Dr. D.S.Chowdhary 1902-1959 by his Daughter

Dr Chowdhary with his Daimler

My father, Dr Dharm Sheel Chowdhary was born in a small village in Punjab India in 1902. He was sent to a Hindu boarding school at the age of 7 where the regime was physically  strict and the academic teachings intense, equipping him with an extensive knowledge of Indian and Persian literature, Hindu philosophy and religious teachings and a good knowledge of the ancient language of Sanskrit. On graduating, he was ordained as a Hindu priest but as far as I am aware did not go on to practise as such, choosing instead to enrol at Lahore Medical College to study medicine.  He graduated with an MBBS in 1927 and came to London for post graduate studies the following year. He obtained further qualifications in Edinburgh and Liverpool as well as London. In 1931 he joined Dr Gilder’s practice in Laindon, purchasing the practice from him when he retired. My parents had married before my father came to England and my mother joined him in Laindon in 1932 providing much needed support. After a short spell living at York Villa, they moved to Daisybank, a four bed roomed house in the High Road with a large garden at the back and the surgery at the side. Their son Vijay later known as George was born in 1935. He sadly died in 2000. Their daughter Shakuntala now known as Shakun was born in 1938 (myself).

My Father’s reputation as an approachable hard working, family doctor was soon established. The combination of his medical skills and his compassionate nature enabled him to more than fulfil the expectations of his patients. People came to regard him as a true friend and would seek his advice about all sorts of issues as his wisdom and knowledge were much respected. He made it a point of getting to know his patients well and the attention and care he gave to each of them was not compromised, home visits and surgery consultations were never subject to time limits, even when the practice expanded and the number of patients increased to 10,000. He is said to have sat by the bedside of dying patients giving comfort by reading their favourite pieces from the bible or simply talking to them as a friend. On the other end of the spectrum, he often spent hours with young mothers having a difficult lengthy labour before giving birth. If he was delayed for morning surgery an announcement would be made in the waiting room but most patients would just stay put awaiting his return without complaint.   His commitment to his patients meant however that he paid a heavy price as even though he took on assistants, his working hours stretched from 8:30am to 9 – 10 pm with a break during the middle of the day for lunch at home. After evening surgery I remember him staggering in, looking tired out and sitting down to a delicious curry supper prepared by my mother who was a wonderful cook.  These meals were clearly a highpoint of his day as he loved spicy Indian food with lots of chillies – after finishing, he would mop his brow – go and sit in his armchair and invariably fall asleep. This was not however necessarily the end of his day for the telephone might ring and off he would go to visit an emergency case or deliver a baby. This could take all night and we never knew when to expect him back. On other occasions he would be called out to deal with domestic violence, child abuse and many other social problems which today would be dealt with by social workers and mental health professionals. While he was out, my mother was left to cope with any other distressed folk who telephoned or rang the doorbell.  Callers were invariably asked in for a cup of tea and a chat and left feeling calmed by her comforting presence.

Accident and emergency cases were also frequently dealt with at the Daisybank surgery particularly at weekends. As a child I saw some gorey sights which often gave me nightmares. During the war, my father served in the Civil Defence and was in charge of the Laindon First Aid Post attending to bomb casualties. He was also a captain in the Home Guard. In recognition of his 29 year record of voluntary service as Divisional Surgeon for St John’s Ambulance Brigade he was appointed a Serving Brother in the Order of St John of Jerusalem.

After a series of doctors, Dr Noel Rubie joined my father in 1952. A most supportive colleague, he subsequently became a partner in the practise, thus alleviating some of my father’s heavy workload and becoming a lifelong friend.

My father became affectionately known as Doc or Uncle Doc to children. He always drove a Daimler, which he said was his one extravagance. He was therefore easily identified as he did his rounds around Laindon and the surrounding area. He had what we would now call a wicked sense of humour and was a great raconteur of jokes both in English and Punjabi.

Both my parents became thoroughly integrated in the local community; their interest in local organisations and events was reflected in their membership of various committees and the support and encouragement they gave. They also maintained an Indian identity and kept links with the Indian community in London , becoming founder members of the Hindu Association of Great Britain, The Punjabi Society and the India Club. My mother participated in the campaign for Indian independence.

Tragically, my father died suddenly in Billericay Hospital on 30th December 1959 from a cerebral haemorrhage. He was only 57 years old. People in Laindon were shocked and distressed by this great loss to the local community. I recall seeing crowds of people standing still on the pavement in the High Road as the funeral cortege drove by on its way to Southend Crematorium where again there were so many mourners that some had to stand outside.   Among the many letters of condolence was one which said “he was deeply loved by thousands of people in the district where he had made his home, many of them enjoying life today because of his skill and self-sacrificing sense of duty….to have come from far away to settle in a strange land and then to have earned such a universal measure of esteem and affection is a tribute to the worthiness of a man who will not be forgotten.”

Chowdhary County Primary School was built in 1966, seven years after his death and named after him by popular demand. The inscription on the plaque read: “To honour the memory of Dr Dharm Sheel Chowdhary who gave devoted service to the people of Laindon and the local schools throughout the period from 1931 – 1959.”  The school was closed in July 1996 due to falling numbers and decay of the 1960s building. After my mother’s death in January 1996, a service in memory of both my parents took place in St Nicholas Church on 19th April of that year.  Many of the Chowdhary School children attended.

My father’s life and achievements have been a great inspiration to many not least myself and it is heartening to know that there is still interest in hearing about his life and that his memory lives on in our hearts.

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  • My family loved Dr Chowdhary
    He came on a home visit when I was 11 and I was trying to peel the potatoes as my mother was ill, Dr Chowdary told me to move aside and he peeled them for me – lovely manl

    By Ellen Rowe (28/01/2024)
  • Hi Stephen White I have been trying remember you at first assuming you had come to our house …not that we had a garden room! Then finding you again at Laindon High Road School, realised it was there, you had met my mother in her role as one of the governors. Thanks for sharing your memory of her.

    By Shakun Banfield (Chowdhary) (12/02/2021)
  • Dear Janet, I’ve only just seen your message. Lovely to hear from you. Of course I remember both yourself, your sister Christine and your mother well and coming round behind Doris the hairdresser to your front door. We did have lots of fun . My brother George (Vijay)who sadly died in 2000 was very fond of you too. I will certainly pass on your message to Geoff Segal who lives in Denmark. We met when he visited UK a few years ago .
    This website is a wonderful way of bringing old friends together again . You can still buy second-hand editions of my mother’s cookery book on Amazon if you hadn’t managed to find one. Her entire Memoir is also on this website and my article about her if you search Savitri Chowdhary .
    All the best, Shakun

    By Shakun Banfield (Chowdhary) (05/02/2021)
  • Hi Shakun,
    I knew you from Laindon, your mum used to bring us orange juice and biscuits in the garden room about 1952.
    Steve White

    By Stephen White. (04/02/2021)
  • Can you pass a comment to George Segal Denmark. When he was adopted by the Levys, my mother looked after him while his parents went to London on the Jewish Saturday. It was the only time we had a tin of baked beans for tea as a treat. We lived next door and played together as young children although I was two years older. You were the same age as my sister. I often wondered what happened to you? Good to read you are settled and Happy. Janet Clark I also now have Grandchildren

    By Janet Tucker (nee Clark) (03/04/2020)
  • Hello Shakuntala. After many years of wonderful fun together with you and your family including Vijay.
    I always loved he time we spent together and your dear father was a wonderful Doctor to my Family. I also include DR. Rubie. I still have some photos of us and tried unsuccessfully to find your Mother’s cook book. So glad to read these letters about the family. I now live in the Scottish Highlands

    By Janet Clark (03/04/2020)
  • I worked for many years as School Secretary at Chowdhary School. It was such a happy school and I have fond memories of my time there.

    By Val Wotton (24/02/2020)
  • Susan thank you for sharing your memories of my father. I remember you and your brother Roy and his 21st party. I also recall going with my mother to the house in Dry Street.
    On my way to the Manor Mission recently I drove past the site where your father’s garage was, pointing this out to my husband and told him about the family connection. Lovely surprise then to see your comments. Kindest regards and treasured memories. Shakun

    By Shakun Banfield (13/04/2018)
  • Reading all this brought back so many memories as I was born in Langdon Hills in 1946 and Dr Chowdhary was our family Doctor. I remember having a wort burnt off my thumb and it hurt so bad. He was a family friend and my father owned the garage at Langdon Hills and did repairs on his car. My brother went to boarding school in Brentwood and I was supposed to go too, but Dr Chowdhary persuaded my parents not to send me as he said I would be too homesick, so I went to St Johns in Billericay. Dr Chowdhary was also at my brother’s 21st birthday celebration. So many memories of a wonderful man, God bless the family. I now live in Florida. Susan Jones née Veryard.

    By Susan Jones (20/03/2018)
  • Great to see that picture of Dr. Chowdhary.  Is there a photo of Dr. Rubie?  Mum Rose took me to see both to get wellar sooner!  Rene Stacey, all love to you and well done!  Tommy ok? (he was fit when he chucked a brick to splash me!).

    By Roger Wicking (25/03/2016)
  • Thank you Jeff Stacey and Robert Clegg for your kind comments and memories of our close proximity as neighbours and friends in Laindon.  I am so sorry for not responding sooner but have been preoccupied for some time with supporting my husband through various treatments. Thankfully he has now recovered.  I will ask the webmaster to let me have your email addresses so we can communicate directly.

    We attended the Memory Day at the Manor Mission on Saturday and again met some new Laindonites as well as chatting to well loved others. Even more anecdotes and memories of my father shared.  Thanks to everyone organising this splendid event.

    By Shakun Banfield (Chowdhary) (24/03/2016)
  • I read with interest your article on your parents, Dr Chowdhary and his dear wife. My name is Jeff Stacey, I lived in the bungalow between yourselves and the undertaker. My parents Ron and Rene Stacey lived in the bungalow called “Jireh”.

    I sat in my house in the trees and watched you and your brother play tennis, which must have influenced me as I still play tennis to this day! We moved to the north of England in 1969, and my mother is still alive almost 94.

    I would love to be able to talk or email if at all possible, I have just started reviewing the Laindon site.

    Wishing you all the best. Jeff Stacey

    By Jeff Stacey (18/03/2015)
  • What a lovely article about you father Shakun. I am Robert Clegg, grandson of William Clegg and son of Stanley Clegg who lived in Laindon High Road. I’m fairly sure your father was at my birth in Sissinghurst, Langdon Hills in 1946. I remember my mother speaking about him as a splendid doctor.

    By Robert Clegg (09/10/2014)
  • I lived in Laindon until my parents move to the U.S. in 1957.  I remember Dr. Chowdhary very well.  He was always kind, although his waiting room was often crowded.

    Once though, while he was on holiday, I fell out of a tree and broke my arm.  His replacement (not having an X-ray machine handy) just told me to swing the arm around several times a day.  Not the best recommendation.

    By Michael Davies (20/09/2014)
  • My daughter Lorraine is a living tribute to his skill and great compassion. When she was born on 18th March 1945, it was due to his skill that my beloved wife Edna and Lorraine survived. Ante-natal care did not exist in those days and the usually competent midwife had recourse to medical backup. 

    Dr Chowdhary was a much loved family doctor and would walk many miles sometimes down muddy tracks to attend a sick patient. There is a tale of him performing an emergency operation upon a kitchen table in a location where an ambulance could not reach owing to the state of unmade roads. 

    My brother Bill was his chauffuer for a time when the good doctor was unable to drive and Bills’ wife Win also worked as receptionist at his surgery.

    His untimely death was indeed a sad loss to the community Dr Chowdhary served so well. He also found time to be connected to St Johns Ambulance brigade.”We may not see his like again”

    By Henry Rossiter (18/05/2012)
  • Colin – you relate such interesting early memories of my father, So heartening to read and to know that his memory still lives on. Sadly the concept of the family doctor has long since disappeared in the NHS and that integral part of the healing process has been lost. I wonder did you ever deliver our newspapers? I think they may have come from Boons newsagents.

    Joan, so touching to read of your family’s strong link with my father, which continues with his photo still being in your mother’s bedroom after all these years. As we are of similar age, I wonder whether we ever met?

    By Shakun Banfield (13/02/2012)
  • Colin, what lovely comments about Dr Chowdhary. I agree with every one as, I have said before I would not be here had it not been for him and midwife Smith. If there is anyone can recall anything about her I would love to know?

    Colin, I have to ask this did Dr Chowdhary ever stitch your rear end for you as I have vivid memories of you putting a paper though our door in King Edward Road and then running and jumping over the fence, with my dog Snowy hanging on your trousers, as did many that were brave enough to enter our gate at that time. 

    I must say you were very brave and always fought tooth and paw to deliver our paper, so you are still one of my heroes.

    By Gloria Sewell (27/01/2012)
  • Dr. Chowdhary bought me into the world in July 1940, so his must have been the first face I would have “seen”. To this day my mother (102) has his picture in her bedroom. My family knew him well, both as a doctor, friend and District Surgeon of the SJAB.

    By Joan Conner (26/01/2012)
  • Shakun, Many thanks for the interesting story of our Doctor. We were discussing Doctor Chowdhary and Doctor Rubie only yesterday with an old Laindoner, my wife and I met in Chelmsford. 

    I clearly remember when I was four I stood on some sharp metal and had to be rushed to Orsett Hospital for emergency treatment, due to poisoning, in Laindon’S AFS Ambulance. On release I had to have an injection every morning in my rear and this task fell upon your father. However, realising how frightened I was he promised me a 3d bit if I could put up with the pain without crying. A braver boy you would never see, and what a fortune those three pences were! 

    Remembering how tough times were then and that it was before NHS, everybody remembered how the Doctor would not bother too much about charging people and even at four I remember how gentle he was. 

    He also repaired my face a few years later when I had a set to with a car and a kerbstone on the way home from school. He did a very good job of stitching me up and again treated me with kindness. Of course, he had a doctor’s surgery and actually did perform this kind of surgery as needed. The care he provided then is very sadly missed in todays world, where our local doctor’s has only locums on a very temporary basis. I honestly believe Doctor Chowdhary was a man in a million and wish that he could have stayed forever as our doctor.

    By Colin Clarke (26/01/2012)
  • Daphne – It was so moving to read that your mother had a photo of my father near her till she died. Thank you so much for sharing this, it means such a lot to me. Kindest regards.

    By Shakun Banfield (09/12/2011)

  • My mother (Joyce Churms) had Dr Chowdhary’s picture by the side of her bed until the day she died. She held him in very high esteem.

    By Daphne Rowbottam née Churms (02/12/2011)
  • Further to the excellent and extended praise in respect of Dr. Chowdhary, I feel one of his most important attributes has never been mentioned. Laindon was by and large a very poor community and Dr.Chowdhary would  render medical assistance irrespective of a persons ability to pay and is was known that he would accept other items such as eggs or garden produce in lieu.

    Incidentally the picture of Daisybank which has been modernised and is almost unrecognisable to the prewar Daisybank with Butlers Funeral Directors (managed by Mr.Clegg), next door. 

    Another aspect of his character was that while he was a warm and humorous person he also had no hesitation in unceremoniously despatching people who he thought was wasting his time. A truly remarkable man.

    By W.H. Diment (22/09/2011)
  • Dear Shakun I was browsing through images of Laindon and immediately recognized your family’s house, so I delved a little further and found your article. I can endorse your comments insofar as a small boy remembers. I was born in Laindon in 1941. My mother died of milk fever when I was two months old, and I was adopted by her parents, Rose and Mark Levy of Morris’s outfitters in the High Road. Even though we left Laindon when I was seven, I have a very clear memory of your father, and not least of his Daimler in which he drove me to Southend Hospital where I had my tonsils removed. I also have a very clear recollection of you, but as Shakuntala, and of Vijay with whom I went to school at Brentwood. As a young man I moved to Denmark where I have lived for 50 years. I have a wife to whom I have been married for 45 years, a son of 42 and a grandson of one year. It woudl be fantastic to see you if you ever have the occasion to come to Denmark, or perhaps even in England on one of my very rare visits.

    By Geoff Segal (25/08/2011)
  • Great Memories of a great man. I would say a ‘Laindon legend’. One short and amusing memory. he always called my father ‘Mr Blimey’, more amusing than plain old ‘Bellamy’

    By Bruce Bellamy (14/08/2011)
  • Janet – great to read you comments – of course I remember your mother Rosie she was an excellent receptionist and greatly loved by all who came in contact with her… but I don’t remember giving you my hockey stick!!! I hated hockey anyway…. Shakun

    By Shakun Banfield nee Chowdhary (08/08/2011)
  • It was nice to read this article ive heard about your family from my dad and uncle and how they were well respected in both their fields of work.

    By Chris Bigsby (08/08/2011)
  • I can only reiterate everything that has been written about Dr Chowdhary he was a truely wonderful man who got my brother through serious illness during the war. My mother Rosie Cuttler also worked as his receptionist on the evening shift and Shakun I remember having some of your hand me down clothes, I was also given your school hockey stick after you left school, this was subsequently broken by one of my teachers whilst he was playing in a match and much to my mothers annoyance no apology was ever given. Yes your father was a wonderful man I remember him visiting me on a foggy Christmas day after I been ill most of the night before and he said to my mum I can tell she is ill because all her Christmas presents were still unopened at the bottom of my bed!

    By Janet Gadd (04/08/2011)
  • I too remember this Brilliant doctor. Even my now late parents couldn’t praise him enough.

    By Brian Baylis (03/08/2011)
  • I too, remember Dr Chowdhary, many times I sat in the waiting room with my mum back in the early 50s, he even paid a couple of home visits to our house when I had bad tonsilitis, it was the good Doc that got the ball rolling that got those troublesome tonsils out when I was about 7/8, a nice man from memory.

    By Ken Page (26/07/2011)
  • Hello again Anne, I will ask the editor to let you have my e-mail so that we can communicate over my mothers book.

    Hello to Gloria, thanks so much for the story about your birth and the big part my Daddy played in it – I found it so moving and it evoked the many hours we spent as a family awaiting his return hoping for good news about a baby – in your case a miracle baby! I have read your articles – they are so interesting and did put a comment at the end of your reminiscances. Hope you read it! kindest regards Shakun

    By Shakun Banfield (15/07/2011)
  • I can’t claim to have actually known you personally Shakun but we did say Hello to each other occasionally in passing when we were children. I would love to read you mother’s book. Kind regards.

    By Anne Burton (13/07/2011)
  • How lovely to hear about our local doctor, I remember him well when I was a child, he told my grandad the best thing for him was a pint of Guinness. I think I have a booklet written by your mother about her husband.

    By Mary Hawkins (née Pratt) (11/07/2011)
  • It was lovely to read your memories of my father Anne and the procedure at the surgery involving Elsie Finch who was his receptionist. Did we ever meet as children? I was at Markhams Chase school for two years before going to boarding school. My mother’s book is “I made my Home in England” – you are welcome to borrow a copy from me. She also wrote one of the first Indian cookery books published in 1953 still obtainable from Amazon – Indian Cooking by Savitri Chowdhary. Kindest regards, Shakun

    By Shakun Banfield (11/07/2011)
  • Thank you so much for this lovely article. It brought back memories, as I remember being taken to your father’s surgey as a child. No appointments then; it was first come, first served with Miss Finch coming into the waiting room to ask our names so that she could get our records ready for Doctor Chowdhary. In 1946 at the age of 7 I was taken to see your father as I had a stomach ache. He called for an ambulance and I was taken to Orsett Hospital with appendicitis. My grandmother was a regular visitor to the surgery and Doctor would say to her “What’s the matter, waterworks again?” I remember your father and his lively personality very well and also your mother and you and your brother. I believe your mother wrote a book about her life as a doctor’s wife in England. Kind regards.

    By Anne Burton (08/07/2011)
  • I remember as a child on many occasions waiting out in the alley way leading to the waiting room and as it emptied sitting in there slowly moving round until it was your turn and on one occasion being told by Dr Chowdhary that the best cure for me was a walk along Southend Pier.

    By Ken Porter (07/07/2011)
  • Shakun I enjoyed reading your article on this wonderful site. My name is Gloria Sewell, but of course you will not know me, I was born 30th November 1942, a cold winters night in a bungalow called “Lilac” on an unmade road in Laindon called “Beatrice Road”. Your father stayed by my mothers side for two long days and nights while she tried to deliver me, my mother was so ill my father who was stationed in Norway was being flown home by the army. Your father would not leave my mothers side, he even sent my grandad on his bike to pick up something he needed from his surgery. I was eventually born not breathing, but your fathers dedication and determination saved us both on that night for which I am eternally grateful. After that whenever my mother took me to the surgery he called me his miracle baby. (On one occasion after uncle docs death your mother referred to me as that at the anti natal clinic where I was under nurse Tricky having my first son 1961). Of course at that time I not realize how much I owed your father, so may I say a big thank you to him through you for 68 years of wonderful life 3 children 3 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren. I am sure I am not the only one who owes this wonderful man so much. For myself I say thank you so much Dr Dharm Sheel Chowdhary you were so loved and respected by so many. 

    During the war my Grandmother Mrs Daisy Davies was unofficial midwife for Laindon and ladies having normal births husbands were told by Uncle Doc to go fetch Mrs Davies but I am afraid at my birth she was no use at all quite understandable I think.

    By Gloria Sewell (07/07/2011)

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