Obituary David Ian Stirk

David Ian Stirk LRCP, FRCS (FH 1930-1934) was born on 1st March 1916.  He died peacefully in Exmouth Hospital on Tuesday 15 September 2009 aged 93.

David was born in Exeter, the son of a doctor.  He was educated at Blundell’s from 1930 until 1934.

He then became a medical student at St Mary’s Paddington, qualifying as a surgeon in the early days of World War II.  He served for five years in the Royal Army Medical Corps, spending three of those years in India.  After demobilisation he returned to St Mary’s Hospital and then to RSO at Putney Hospital, followed by a period as surgical registrar at the Royal Masonic Hospital.

He left England to take up the post of consultant General Surgeon in Singapore with Senior lecturer in Surgery at the University of Malaya.  It was here that the full range of his surgical skills came into play, records of this appearing in editions of the British Journal of Surgery.

On returning to England he was appointed as Consultant in General Surgery to the North Devon Clinical Area.  He was the first of this rank and can justly be described as “The Pioneer Surgeon”

Although a well known surgeon in Devon, he is better known throughout Great Britain as an outstanding golfer and made many friends in the golfing world.  For ten years from the age of seventeen he had a handicap of scratch.

After retiring from his medical work he became a leading authority on old golf equipment, particularly clubs.  With Ian Henderson he wrote the leading work on the subject “Golf in the Making”.  He also wrote eleven other books  He advised not only many of the oldest golf clubs in the country on their collections of clubs but also one of the leading auctioneers on matters pertaining to old golfing equipment.  He played an important role in the establishment of the British Museum of golf at the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, of which he was a member.   He had himself achieved an impressive collection of antique golf clubs.

David’s parents and his only brother played golf so David began playing the game at Dawlish Warren at the age of about five.  He held the course record at the Warren for many years.  This he continued to do with considerable skill and a delightful sense of humour until his late eighties.  He retained his handicap at category 1 level well into his eighties, a rare feat indeed.   He was a very good player and among his achievements were runner up in the British Seniors’ Championship, twice winner of the Devon Open Championship (a competition open to professionals as well as amateurs), winner of the Devon Amateur Championship and of the Singapore Amateur Championship.  In later years he was one of the select few golfers, who have completed a round of golf in fewer strokes than their age.  This feat he accomplished frequently although he himself did not think it really counted unless it was done under strict medal competition conditions from the very back tees.

David was a keen member of Old Blundellian Club, serving as a vice president from the early 1990s until his death.  He was a very loyal and enthusiastic supporter of the Old Blundellian Golfing Society (OBGS). In the Halford Hewitt cup, an annual knock out competition between teams of Old Boys from up to 64 schools, David played over a longer period than any other competitor from any school.  While he did not play in every intervening year he played his first match in 1938 and his last in 1997.  His first match was at best disappointing because his partner, who in normal circumstances was a good player, was suffering from a gigantic hangover and could only hit the ball along the ground.

Shortly after World War II while David was still serving in RAMC he was nearly court martialled for failing to attend and play in the Halford Hewitt, when ordered to do so.  David was sure that the order he received was a hoax and so he ignored it.  What he did not realize was that the then captain of OBGS team played in the previous round against David’s Commanding Officer, who was easily persuaded to issue the appropriate order.

After his return from Singapore David became captain of OBGS and in 1961 the team reached the semi final the only occasion on which they have done so.  In 1992 David and his partner lost at the tenth extra hole, another Halford Hewitt record.

David played in many other competitions and matches for OBGS over a long period of years, including the years when he was President of the society.

In 1973 David became a member of the Senior Golfers’ Society, which also had his enthusiastic support, he was Captain in 1984 and President from 1986 to 1989.  He was a member of various golf clubs.

David and his wife Joan-Anne were married on 3 September 1949 and so celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary on 3 September 2009.  He is survived by Joan-Anne, their three sons and five grandchildren.