Dr Brian Watterson

THE funeral has taken place of former Saintfield GP Dr Brian Watterson. He was 74.

Held in high esteem in the town and highly respected by his colleagues across the medical profession, Dr Watterson served the Saintfield community with great distinction for 33 years until his retirement in 2005.

Predeceased by his wife Anne, Dr Watterson is survived by his son Paul, daughter Sara, son-in-law Richard and grandchildren Katie, Mollie and Charlotte.

Born in Belfast, Dr Watterson was aged nine when he and his family moved to Singapore where his father worked for the Admiralty.

Upon returning to Belfast a year later, he passed his Eleven Plus at Elmgrove Primary School and won a scholarship to attend RBAI. In 1963 he went to Queen’s University to study medicine.

Dr Watterson returned to Singapore in 1967 where he spent some months doing surgery and ward rounds. As part of his learning experience, he spent time in a leper colony and in an Asian hospital.

Following graduation from Queen’s, he spent his houseman’s year at Belfast City Hospital. He then moved to Ards Hospital as SHO in psychiatry, cardiology and general medicine.

Between 1971 and 1972 he completed his registrar year in Cherryvalley and also in 1972 became a member of the Royal College of General Practitioners, gaining the highest mark in Northern Ireland. 

For this he was given a grant to work in practices in England and Scotland for a month. In the same year he came to Saintfield to join the local practice.

In addition to his GP duties in Saintfield, Dr Watterson was also hospital practitioner in geriatrics in Bangor and Crawfordsburn. As Saintfield kept growing, he had to end the hospital work, much as he enjoyed working with the elderly.

Speaking at his funeral service at Roselawn Crematorium, Saintfield GP Dr David Ross said that when his former colleague arrived in Saintfield, a new health centre had opened the previous year which was one of the first in Northern Ireland. It was also one of the first to have a health visitor attached to the practice.

“The ethos was of a practice looking after families in a traditional way, but not being afraid of innovating and trying new ideas to improve care,” he said, explaining that this ethos was evident throughout Dr Watterson’s career and exists to this day. 

“My first contact with Brian was in 1985 when I was still a junior doctor at the Ulster Hospital. It was around the time I was looking for practices that I might apply to for my GP trainee year and Saintfield was at the top of my list. Three years later, I joined the practice as a partner. 

“When Brian retired, we had been working together for almost 20 years and I couldn’t have asked for a more accommodating, reliable and dependable partner,” he said, highlighting the key role Dr Watterson played along with others to develop a “healthy and vibrant practice”.

Dr Ross added: “Brian had many qualities as a doctor, but if you asked patients to name just one, I suspect many of them would highlight his patience with the elderly, those with complicated problems and those who were worried or concerned.

“In a consultation, Brian made time for people because for him the consultation with that particular patient, at that particular time, was paramount. It explains why at times there were queues in the waiting room. It explains why his surgeries were booked up in advance of him returning from holidays. 

“Many people in this room and many more in the Saintfield area will today be quietly saying ‘thank you Dr Watterson’.”