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Ronald Ferguson Ingle

East 1940-45

Ronald Ferguson Ingle, Senior Lecturer in Family Medicine, Medical University of South Africa (Born 1927; q. Cambridge/London, 1952; MA, MB, BChir), died from frailty of old age on 28 July 2022.

Ronald Ferguson Ingle was born in Jinan, China, the son of a Baptist medical missionary who was Professor of Surgery at Cheloo University. In 1937 he came to the UK for schooling. While at The Leys, he was evacuated in 1942 to Pitlochry. He studied natural sciences at King’s College, Cambridge, and clinical medicine at King’s College Hospital, London. He did his two years national service as Medical Officer in the Royal Air Force, at RAF Butterworth, Malaya. He trained as a surgeon at RAF Hospital Ely. In 1958 he was posted by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel to All Saints Hospital, Engcobo, Transkei, South Africa to join Dr Pauline Marshall, a Royal Free Hospital graduate who had been the sole doctor there since 1954. Together they looked after a large rural community covering the full range of medical and surgical care. Everyday challenges were the high incidence of tuberculosis with its myriad presentations; serious axe wounds from gang warfare; severe burns; open fractures and gross pathology. His surgery included Neurosurgery and Plastic Surgery. The bed occupancy of the hospital was always over 100%. He learnt to speak Xhosa and his work in indigenous medicine incorporated an understanding of the health beliefs and use of traditional healers of the amaQwathi.

In 1960 he married Dr Marshall and took over as Medical Superintendent. He oversaw expanding the hospital to cope with the increasing demands and staffing, the development of rural clinics and health education. The intense workload eased somewhat after 1963 when they were joined by Dr Martin Browne. Pauline and Ronald left the hospital in 1976, with ‘burn out’. He was briefly Medical Officer to the South African National Antarctic Expedition, before joining the Transkei’s Health Department as Chief Medical Officer of Primary Care. In 1982, tired of being an administrator, he became Tuberculosis Officer in the Health Department at East London. In 1985. he became a Senior Lecturer in Family Medicine at the Medical University of South Africa and supervised Master’s degrees. His research was diverse: child mortality rates in rural Transkei; rural malnutrition; the management of pulmonary tuberculosis; clinical problems in teaching practices and referral rates between trainers and trainees. In his twenty-six journal articles, four journal editorials and twenty-one journal letters, he ranged over subjects from traditional healers, consciousness, chaos theory, dignity in dying, simple anaesthesia in rural settings, wound healing with honey, management of femoral fractures, hypertension and intact blisters, semeions, and the medical menopause. He was awarded two prizes for articles in South African journals.

He became a South African citizen in 1975, identifying with the Progressive Party and the anti-apartheid cause. He retired from clinical work in 1992 and university work in 1997. His wife died two years later. In later life, he and Gill Browne, widow of his earlier colleague at All Saints, became partners.

His powerful intellect and widely questioning mind and problem- solving approach were commented on by many. His interests encompassed the natural world, sailing, woodwork, technology and storytelling. He was a painter and musician. He compiled the permanent PIPER collection of 4000 photographs of Pauline’s Images of the Transkei.

Underpinned by a deep humanity and integrity, his long spiritual journey ended in Humanism.

He leaves behind Gill Browne, his partner of sixteen years, and three nieces.

Words by Rosemary Goodridge (niece)