He was more than just a doctor

I WOULD like to add to Angela Singer s article (December 12) on the late Dr John Middlemiss, a friend for over 30 years. Nobody ever owns anything, he used to say. We are just tenants while we are here, and it s our duty to look after things for future

I WOULD like to add to Angela Singer's article (December 12) on the late Dr John Middlemiss, a friend for over 30 years.

"Nobody ever owns anything," he used to say. "We are just tenants while we are here, and it's our duty to look after things for future generations."

During my time as organist at Godmanchester Parish Church, from 1976 to 1986, he provided expert help with essential mechanical repairs to the vintage Bryceson organ - several intricate parts, including bearings made in 1859, when the organ was built, needed replacing.

Those parts did not conform to current standard measurements, and he volunteered his professional skills in precision engineering to manufacture customised replacements that matched the high quality of Bryceson's Victorian workmanship.

It was Dr Middlemiss's great regret, shared by others including myself, that the gift of a 32-foot contra-trombone rank, acquired in 1985 with the generous help of Mander Organs, the late Councillor Maria Middlemiss, Mrs Mary Dillistone, Oscar George and two other donors, was rejected by the authorities of the time, ultimately being sold to Cromer parish Church, where it was gratefully received.

In addition to his authoritative publications on steam-driven engines, Dr Middlemiss researched the history of the 1745 civic mace, following Godmanchester Town Council's return to independence in 1982. He was appointed mace-bearer and served during the mayoralties of Councillors Pat and Joan Docherty, Brenda Henessey, Martin Hopkinson, Robert Hughes, Janet McCartney, Richard Stokes and Tony Sursham.

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One of his responsibilities was to lead the council into the parish church for ceremonial occasions, providing a certain gravitas that would more than atone for my own shortcomings in misaligning the start of the first hymn at the other end of the church.

As secretary of Huntingdon and Godmanchester Civic Society, Dr Middlemiss played a leading part in the restoration of number 11 Chadley Lane and Tudor Farm, two of Godmanchester's fine timber-framed houses.

His many further contributions to our heritage included the restoration of the handsome cast-iron road-sign at the Causeway's junction with West Street and, with Councillor Maria Middlemiss, the provision of four beautiful cast-aluminium signs that proudly announced Godmanchester's arrival at each of its main boundaries. He was upset when two of these signs were replaced, unannounced, with hackneyed stereotypes.

Dr Middlemiss valued the unfailing support of his wife, Elizabeth, during his final illness. "He wasn't just the town doctor," recalls former mayor Pat Docherty. "He involved himself in everything. With anything that was being done he was always a willing helper."


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