Obituary: Dr Sydney Leigh

Dedicated doctor who ran post-war medical clinics for Far East service personnel.


Newcastle GP Dr Sydney Leigh, who has died aged 94, following a short illness, inherited his central Newcastle practice on the sudden death of his then partner.

The elder son of Libbie and Nathan Leigh, Sydney Leigh was born in Newcastle, and proved a bright scholar at his local Rutherford School. At the age of 17 he was accepted to study medicine at Kings College Medical School, Newcastle upon Tyne, (then part of Durham University). He qualified aged 22, at the end of the Second World War.

He was immediately recruited for National Service and posted as an Army Captain to the Far East where he ran medical clinics for service personnel and local people.

Promoted to Acting Major he continued this work until he returned to the Newcastle practice which he subsequently headed. At this point he decided to change the name to The Saville Medical Group, and it became one of the largest general practices in the area.

As a GP he had a great interest in respiratory diseases and worked in this field, taking clinics at local hospitals, while still fitting in his patients during surgery hours and home visits.

His dedication to his profession led him to become Chairman of his local Medical Committee, Medical Adviser for the Family Health Services Authority, and eventually President of the Newcastle branch of The British Medical Association.

A keen and respected bridge player, his wife Phyllis (née Hurst) whom he married in 1952, recalled a trip to London where he left her with friends to play competitive bridge at Crockfords and then used his winnings to fund more medical text books.

He played competitive bridge locally and nationally throughout his life.

Sydney Leigh’s other great interests were opera and art and he was in high demand to speak at local clubs and societies. In his youth he had been a keen athlete and a golfer. He continued to play at least one round of golf weekly well into his nineties.

Another great interest was supporting Newcastle United Football Club, taking the mixed fortunes of his beloved team personally. He would return from a home match elated or despondent, depending on the results, but he still faithfully attended every home game with optimism.

The Leighs were members of the United Hebrew Congregation and Sydney attended Shabbat shul services every week, supporting the Newcastle community at most functions, particularly Phyllis’s work for WIZO.

Phyllis and Sydney had two daughters, Barbara and Debra who, after university, settled with their husbands in Manchester and London respectively. He is survived by Phyllis, Barbara, Debra, sons in law Nick and Barry, his four married granddaughters and their husbands, four great grandchildren, sister in law Sylvia and niece Mindy. Sadly his younger brother Gordon, a solicitor, predeceased him. He is remembered for his positive outlook on life, his love for his family and by grateful patients.

Dr Sydney Leigh: born January 13, 1923. Died April 29, 2017.

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