John Laycock 1921-2009

John Laycock

Until a week before his death John Laycock was probably the oldest medical practitioner working in NSW. He was 88 and still doing 5½ days a week in his practice in Annandale.

His last illness, an aortic aneurism, was brief. He enjoyed discussing his progress with his attending doctors.

John Field Laycock was born in Jamberoo, the only child of Jack Laycock and his wife, Lillian Nelson. Jack, whose father had migrated from England, was a totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner after fighting at Gallipoli. He worked at the navy's victualling yard in Sydney so the family did not suffer the worst of the Depression, but John would write to him with requests and receive replies along the lines of "all in good time".

John won a place at Fort Street Boys High and the family moved to North Strathfield. In his final school year he was a prefect and won a scholarship to study medicine at the University of Sydney. Graduating with honours in 1944, he became a resident medical officer at Sydney Hospital.

Laycock had relatives in Kiama, where he met Barbara Knight, and they were married in Sydney in 1945. In 1947 the Laycocks moved to Wollongong, where John became a ''general physician and surgeon'' and obtained a fellowship of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists. In 1949 he became a radiologist for the government, commuting between Wollongong and Sydney.

He was soon offered a post in the Netherlands to screen potential migrants. The family spent three years there, returning to Sydney in 1954. By this time Laycock was concerned about the effects of prolonged exposure to radiation associated with his radiology work, so he decided to move into general practice.

He bought a practice in Annandale, and was still there 54 years later. He served as a visiting medical officer at the Queen Victoria Hospital for Women and Babies and Balmain Hospital, and delivered three generations of the one family several times. In addressing patients he always used the honorifics Mr, Mrs and Miss.

The Laycocks moved to Strathfield. In 1980 John and Barbara moved to Hunters Hill and, finally, to Chatswood.

Apart from work, Laycock enjoyed cars. He had been given his driver's licence during World War II even though he had never driven a vehicle. He had done all his training on a chair at home, changing gears with a broomstick. He owned a total of 87 vehicles, including three Rolls Royces.

He established a perpetual prize in his parents' name, the Jack and Lillian Frances Laycock Memorial Prize for surgical dissection, at the University of Sydney's medical school two years ago. John Laycock was a prize-winning preparer of specimens for anatomy lessons, and a knee on which he worked is still on display in the Wilson Museum of Anatomy at the university.

John Laycock is survived by his children, Suzie, Vicki, Phillip and Jenny and 11 grandchildren. Barbara died in 2003.

Harriet Veitch
By permission of the Sydney Morning Herald