Help family complete doctor’s autobiography

Dr Nicholas Lee

The family of a “beloved” far south doctor is keen to complete his autobiography, Been there, done that, and that (and that..!), which he started writing shortly before his death in December last year.

Dr Nicholas Lee was born on 11 July 1933 and according to his son-in-law, Peter Fenton, was a remarkable man whose life was both varied and abundant.

Many False Bay Echo readers will fondly remember him as a valley-based general practitioner with practices in Fish Hoek and Simon’s Town between 1970 and 1983.

His family invites anyone who knew him or had encounters with him, to submit their stories and anecdotes, humorous or otherwise, to nicklee@mweb.co.za

He was qualified in a range of holistic practices and also delivered a good number of babies in the valley, in their own homes, and in his.

Many of them, now adults, still live in the valley.

Dr Lee died on December 27 last year, a few weeks shy of his 60th wedding anniversary at his Simon’s Town home, Flora House. He was 88 years old.

A memorial service was held at St Simon and St Jude, in Simon’s Town.

While many will remember him as a general practitioner, others knew him as an active thespian with the Muizenberg Amateur Dramatic Society (MADS) and other groups, as an actor, playwright, and director who won numerous accolades over several decades, in each of those fields.

Mr Fenton said Dr Lee was a widely-accomplished self-made man whose childhood originated in the seafaring town of Plymouth, England, a town not altogether different from Simon’s Town where his father had once served as a chef in the Royal Navy, at Admiralty House.

Rising above his childhood challenges of a war-torn country, absent parents, and attending too many schools to remember, he ultimately excelled in both the arts and sciences, became an RAF fighter pilot, squadron leader and a flying instructor on Oxford University Air Squadron (where he’d also been offered a lectureship).

In between, he qualified as a doctor in London where he met his wife, Carol, coincidentally a nurse, through their mutual love of amateur dramatics.

He continued to practise medicine in the RAF, serving in several countries and war zones before moving to South Africa with his family in 1969-70, and in 1974 bought a practice that came with an old house built from the timbers of the HMS Flora.

He left his private practice in Simon’s Town in 1983 to embark upon his third career – becoming editor-in-chief of the South African Medical Journal (SAMJ) where he remained for 15 years.

After his mandatory retirement from the SAMJ, at 65, in 2000, he began working as a locum aero-medical examiner for the UK Civil Aviation Authority and for European Aviation Safety, and as senior physician for the Heathrow Medical Services Authority – while still based in Simon’s Town.

Returning to South Africa full time in 2010, he continued as senior designated aero-medical examiner for the South African Civil Aviation Authority, conducting the obligatory flying medicals for active local and international pilots from his practice in Simon’s Town, while also serving on the executive committee of the Southern African Aerospace Medical Association and doing a stint as an examining physician for the Human Sciences Research Council.

In 2018, aged 85, he finally retired from medical practice.

At this time, he also authored Fit To Fly, a textbook for pilots, completing the third edition in 2019, while continuing to produce over 60 monthly articles for African Pilot.

“Never one to rest on his laurels, Nick Lee was working on his latest book, Come Fly With Me, literally a few hours before his passing,” Mr Fenton said.