Dr Thomas MacFarlane Wilks
Little is known about Dr Tom Wilks but local residents old enough to remember, recall him as a larger than life, plain speaking man with a heart of gold. Records show he was born in Cardiff in 1896. However, by 1927 the Medical Register shows he was living in Gillingham in Kent, where he stayed until approximately 1931. He then moved to ‘Strathmore House’ London Road, South Benfleet. Again the Medical Register shows that he remained at this address until 1951 when he moved to Thundersley.
The ‘surgery’ (resembling more of a shack than a building) was within the grounds of his home at ‘The Cottage’ Kiln Road, Thundersley and it was from here that Tom spent the last years of his working life, before retiring to Cornwall with his wife. During this time Tom and his wife Frances, known by all as Frankie, raised their daughter Victoria, who in later years moved abroad and their son Frederick.
The newspaper cutting below shows Tom Wilks on his ’rounds’ some time around 1930, when at this time his surgery was ‘Strathmore House’. The photo was taken close to the junction of Kents Hill Road and High Road, although at this time High Road was known as London Road. In the up-to-date photo below this, the church and the house to the right of Tom Wilks, can still be seen today.
In the picture Tom Wilks appears to be wearing a suit and bowler hat but in later years, locals, myself included as he was in fact my doctor, remember he used to wear his riding gear of long leather boots, a heavy, belted overcoat and riding breeches. He smoked a pipe, which he would keep puffing even when examining his patients. Topping this off he wore a monocle, which was used to great effect with his constant grimacing and scowling.
I personally remember he visited my family on many occasions. Sometimes on horseback but often in a Land Rover. He was an excellent doctor, somewhat bereft of bedside manner but a man to be reckoned with. If he told you to take the tablets, you did.
During his lifetime Tom served in the Cavalry as a Medical Officer. Tom was also a serving Brother of the Order of St John and in 1955 an Officer of the Order of St John. In addition he was promoted from M.B.E. to O.B.E in the Coronation Honours list of 1953 where he was commended for ‘services during the recent floods in the Eastern Counties’.
In later years, Dr Vincent Tyndall used ‘Strathmore House’ as his surgery and Tom Wilks moved up to a building at 123 Kiln Road (probably the property known as ‘The Cottage’). It was a small, shack of a building within the grounds of Tom’s home, described verbally by one of his colleagues, Dr Norman Sutcliffe.
After Tom retired, Norman Sutcliffe and his wife visited Tom and Frankie at their smallholding in a tiny hamlet in Cornwall and Norman recalls that the Wilks’ found their new home idyllic.
Records show that Tom died in Cornwall in 1972.