OBITUARY: Dr Richard Wood
27th December 1946 – 15th December 2017
by Graham Durrant
On 21 December 2017, the Winter Solstice, five members of the Whitby Writers Group (WWG) including myself attended a gathering at the Royal George in Staithes, North Yorkshire, to say a fond farewell to the late Dr Richard Wood, who died on 15 December 2017 after a brave battle against cancer. Also present were Richard’s close family: his wife Lindsay and their three children, Suzanna, Jackson and Zaziah; her partner Jackie, and Suzanna’s husband Milo and their four children Phoenix, Levi, Rio, and Angus.
It was a sad but not particularly solemn occasion, starting with a short film on Richard’s life made by his son Jackson. It included interviews with Richard’s friends and family, plus Richard himself talking about his education at Harrow and his training in the early 70s at St Mary’s Medical School in Paddington. The film continued with photos of his family life in London and subsequently Staithes where he practiced as a GP, concluding with his own assessment of his life as having been a near-perfect one.
Also included were photos of his daughter Suzanna’s marriage to Milo and their family life, with mention of Richard’s many interests and eccentricities, how he loved strong dark chocolate and building traditional stringed instruments.
One friend spoke on film of Richard’s great sense of humour, his personal war on political correctness, and his manner of plain speaking sprinkled with perfectly pronounced profanities. He described Richard as extremely intelligent and never bored, or boring.
I sang a song: The Lonesome Pilgrim, and WWG member Jenny Hill reminisced on her series of public performances with Richard, plus another WWG member Jonathan Atkinson, to raise funds for the Motor Neurone Disease Association (MNDA). Other WWG members then read out a selection of Richard’s writings to the assembled guests. These included excerpts from Richard’s book: My Lute is a Time Capsule, which he sold personally to raise funds for Freedom From Torture, plus a poem: Epitaph for an Astronaut, read by WWG member Sandra Bielby.
The event concluded with Richard’s son-in-law Milo playing the actual mandolin Richard himself had built: both well-made and well-played. Richard’s younger daughter Zaziah courageously thanked everyone for coming, and for all the help and support the family had received prior to Richard’s death. She also spoke of Richard’s involvement with, and passion for, the Whitby Writers Group.
I have known Richard and his family for 10 years. He was one of life’s wonderful eccentrics and an inspiration to others, to whom he gave the gift of confidence in themselves. Shortly after meeting him for the first time, he corrected me on my grammar. “Richard,” I said, “I am profoundly dyslexic and I left school at 15. You have had the benefit of a public school education in Classics at Harrow. Isn’t it unfair of you to criticise my grammar?”
Richard replied, “That’s a load of b*llocks, Graham. The only thing they teach you at Harrow or any public school is to pretend you know everything, and get the people who do know to do it all for you.”
I am proud to recall that before he died I got to thank him for introducing me to the Whitby Writers Group, which has given me the support and confidence I needed to finish my autobiography and to continue writing on more general subjects. That is something for which I shall be forever grateful.
Richard’s friends and family will miss him very much. Let me finish by wishing them all a gentle healing plus lasting contentment in the memory of this wonderful soul who has been woven into the tapestry of our lives. Rest In Peace, Richard.
5 February, 2018