Obituary: John Southam, 81

John Southam's interests included the Scouts and church
John Southam's interests included the Scouts and church
Have your say

The former dean of the Edinburgh Dental Hospital who saved his local Scout troop has died at the age of 81.

Born in Leeds in February 1934, John Southam was raised in the family home that doubled as a dental surgery for his father, who also worked part-time in oral surgery at Leeds Dental Hospital.

Following secondary school education at Leeds Grammar School, John went up to Cambridge and read medicine at Gonville and Caius. Following success in the Medical Tripos in 1958 and completion of the required pre-registration hospital appointments, he matriculated into Leeds Dental Hospital and School and qualified as a dentist in 1962.

In 1963 John was appointed lecturer in oral pathology at Sheffield University.

In 1970 he accepted the post of lecturer at Edinburgh University on the condition that as soon as he had completed membership of the Royal College of Pathologists he would be promoted to senior lecturer and honorary consultant, a post he achieved in 1972.

In 1977 John was appointed professor of oral pathology and oral medicine. In 1981 he graduated Doctor of Medicine at Cambridge University for his research into the fibrinolytic activity of oral epithelium and dental pulp tissue.

In 1981 John was awarded a Fellowship in Dental Surgery of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh within which institution he later became vice-dean.

From 1983 to 1988 John served as dean of dental studies at Edinburgh University. These were hard, often brutal, years as he strove to prevent the school being closed.

He succeeded, however those years took their toll and when the last Edinburgh dental graduate qualified in 1994 John took early retirement.

Throughout his life, John retained a well-balanced lifestyle. Family was rightly put before personal ambition. As a deeply committed Christian, he served his church in many ways and when the local Scout troop appeared to be on the brink of collapse John stepped in, took the reins, and of course the troop then flourished.

Not long after he retired John experienced what was described at the time as a “spinal stroke” and spent several months in a wheelchair.

With characteristic grit and determination he exercised himself back to some degree of mobility and became a well-known figure in his community. John was supported wonderfully by his wife Susan, whom he adored, until latterly the roles were reversed for a mercifully short time as Susan succumbed to pancreatic cancer.

After Susan’s death in May this year, blessed by the love and support of his sons, Philip and Jeremy, his daughters-in-law Gillian and Angela and six grandchildren, to all of whom he was very close, John died peacefully of cancer of the bladder.

He died in Edinburgh on October 6 aged 81.