Burns Night Report


President Dr Chris Westwood              Secretary Mr Jonathan Frappell

Friday 25 January 2019

Derriford Centre for Health & Wellbeing


Burns Dinner and ceilidh


The piper Tim Healy greeted the guests as they congregated in the bar and took their seats at three long tables.  They were welcomed on behalf of the Society by the membership secretary before standing for the Selkirk Grace. The haggis was piped in and addressed by Bob Freeman.

After the traditional main course of haggis, neeps and tatties, served by Tracey Gardner’s magnificent crew, medical student Alex Gordon recited a witty Immortal Memory in praise of Robert Burns’ creativity and the resilience of the Bard’s wife, Jean Armour. His speech was skilfully crafted by himself and Jenna Barnett, who was sadly prevented by family illness from addressing us.

The event was sold out and attended by 93 people, including the Hon Sec of the Society, 23 Medical Society members, Professor Rob Sneyd, Emeritus Dean of the Medical School, 14 students, our dance tutor Valerie Harman and three band members: Lynn, John and Mel. Between courses, Robert Jeffery recited “My love is like a red, red rose” before proposing the Toast to The Lassies and Sue Frappell responded hilariously in rhyme and toasted the Laddies.

After dessert, coffee and shortbread were served in the bar the guests danced to Dawntreader Ceilidh Band, commencing with a Circassian Circle, Gay Gordons and Dashing White Sergeant.  The guests joined in for a second Eightsome Reel in eight square sets after a demonstration by members of the student dance troupe and they had a chance to recover while the students performed the Gramachie Strathspey. It was then time for an energetic Strip the Willow, Mairi’s Wedding, a final polka and Auld Lang Syne to finish at 11.30pm.

The hall, Dawntreader Ceilidh Band and piper have been rebooked for Fri 24 January 2020.  Next year, there will be discounts for members, and groups that book early.  I would welcome a volunteer to help organise the event - ideally, one of the students staying in Plymouth for foundation training, as sadly no trainee doctors attended this year.

Robert Jeffery, Membership Secretary of Plymouth Medical Society


President's Report 2017-2018

Report by Mr Robert Jeffery on the 2017/18 PMS season.



President’s report 27 April 2018

Mr Robert Jeffery, President 2017-18

It is with great pleasure that I will shortly hand over the Presidency to Dr Chris Westwood, following the convention that the Society’s President alternates between doctors working in primary and secondary care. 

We have continued the Friday evening talks, attracting attendances of 38 to 47 to talks on Dartmoor Rescue, a Falklands hospital ship, land mines, yachting, plankton, conservation and the Plymouth breakwater. A joint medico-legal meeting was kindly hosted by Enable Law on 27 September. The President delivered a eulogy to the Hospital’s Blue Cedar. Prof Sir John Tooke explored “Science and Medicine in the post-truth era” with an audience which included several members of staff from the Medical School.  Dr Lucy Obolensky gave an inspiring account of Ethics in Media Medicine, attended by 66 members and guests including doctors, medical students and families, as she scaled Kilimanjaro, promoted gender equality with the Masai and shared a hot air balloon with Sir David Attenborough.  Thirty eight enjoyed the pre-talk hot buffet, compared with about 20 who stay to the post-talk dinners. Plymouth Medical Society provided sponsorship for the inaugural Peninsula Medical School Christmas Show “No Ideas, Concerning Expectations”; next year’s is already planned.

The Council has worked together tirelessly, including the Hon Treasurer John Mahony, student representative Neil Marshall, and Jonathan Frappell, Hon Secretary.  We arranged activities to widen the appeal of the Society.  Jonathan organized outings to the Theatre Royal, to see Private Lives, Hamlet and Tosca, each attended by at least 40 members and guests.  Neil planned and umpired the Regatta on 7 October 2017, concluding with a black-tie dinner at the Royal Western Yacht Club.  Six yachts, crewed by doctors and medical students, took part in 3 races in lively weather, and Ju Kyu skippered by Peter Rowe emerged as the winner.  There are plans for next year’s regatta on 20 October 2018.

A group of doctors and medical students gave a demonstration of the Eightsome Reel at the Burns dinner and ceilidh on 19 February, before 5 sets managed a passable imitation and all finished together!  Tim Healy piped in the magnificent haggis and Dr Simon Martin addressed it in a rich Scottish dialect with fitting gestures.  Prof Bob Freeman delivered the Immortal Memory, Prof Rob Sneyd toasted the lassies and Dr Nirosha Gunatillake replied, before we pushed the tables aside to dance to Dawntreader Ceilidh Band.

The Society has a long and proud history. Plymouth Medical Society was founded in 1794, after similar Societies in Edinburgh, London, Colchester and Aberdeen and before the British Medical Association in 1832. The founder members had no grand rounds, postgraduate courses or specialist societies and the Society provided much needed professional development and support.  Plymouth Medical Centre opened in 1969 and a new one built at Derriford in 1989. 

The Membership of working doctors has declined in recent decades and our subscription income fell from £6.4K in 2013 to £5.3K in 2016. Most consultants and GPs joined automatically in the 1990s, and it is now rare for newly appointed doctors to join the Society. I believe that there is still a place for local Medical Societies, which bring together doctors working in the community and hospitals to enjoy a range of professional and social activities.

We bore a deficit of about £250 on most of our evening talks and a deficit of £1.5K on the Burns supper, which was pitched to reward members and attract new ones. These were covered by our subscription income and savings in postage costs achieved by the move to electronic communications. Our new Website has greater functionality, building on the sterling work of John Chapman, and we have modernised the Rules.

The core group of active members comprises a faithful band of mainly retired doctors who enjoy meeting for Friday evening talks, with a 3 course dinner afterwards.  The Society must continue to meet the needs of this valued group of friends.  I hope that newly appointed doctors will join and shape the Society. We must offer a variety of activities on days and at times that appeal to our potential constituency of working and retired doctors, trainees, students and non-medics. This could include some high profile speakers and a few key events in the year, offered at a discount to members and designed to attract new members.

This year, 2 GPs, 6 consultants, 2 trainees, 6 retired doctors and 79 medical students joined the Society. Inevitably, some of the students will drift away.  We must encourage students to stay on as trainees and working consultants and GPs to join and take the Society forward.

I would like to pay tribute to Meriel Kitson, John Chapman and Brian Thurston, who have served the Society for very many years and are now standing down from the Council to enjoy the Society’s activities from the back benches, to the administrator, Sarah Eccles, and to my wife Alison, who has provided constant support during the year.

It has been an honour to serve as President and I wish the Members, Council and incoming President all the best for 2018-19.