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Laurence Dopson

(1924 - 2012) – an appreciation 

There is symmetry in writing the obituary of a man who wrote obituaries. In fact, Laurence wrote his last obituary piece for the Nursing Standard only a few days before his death. One of the quirks of meeting people through specialist interest groups is that one never really appreciates why they are renowned in the wider world.

Laurence was one of the pioneering band of enthusiasts who joined the Milestone Society when it was created in 2000, as member no. 30 in our lists.

Laurence Dopson

He joined the Committee of the Society, acting as an elder statesman (he was already 76) with calm judgement and a scholarly view on matters of Constitution, tradition and governance. He seemed to understand the workings of public bodies, such as the Charity Commissioners, and pronounced with some authority on matters that were a mystery to many of us. He also penned articles for specialist magazines to raise the profile of road history, and he remained an advisor to the Committee until his death in June. Despite the challenges of long journeys to reach Society meetings, Laurence and Stella, his close friend and colleague for many years, were regular faces at our gatherings and attended and much enjoyed the Spring meeting at Burton-in-Kendal in Cumbria.

Laurence was a medical journalist with a national reputation for promoting the interests of nursing and nurses. As the first male on the editorial board of the Nursing Times, at a time when the NHS was forming, he knew how to work with groups of disparate people and understand large public bodies. He was indefatigable, still a practicing journalist, writing “obits” for The Independent newspaper well into his 80s.

But he was also a great traditionalist, living in the very small parish of Angersleigh, on the flanks of the Blackdown Hills in Somerset. Milestones were not his only ‘unconventional’ interest; he wrote on topics from lavatories (that at Angersleigh Parish Hall being an obvious inspiration), through The Poor Laws, to keeping alive the old traditions of the King James Bible. A lover of good food and pleasant company, Laurence was one of those quietly knowledgeable English gents from the country whom it was a pleasure to have known and for which the Milestone Society has been blessed.

Alan Rosevear