck up a friendship in those early years.
And now, of course, the hospital is expanding rapidly, when all the alterations are completed, no doubt it will be a very important institution in this part of Yorkshire.
Now I don't want to say a great deal more except this; that I was forced to retire. I did not mean to retire, but after my stroke last year it was a very painful decision. I still hoped against hope that I might regain sufficient mobility to be able to do part-time work. But it was not to be...
It was after a great deal of heart-searching and cogitation and anguish that I arrived at the decision that it is time to relinquish my hand in General Practice.
I am thankful to all who have helped me during my illness; District Nurses have been wonderful, the other nurses have been wonderful - my grateful thanks.
And of course I must say my wife and daughter have been towers of strength to me and they have given me great moral support.
It is a very grievous thing for me that I should be dependent on so many people just to preserve and prolong this mortal flesh, but there it
is. I am grateful to them.
I don't want to say a great deal more except to quote the words of celebrated well-known Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore:
In one salutation to thee, my God, let all my senses spread out and touch this world at they feet.
Like a rain-cloud of July hung low with its burden of unshed showers let all my mind bend down at thy door
in one salutation to thee.
Let all my songs gather together their diverse strains into a single current and flow to a sea of silence in one salutation to thee.
Like a flock of homesick cranes flying night and day back to their mountain nests let all my life take its voyage to its eternal home in one salutation to thee.
I thank you all.
But there are just two words that I want you to remember me by. Just two words. He loved.
Thank you all; may God bless you.
There then followed a standing ovation of affectionate warmth and appreciation - a fitting end to a moving and much-deserved tribute to a great man.

Peter Lee