David Rose Cameron was an eminent York physician. During his long career he lived through active service in the First World War, the beginnings of the NHS and the development of cardiology as a specialty.
He was born in Taychreggan, Argyllshire, the son of an engineer turned hotelier and of a sea captain’s daughter. He was educated at Dollar Academy and, deciding on a career in medicine, began studying at St Andrews.
At the outbreak of the First World War he was summoned by telegram to the War Office and later recounted that, arriving in plus fours and admitting a handicap of two, he was immediately offered a commission. He first joined the RASC, driving mules in Salonika, but seeking more excitement he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps, flying a Sopwith Pup. On one occasion, when he had clambered out of the cockpit to free a jammed gun, the plane went into a dive from which he only just emerged. Later after engine failure he became a prisoner of war for two years, drawing too low a lot to take part in an escape by tunnel.
After the war he qualified at St Andrews and captained the rugby team. His house jobs were at Dundee Royal Infirmary. In 1925 he entered general practice in York. He was always single-handed, although there were successive assistants, and he was meticulous about being available on call.
In 1928 he joined the staff of the York County Hospital as a physician. He remained in general practice until the start of the NHS and during the Second World War combined this with consultant work at both York County and York City Hospitals. His colleague recalls the immense physical strain of this period, but David also managed to publish three papers in The Lancet between 1941 and 1945, as well as building enduring friendships with physicians and army doctors at the York Military Hospital.
Foreseeing the split between general and hospital practice, he travelled to Boston in 1946 to learn new techniques in electrocardiology. He became a consultant in 1948, specializing in cardiology and worked closely with the Leeds cardio-thoracic unit, often attending Philip Allison’s ward rounds before his own day’s work began. He performed cardiac catheterizations in York and his distinction was recognized by election as FRCP in 1950, the first of the modern generation of York physicians to be so honoured. He retired from the NHS in 1961, but remained chief medical officer to the Yorkshire Insurance Company, continuing to carry out medical examinations until he was ninety.
David was a splendid clinician and a delightful character who was immensely popular among the local profession. A past president and long-term doyen of the York Medical Society, he took a keen interest in the restoration of the Society’s premises and performed the opening ceremony in 1971. He was an avid sportsman, captain of the York Golf Club, founder of the York Hospitals’ Sailing Club and a devoted fisherman. He sailed dinghies on the Ouse in his eighties. Having taught a colleague’s wife forty years his junior he crewed her regularly, causing her much anxiety about precipitating him into the Leptospira-infected water. He loved fishing for trout on the Rye and for salmon with his brother Tom on the Isle of Harris and he wrote the history of the Ryedale Anglers’ Club. He was intrigued that his house at 14 Clifton was identified as the home of Mary Ellen Best, the York artist who had painted interiors there. He enjoyed excellent health and recovered rapidly from a series of operations in his latter years until he was 95, when he could no longer be seen walking into York along Bootham.
David’s life was full to overflowing and his zest was perhaps partly due to his feeling so fortunate to have survived the First World War and especially the RFC. His wife Olive, whom he married in 1925, was also a St Andrews graduate and became a pathologist at the York hospitals. They had one son and one daughter. His wife died in 1989, but David continued to live in Clifton and to receive many friends who dropped in for stimulating conversation.
W D Stone