Memorial meeting to David Stark Murray

Socialism & Health

Wednesday 10th May 1978 7 p.m. in The Grand Committee Room, Westminster Hall, House of Commons, London, S.W.I.

Dr. Maurice Miller, MP, Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party Health Group took the chair and represented the Labour Party. In opening the proceedings Dr. Miller said it was fitting that the memorial meeting to Dr David Stark Murray should take place during the 30th Anniversary Year and in the House of Commons since he made such a very great contribution to the creation of the NHS and passing of the Act in the House in 1948. He welcomed Baroness Jennie Lee, widow of The Rt. Hon. Aneurin Bevan.

David Stark Murray had, Dr. Miller said, exploded the pretentiousness in his own profession and also of politics.  Dr. Miller had joined the SMA in his student days and was greatly honoured to take the chair at the memorial meeting.

Dr. Leslie Hilliard (see enclosed notes) (not located)

Dr. Meade from Kingston Hospital spoke of Dr. Murray’s professional life. When Dr. Murray had come to Kingston Hospital as Consultant pathologist the pathology department had consisted on one small room.  David Murray had believed fervently in an integrated service – even before the NHS came into being. He had seen it as the duty of hospital pathologists to offer a service not only in the hospitals but to the GPs and the local authority health services.  Fellow pathologists had strongly opposed this view but Dr. Murray had given such a service and it was now accepted by the profession.

Dr. Elizabeth Bunbury paid tribute to the work of David Murray for the SMA, but he was a man of very wide interests and displayed an astonishing knowledge of poetry and the arts and innumerable other subjects unconnected with medicine. He was indefatigable in his work and propaganda for the NHS.  During the war people were determined to have a fairer society after the war was over. This was crystalised in the Beveridge Report in 1943, which supported the conception already propounded by the SMA, of a National Health Service. Then David’s work reached an even greater intensity all over the country.  The Coalition Government produced a White Paper which whittled down the original proposals and David worked unbelievably hard, insisting on the fundamental principles of a Health service free at the time of use, elected representatives on all governing bodies, and no private practice.

Richard Clements (Editor of Tribune) said David was an editor and contributor based on human understanding and tolerance. His deepest quality was his tolerance of other people.  He put forward difficult medical problems very simply, yet he never spoke or wrote down to lay people. If he disagreed with one it was not in anger – and he was usually right. David was imbued with a deep socialism and was a very kindly man. In the last few weeks of his life he continued to serve the cause of socialism. – A totally sincere socialist. His determination to see a democratic health service underlined his greatness.

Victor Freeman, introducing extracts from written tributes received, said he had known David for forty years. (See letters below)

Arthur Blenkinsop, MP first met David when he, Arthur was the District Secretary of a Labour Party in the North East. “David was amazingly willing to go anywhere health matters were being argued. Later when Arthur Blenkinsop joined the Ministry of Health in 1948 David was a valued friend and critic. He was not just an easy friend. He was bitter about what had not been achieved. He was not willing to accept compromise, we valued him all the more for the vigour of his criticism as well as admiring his determination to secure real influence on the NHS.  He hated compromise. He always wanted to see closer association between all health workers. He would have fought vigorously against the growing narrowness of his profession. He wanted to see the NHS not only for -its direct benefits but also as a part of a wider socialist belief – totally contrary to our money based society, The best tribute to David would be to defend the N.H.S. and organise against the attacks which will come and to go on and achieve what David stood for.

Mr John Brown spoke of the high esteem in which the South Place Ethical Society held David.  They were proud to have attracted to their ranks such an outstanding humanitarian.

Dr Donald Swann before some readings, spoke of his Father Dr. Herbert Swann. His father would wish to pay his tribute to David Stark Murray.  Dr Swann had said the greatest day of his professional life was when he did not have to ask his patients to pay him for his services.  That had owed so much to David Stark Murray. David had spoken so eloquently at his Father’s funeral and he was struck by his religious energy.

Jennie Lee said that during the intense struggle to create the NHS, David was “impossible”. There was to be no compromise – but Nye Bevan had welcomed his uncompromising stand – he welcomed the pressure to counterbalance the enormous pressure from the other side.  Jennie Lee was delighted that David’s contributing had been recognised by his being the first Fellow of the Aneurin Bevan Memorial Fellowship instituted by the Indian Government. It was a mistake to think that bringing the NHS into being was plain sailing, it had been extremely difficult and we almost did not get an NHS.  She had said that David was “impossible” but it was only through impossible people like him that things got done. It was a disgrace that 30 years after its inception the NHS was still so far from the dream which David Murray and Nye Bevan had. We had betrayed them. ‘She only hoped that there were among the younger generation in the SMA people with David’s courage and vision who would also prove impossible until the dream was achieved.

Laurie Pavitt, MP said it was his privilege to speak of a friendship which went back to before the last war. He wished to pay tribute not only to David but also to Jean Murray. David was such a widely varied personality. It would need a very long time to cover the various facets of his personality and of his work.  It was his virtue never to be weary of well doing. If a battle were won today he was always eager to go on fighting tomorrow until we got all we wanted. David, when others “felt disheartened and defeated, gave you the courage and the tools to go on. David had worked hard to publicise socialised medicine in the U.S.A and if that country got a bill introducing any measure of it, it would owe so much to David Murray.  In paying our tribute to David we must say “OK David, it is not yet what we want and as you did not rest, neither shall we”.

Eric Messer referred to David’s political skill.  He always knew exactly when to move.  He was completely dedicated to the democratisation of the NHS.

From Audrey Jupp

The first time I met David was when I was short listed for the job of General Secretary of the SMA in the autumn of 1954. When I looked down the long table to the other end where David was “in the chair’* of the interviewing committee, I felt at once that here was someone that I should be able to work with in complete harmony. I got the job and my first impression proved to be true. As David was the President during the whole of the almost eight years I was Gen Sec. he was in a sense “my boss” He made those eight years the happiest of my working life.

I always felt that he was giving me the fullest possible support. He was generous with his praise and unlike many professional people he did not treat me, as a lay man, as any less deserving of respect than his professional colleagues.  I was the “expert” on organisation and publicity and so far as he was concerned my view on this whole area of the SMA’s work was given priority,

Above all he was a good friend. We used to prepare press releases for the SMA together. He was of course the only person who could issue press statements in between meetings of the EC and Council of the SMA. Often I would draft something on a topic in the press that morning, ring him and he would either accept it or might make minor amendments. On other occasions he would have drafted something and rung me. If when this release was repeated to the EC or Council, if the committee thought the release praiseworthy he would at once say “Audrey drafted it” but if the reaction was critical than he would at once say “Oh I’m sorry you don’t like it, I thought it suitable” when I drafted it even when in fact I had drafted it.

I think that David knew me very well and knew that in spite of the fact that when I came to the SMA I was already an experienced political organiser and had a reasonable reputation nevertheless my self-confidence was (and is) very easily destroyed by criticism so he would not let me bear the brunt of any criticism however slight.

On one occasion it had been suggested by Elizabeth and agreed that we should have labels for people attending a weekend school to put their names on and pin on themselves (a practice it was known I did not like) but I genuinely did forget. When at a session to discuss future Schools Elizabeth asked why we didn’t have them David jumped in before I could apologise and said he had thought about it and decided it was better not to have them.

What deeply impressed me was the deep respect in which everyone in the SMA held David. He had no difficulty in maintaining order as the chairman of any SMA meeting however controversial the subject might be. The result of this was as far as I was concerned that if he defended me no one would pursue any criticism of me. On one occasion I had put an advertisement in the Labour press for a weekend school at which two speakers were Labour Party and two Communists. By a coincidence the names of the Labour party pair were alphabetically before the Communists and by careless copying of the text one line was left out and it was the line which contained the two CP speakers. When the ad, appeared one of the irate CP speakers rang David and accused me of deliberately discriminating because of political bias. Apparently David immediately went into the attack and said that he was entitled to complain about what was clearly carelessness but he was not entitled to impugn the Gen. Sec’s integrity. The complainant was so dashed by David’s attack that he said no more about it,

When I had been with the SMA for four or five years David told me that his only regret so far as I was concerned was that I had not been recruited by the SMA years before 1955 – and it was my regret too.

When I told David I was leaving the SMA for the Nyasaland Student’s office he said that while he much regretted it for himself and the SMA, he felt that I would get a better deal from Dr. Banda. I got more money but in every other respect he was in fact quite wrong.

I was uneasy in my new job because I knew that the British civil servants resented my appointment to Nyasaland office and would do anything to get rid of me (they succeeded eight years later), so I asked for references from people I had worked with and for in politics – among them David. The following is the reference he gave me (by the way he’d only known me 8 ½   years but he thought 12 years sounded better.

“To whom it may concern: Miss Audrey Jupp

24th May 1963

I have known Miss Audrey Jupp for some 12 years and have great pleasure in writing a few words about her. If she is applying for a post her application will show that she has had a very wide experience in office administration of various types and in addition has acted in capacities which have required wide knowledge of both business and political affairs. Such an application however, will not reflect the energy she applies to problems that arise in any posts she holds, nor to her ability to work out best methods of dealing with a variety of subjects.

She is a very pleasant person to work with and I have never known her, even when things have not been going smoothly to put blame on anyone else or to behave other than pleasantly even to those who might have contributed to her troubles.

This letter is, of course necessarily phrased in very general terms but I cannot imagine Miss Jupp applying for apost for which I would not be prepared to support her in the very strongest terms.

D. Stark Murray, B.Sc. MB Ch.B.

From T.C. Thomas

David Stark Murray ——— 30 years of comradeship and friendship

I joined the S.M.A. in 1941 during the war but I did not become active immediately. It was in 1946-7 that I went to any of their meetings, eventually becoming a member of Council and ultimately a member of the Executive Committee; the late Somerville Hastings was the then President. I was instrumental with other S.M.A. members living in the North West Middlesex area in forming a Branch of the S.M.A. to function in the Willesden, Wembley, Harrow and Uxbridge sectors; this has remained throughout the years to become the basis of the London & Home Counties Branch by amalgamation of all the existing smaller Branches. It was then during the latter years of Somerville that the gifts for leadership and after his death, that David Stark Murray exhibited and pursued until his own death.

He was long established as Editor of Medicine Today and Tomorrow by this time and his speaking activities in the lead up to the introduction of the National Health Service throughout the U.K. kindled and developed the nation-wide reputation he enjoyed in the Labour, Co-operative and Trade Union Movements, as a Pioneer in Health Service Politics.

His speaking engagements would take him throughout the U.K. to union branch meetings, or to the ward labour parties; to co-op guild and political gatherings, to women’s’ guild meetings; to election platforms. He once stood as a Parliamentary Labour candidate, but he had no stomach for this hurly-burly. He would talk to the Ministers with other S.M.A. colleagues on all aspects of Health legislation, with Aneurin Bevan, with Hilary Marquand, with Kenneth Robinson, with Dick Crossman, with Barbara Castle and David Owen, and more recently with David Ennals. These official consultations and collaborations cover a period of over 33 years. His reports back to the S.M.A. Members throughout the years, indicated the clear thinking, often obstinate opinionated stance he would take, but his gentleness and kindliness of manner would cause no animosity or friction. These traits he would pursue also within the S.M.A. He did not set-up any factions or allow personal animosities to develop among members, for he was courteous and friendly towards everyone. As a Scotsman he was catholic in his tastes; a keen sports fan especially rugby and soccer or football; we saw many a game together at Wembley. As a Welshman England rugby or football were our joint hates.

My most intimate contact with him was as members of an S.M.A. delegation to the Soviet Union at the invitation of the Medical Workers Union of the U.S.S.R. Our other comrades were Dr David Kerr one-time M.P, and our then S.M.A. Hon Secretary Fred Ballard, a dentist who died some years ago and Harry Daila, an optician, then and as now the Hon Sec of the S.M.A, Ophthalmic Group. This was in 1958 and the first official delegation from the S.M.A. to the Soviet Union. It was a multi-disciplinary team and as a Pharmacist I was able to request visits to the Polyclinics and to their Pharmacies, their Aptaki. My colleagues were also able to make their specific requests. We had previous to our going been asked by the Medical Workers Union for guidance as to our requests. Consequently when we arrived in Moscow our hosts had drawn up a schedule of visits, interviews, discussions and an exciting leisure programme, in each city and town we visited.

The number of Toasts end the amount of Vodka were to me the first problems as a near tee-totaller. However I noticed the Treasurer of the Medical Workers Union put mineral water in his Vodka glass, and I followed suit. My other colleagues appeared to me to also have some minor problems for one or two non-appearances at breakfast time did occur. We were greeted with the utmost friendliness and cordiality, and David Stark Murray as the delegation leader responded with cordial good humour. We spent 18 days of intense interest and delight. Our hosts would burst into song and we would join in, with our mixture of English, Scottish, Welsh and Jewish voices.

We were in Moscow and on the  Red Square for the 1958 Red Square Parade. Our companions in the coach to the Red Square were the Hungarians. In the front row of overseas visitors were the Chinese and our immediate guests were the Egyptians. It was cold and drizzly which spoiled the day but for me not the occasion. David Stark Murray was an excellent camera man and took a very wide range of photos over the years and during his visits abroad on behalf of the S.M.A. and for the N.H.S, to the U.S.A. to India, to the E.E.C. countries. To my knowledge his total collection of stills and cine photos must be very interesting.

The itinerary prepared by our Russian comrades included visits to Leningrad, Krasnodar for re-fuelling, Sochi on the Baltic coast, than on to Stalingrad where we were shown a Film of the Battle for Stalingrad. This was very moving. From Stalingrad we were ferried across the Volga to visit a new town being established, to study their hospitals, poly-clinics and pharmacies. In between the professional content of our activities, we were taken to the Bolshoi to see ballet, to the puppet show and to the Lenin Stadium for an athletic display and a football match. In the stadium was Khrushchev and Nasser.  In Leningrad we were taken to the circus with the clown Poppy as the star. We also visited the Hermitage and the Summer Palace. In Sochi we stayed in a workers’ sanatorium and visited Thermaland Sulphur Baths.

Throughout this strenuous tour David Stark Murray retained his good humour and unflappability which contributed greatly to its success and to the excellent relationships which were built up and remained among its members. Although David did most of the speaking on our behalf we were all given the opportunities to do so at formal and informal gatherings. I have spent some time on this aspect of our intimate relationship as it highlights his feeling of companionship and comradeliness.

The whole of these years of my knowledge of him he had been the Editor of Medicine Today and Tomorrow and thus had shaped the thinking of the S.M.A and of course continued his speaking engagements. His retirement from the Editorship in the late 1960s ended a reign as famous in their contrary ways as that of Kingsley Martin from the New Statesman. David’s successors have a hard task to match his skills and expertise.

One of the features of S.M.A activities over the years has been its Week-end schools. David and Jean were always guests, during the last few years because of increasing costs in travel to the venues and the cost of accommodation, Week-end schools are not viable and the S.M.A has used Day Seminars to keep in touch with the various working-class movements of which it is a special part, being responsible for health and social policies. David Stark Murray’s knowledge of specialist speakers and of suitable subject matter was used by the organisers of weekend schools. Now during these latter years, his collaboration has been much sought and utilised. He would speak or take the chair whenever asked and made himself available for any S.H.A. task or call. Up to the last he would attend London Branch House of Commons meetings. During 1977 he received a request to speak at a Conference in West Wales. He want although he had not been too well prior to this engagement.

His regular attendance at Annual Conferences, at Council and Executive meetings was another unique feature of his constancy and loyalty. He was a strong debater and always prepared his brief, seldom would he come unprepared for any of the meetings. Consequently he was listened to and heeded by his colleagues on the many committees and councils he attended. He had an excellent memory and would quote much of what had been agreed as S.M.A policy over the years. So much of this policy had been argued for by him on platforms and in Medicine Today and Tomorrow.

Evidence to the Royal Commission on the National Health Service was one of the last occasions on which his ready pen and facile thinking contributed to the debate and discussion. He prepared his own Evidence but he also discussed and contributed to the Evidence prepared by the S.M.A. Council for submission to the Royal Commission. He was a strong Advocate of the Scottish system of the organisation and administration of the N.H.S, and invariably quoted the Scottish system in discussions on policy within the S.M.A.

The task of those who remain in the S.M.A at the present time is to continue his work and purpose in the lifetime of his campaigning for a socialist national health service, so that it will not have been in vain but rather act as an inspiration and guidance in our contribution towards these same goals. His life could be aptly described as unfinished business – which can be said of all our lives.