Obituary: The dentist who described how lucky he was to live in Beccles
- Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY
From trudging to work in snowshoes during a harsh winter to fixing a bride’s tooth ahead of her wedding day, James Lumsden - who has died, aged 92 - became a familiar and fond character in Beccles as the town's dentist.
Known affectionately as Jim, Mr Lumsden was born in Glasgow in 1929.
He attended Shawlands Academy, before undertaking National Service where it was suggested that he join the Royal Army Dental Corps – "This is not a drill" became an appropriate slogan.
He went on to study dentistry at Glasgow University, where each year a graduate would be offered a chance to go to Canada with the Grenfell Association. In 1955, Mr Lumsden became that student.
He arrived in Labrador by boat, and it was there that he met his future wife, Barbara. They married, and following the birth of their first son, Peter, they moved to England in 1958, settling in Beccles, on the Norfolk-Suffolk border.
Here, he took up a position with married couple the Stranges at the surgery next to St Michael’s Church, later moving to Station Road.
A fixture in the dental surgery, Mr Lumsden became a readily recognised figure in the town, complete with the Scots accent that he never lost.
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Singing was a lifelong passion and became a member of the church choir at St Michael's until moving house meant he relocated to St Luke's Church. Some of his legacy has already been transferred to St Luke's to be put towards structural development.
He was also an active member of the Beccles choir Friends in Harmony and the Waveney Light Opera Group, particularly enjoying taking part in productions of Gilbert and Sullivan. And he contributed as a voice for the talking newspaper for many years.
Following his retirement, he continued to serve the local community, chairing the board of trustees for New Thresholds, a charity supporting adults with disabilities.
Despite his outgoing personality, Mr Lumsden has been described as a private person, often very happy "pottering about” in his garden or playing golf with his three regular golfing buddies or family.
He followed his wife's interest in birdwatching and together they often visited Minsmere Nature Reserve near Saxmundham, Suffolk, and went for walks at Dunwich Heath on the nearby coast, which is also where Mrs Lumsden’s ashes were scattered.
He kept himself fit throughout his life. Never a natural sportsman, he was always enthusiastic, whether playing rugby in his youth, golf, badminton, or cricket. In his thirties. he did his best to learn to swim. He also played cricket in the Beccles 20-over league.
Mr Lumsden often said his happiest years were those after he retired when the couple would set off to cycle around the group of nearby villages, the Saints. He often said how fortunate he was to live in Beccles and, other than annual holidays to the Lake District, never ventured far from home.
After he moved from his home in Darby Road to Dell House Residential Care Home at the end of 2019, dozens took to the Facebook group Views of Old Beccles to post their memories of him.
His son, Peter, shared these with him over the following two years. A recurring theme was the help and encouragement he gave to others and his sense of humour.
Resident May Wright said how grateful she was to him for fixing her front tooth in time for her wedding day, while Rev Philip Cudmore added: “He was a great encouragement in my own training as a reader.”
Former colleague, Steve Keeble, who worked at the practice until 1990, said: “Jim was a huge part of my life, from being my dentist from age five to being my employer and work colleague from 1977 to 1990.
“Who can forget the day when most of Beccles closed due to heavy snowfall, and Jim walked into work from Ringsfield, wearing his vintage Newfoundland snowshoes? I have great memories of working with him. He really cared about all his staff.”
His younger son Michael added: “He used to say that if he was buried, we could write on his gravestone 'Dear friends, let your eyes fall with gravity, Jim Lumsden is filling his last cavity'.
“Another of his jokes was 'what does a dentist say when he dies and arrives at the pearly gates? Open wide’.”
Mr Lumsden died on January 6. He leaves behind two sons, three grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
A memorial service is planned for April 29 at St Luke's Church, Beccles.