Dr Sukumar ‘Su’ Sen MBE, Fort William
DR SUKUMAR ‘ Su’ Sen, 83, died on Sunday November 1 at home following a stroke.
He leaves his wife of 53 years, Shirley; his daughter Sheila, Ardgour; twin sons David, Munich, and Robin, Grenoble; grandchildren Max, Marianne, Francoise and Natalie; a sister and brother in Bihar and West Bengal, India, and many other family members and close friends.
Born and raised in Bihar and West Bengal in the north east of India, the son of a steelworker, Su was the second youngest of seven children.
His mother died of TB when he was young and Su contracted malaria, which led to him missing out on some of his formal schooling. He was home educated by his uncle with whom he lived in quarantine.
Su’s uncle was responsible for registering him with the local education authority and, not being quite certain of his facts, registered him as being born in 1935 – making him two years younger than he actually was.
In later years, this mistake meant Su’s government pension was delayed by two years!
After surviving malaria, Su was the least robust of the seven Sen children and in later years he felt this was responsible for him being very self- sufficient and able to produce results with minimum resources – a skill that later served him well in his voluntary work.
After leaving school, Su attended the University of Calcutta and, at the age of 25, graduated with a BSc in Medicine.
Keen to further his medical skills, particularly in surgery, Su came to the UK in 1958 with the intention of staying for two years.
He took up a post in Louth Hospital, Lincolnshire, where he met Shirley, a qualified staff nurse, and they married.
The couple lived in Finsbury Park, London, and Welwyn Garden City before moving to Fort William in 1965.
Mixed race marriages were not readily accepted in the 1960s and, not yet having UK citizenship, Su was reluctant to return to India lest it jeopardized his return or their marriage.
In 1965, Su, Shirley and Sheila - along with their VW Beetlecar - arrived in Fort William.
Su took up a post in the town’s Belford Hospital as senior surgical registrar, working with Consultant Surgeon Mr Iain Campbell, and with the anaesthetic service provided by local GP Dr Charles Connochie who became a close family friend.
Su had just taken up this post when Iain Campbell went off on a much delayed break leaving Su in complete charge of all surgical work in the hospital.
The family lived originally at Dalnahaine on Belford Road, then Chenderoh at Seafield Gardens, Blar Mor Road in Caol and, since the early 70s, on Achintore Road.
Sons Robin and David arrived two years later.
It’s the normal practice for the wife to tell the husband that she is ‘ with child’ but in the Sen household it was the opposite way round – in his clinical role,
Su had the proud task of examining the pregnancy test and phoning Shirley to tell her that it was positive!
Su had lots of hobbies: photography, gardening, watching cricket, football, tennis, cooking and, at the invitation of Charles Connochie, he joined the local Rotary Club in 1970.
He participated earnestly in many community projects and locals will recall seeing him ‘bag packing’ for charity at the local supermarket.
In the early 1970s, Su went into general practice with his great friend Dr Roy Innes, eventually becoming senior partner in ‘Sen, Robinson and Gibb’, the forerunner of the High Street Surgery, now Glenmhor Medical Practice.
Sheila worked as a journalist and is now a painter and writer. David is a consultant software technician in Munich and Robin teaches English language for engineering students in Grenoble. Sheila has a son Max. Robin has three daughters in France.
In recent years, Su attended evening classes to learn French – he was always interested in learning more.
During his working life Su continually and willingly got involved in staff support roles. He founded the original Lochaber Medical Society and the Lochaber Nurses Society.
He set up the first local endoscopy service in the mid 1970s and started the Belford Hospital’s first medical library.
After retiring from general practice in 1995, Su immersed himself in a huge range of community work.
He founded Lochaber Council on Alcohol and served as a counsellor until 2012. He was a director of the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, a founder member and chairman for 10 years of Lochaber Disability Access Panel and he set up and chaired Lochaber Action on Disability.
He also worked on countless local community projects including Kilmallie Gardens, Claggan Greenfingers, Caol in Bloom, Corpach Marina and Caol Regeneration Group, to name but a few.
He also gave his time and skills to the local Red Cross, the St John Ambulance Service, Lochaber Deaf Care and many sporting events including the Lochaber Marathon.
His substantial community work was recognised with the award of an MBE and, earlier this year, by the Rotary Club with the presentation of a Paul Harris Fellowship - its highest international award given for excellence in service to the community.
In its 65 years of existence, the club has awarded less than a dozen Paul Harris Fellowships.
On being presented with the Fellowship Medal, a surprised and modest Rotarian Su responded by saying he was ‘speechless’.
Su was a Hindu and a man of genuine compassion. He did so much for people and for the community.
The Rotary Club Facebook page announcement of his passing received more than 500 ‘likes’, 252 tributes and 244 ‘shares’ – no other Rotary announcement has generated even one tenth of that amount of interest.
Su believed that to die was to release the spirit from the body – after the body had ceased to work well. He was content and settled in himself. He believed the time of death is a time of enlightenment and expressly wished that none of us be sad at his passing but that we share his values of helping one another.
A funeral service will be held today, Thursday November 12, at 2pm at Duncansburgh MacIntosh Church. Family flowers only. A collection for charity will be taken.
A private cremation will be held afterwards by invitation only from Mrs Shirley Sen.
RESPECTED: many tributes have been paid to former GP
Dr Sukumar Sen.