Dr John Cole, a much-loved Wellington GP for almost 40 years and renowned Somerset singer and conductor, has published his first novel at the age of 77. Dr Cole is now suffering from advanced Motor Neurone Disease but his daughter Alison grew up in Wellington and still lives in the town.
Life as a GP in a small country town was very different 40 years ago. “Dad would be off in the middle of the night and at breakfast he’d be there telling us about the baby he’d delivered,” remembered Alison.
“We’d get to go out on his rounds sometimes, get introduced to the families and be given tea and cake. I was just known as Dr Cole’s daughter and to lots of people in Wellington I still am. It’s really nice.” She also remembers her dad’s Christmas morning visit to the Cottage Hospital dressed as Santa Claus.
Dr Cole’s big project as a young ambitious family doctor was the creation of the Bulford Medical Centre. It moved medicine in Wellington into a more modern era, with the establishment of practices that had a range of support services on the site.It was a major change, yet John and others recognised within ten years of its opening that it was not large enough. Last year, in 2011, John was invited to open the latest replacement Health Centre in Wellington.
In 1983 John and the Wellington Practice became nationally famous for being in the forefront of medical computing. Wellington was among the first in the country to take all medical records onto computer. John recalls going to the bank to borrow £13,000 to fund the new computer system.
Yet in some ways Dr Cole was anything but modern. “I think he was well-known for his appointments over-running. Dad just gave patients as much time as they needed,” said Alison. “It’s probably why he was known as such a caring doctor.”
Dr Cole’s musical career also took off in Wellington with a debut in the Opera Society’s [which he founded]production of O Ye Gods – written by his then senior partner. Then came the Phoenix Singers and orchestral involvements in Taunton and beyond. He also founded the Amici, a renowned choir, in 1994 and Orchestra South West was coaxed into life by Dr Cole.
“Medicine, music and family were his priorities,” remembered Alison. “I’d be going upstairs to bed listening to him play to the piano, relaxing after a day full of patients.”
In his last year of life Dr Cole has turned his creativity to fiction, writing Resolution, a novel based on the lives of three women in the years since the Second War. In the words of the author, “The contraceptive pill, the kitchen revolution and changing social attitudes resulted in a seismic shift for women and society as a whole.”
Resolution [£9.99 paperback] is available in selected bookshops or online at www.johncoleresolution.com. An ebook version is available from Amazon at £4.99.