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John Stewart: Respected GP, police surgeon and rugby ref

Obituary

By Alf McCreary

Dr John Stewart, a well-known former general practitioner in Randalstown and a former inter-provincial rugby referee, has died at the age of 88.

John Hubert Hall Stewart was born in 1929 in the Co Antrim town, where his father was a GP.

He was educated at Elm Park Preparatory School near Armagh, and later at St Columba's in Dublin before studying medicine at Queen's University from 1946.

He graduated in 1952, and was awarded the inaugural Sir William Thomson Medal for first place in Medicine.

At Queen's he played rugby for the 3rd XV and also began refereeing.

He was a house officer for six months each in the Royal Victoria Hospital and the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children.

He then returned to his father's practice in Randalstown, where he worked from 1953 until his retirement in 1994.

He was also senior forensic medical officer (formerly titled police surgeon) to the RUC's Antrim sub-division.

With his friend and colleague Dr Bertie Irwin he formed the Northern Ireland Association of Police Surgeons, of which he was chairman and later secretary.

For many years he represented Northern Ireland on the council of the national association, of which he served as chairman in 1989.

That same year he was appointed OBE for his services to medicine.

In 1995 he became High Sheriff of Co Antrim.

He also served as an officer in the Boys' Brigade.

Dr Stewart was a member for four years of the senior inter-provincial panel, refereed five rugby inter-provincials, and ran the line for an international between Ireland and Wales.

After refereeing for some 20 years, he was president for another 20 years of Randalstown Rugby Club.

He was also secretary of Old Bleach Cricket Club.

His son David recalled: "Dad was at the Royal when Jack Kyle was an extern surgeon.

"The only time he got to Twickenham was when Jack Kyle, whom he knew well, was nearing the end of his rugby career.

"They met on the Friday afternoon and when Jack said he was concerned about his knee, Dad advised him that he might not get through the 80 minutes of the game the next day.

"So, Dad was responsible for Ireland's greatest player at the time missing his only international through injury."

In a personal tribute, David added: "Dad was a modest man who had much to be immodest about.

He was a much-loved GP with a wonderful bedside manner. Many people have sent the family their condolences, and the sense of loss in Randalstown is palpable."

Dr Stewart is survived by his wife Jennifer, David and other children Carol and Brian, grandchildren Kirsten and Claire, and his brother Charles. He was predeceased by his sister Margaret.

After cremation at Roselawn on Friday there will be a service of celebration and thanksgiving at the Old Congregational Presbyterian Church in Randalstown at 3.30pm.

Belfast Telegraph

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