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Aldeburgh: Influential doctor Ian Tait remembered

07:30 08 February 2013

Dr Ian Tait, who has died aged 86

Dr Ian Tait, who has died aged 86

Tom Southern

A PRESTIGIOUS physician who served as general practitioner to a Suffolk town for more than 30 years has died aged 86.

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Ian Tait was a senior member of the Aldeburgh practice from 1959 to 1992, introducing many new concepts during his tenure.

The fourth generation in a family of doctors, he counted among his many patients the composer, conductor, and pianist Benjamin Britten.

Born in Handcross, West Sussex, Dr Tait originally coveted a naval career but was persuaded to continue the family calling, and following a brief period of national service at sea, studied medicine at Cambridge.

At St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London, he met his wife of almost 60 years, Janet, also a doctor, who would follow him to New York on a year-long exchange before moving as a couple to Suffolk.

Dr Tait became a house-surgeon at Ipswich Hospital before being invited by friend Dr John Stevens to join him on the coast, where he remained for the rest of his career, besides 18 months spent practising in Swaziland.

The Taits raised four children, Nicholas, Charles, Lucy and Hugo, who gave them nine grandchildren.

Dr Tait founded one of the first training courses for medicine graduates who wanted to become GPs. It required the young medics to develop a better understanding of medical care and ethics by attending Ipswich Hospital once a week for group work while assigned to a practice.

He also devised a system of keeping records whereby each patient’s medical history was outlined in a covering summary, saving significant time and energy.

Dr Tait was also a keen golfer, a poet and a painter, and kept an extensive collection of journals going back to the early 1950s. He published two collections of poems entitled Wave Watch and River Songs.

He has been described posthumously by one contemporary as “the most modest of men... despite a quiver full of talents”.

Among Dr Tait’s friends from St Bart’s was former British Medical Journal editor Stephen Lock, who also lives in Aldeburgh.

He maintained a close relationship with Benjamin Britten, who would visit the Tait family with partner Peter Pears and invite them to join them at the The Red House in Aldeburgh.

Dr Tait died on February 4. He had been unwell and last year underwent a heart operation but his health worsened in the last few months.

A memorial service will be held at Aldeburgh Church on Saturday, March 9, from 2.30pm. Donations can be made to Medecins Sans Frontiéres c/o Tony Brown Funeral Services, Saxmundham, IP17 1EH.

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