​In the Summer of 2013, I was avidly going through the Edinburgh Book Festival Programme ticking off the talks/events of interest to me when I noticed a title which struck an immediate chord: ‘Cracked.  Why Psychiatry is Doing More Harm Than Good’.  James Davies, the author – himself, a Psychological therapist – would be promoting his new book on a subject which was now, poignantly, very close to my heart.  Let me explain by taking you back; ‘way back’, as they say at the top of Johnnie Walker’s programme, Sounds of the Seventies, every Sunday afternoon on Radio 2 …
My father was a Consultant Psychiatrist and ‘a darn good one’, to quote a phrase often used by my mother!  A Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, he was a leading name in the Fife Health Service and well respected.  He loved his job and that made him the success that he was.  We never tired of listening to his endless tales of some of the hilarious situations in which he found himself whilst on his weekly ‘doms’ (domiciliary visits) in darkest Fife.  He visited places one would – and should – probably choose to avoid but just the thought of him in Balingry or Cardenden was funny enough in itself.  As for his stories – at which he, himself, always laughed loudest – it is a travesty that he never put pen to paper.  We did our best!
It was the Summer of 1964 when we moved from Glasgow to Cupar, swapping the city for the country.  Pop had secured a consultant’s post based at Stratheden, a psychiatric hospital a mile or so outside the little market town in the most idyllic of situations.  To this day, I still call it my favourite view – that from the Hospital looking over to the Hill of Tarvit.  It is beautiful and how I wish I could paint …  
So, the psychiatrist and his family hit town with enthusiasm and, although completely oblivious, we fulfilled our expectant roles with great aplomb!  I smile just thinking about our lives and some of the things we did which, to us, seemed completely normal …  Stratheden was a wonderful backdrop.
The Hospital was – and is – situated in rolling countryside with vast grounds and, 50 years ago, that included a farm.  It was, here, that we kept our first pony and, thus, became a regular sight riding in the environs.  Nobody batted an eyelid as we rode past the wards, cantered round the football pitch or waved to Pop as we passed his office; just the doctor’s daughters, again, and what a lovely, simple life!  Who would have believed a psychiatric hospital could provide such a wonderful playground …  We played football on the ‘football pitch’, which also doubled as a golfing range as we took pot shots at balls whilst the dogs ran free.  Then there were the tennis courts: nobody else seemed to use them and, thus, we spent many happy hours there inspired by Borg, Nastase or even McEnroe.  It was the seventies after all.
The years went by but the Hospital remained very much part of our lives and it was there that we all learned to drive.  God help the patients – thankfully, he did and there were no  casualties.   My mother was the quintessential psychiatrist’s wife and she had us all – and our friends – driving round the grounds, the only prerequisite being that one could see over the steering wheel!  I can still picture my brother aged no more than …
My father seemed to relish his life as the country psychiatrist.  He would drive us to school in the morning then drive the mile or so, from the house, up to Stratheden and his office.  He and his two colleagues were a close-knit bunch sharing the same sense of humour and a love for their profession; a profession with a very human face, in those days.  He would have weekly clinics at Stratheden – when he, himself, saw his patients – and then a clinic at the Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy on a Tuesday.  That was an important day to me as Kirkcaldy was home to the best record shop of the day, Bruce’s, and it was here that Pop would go to buy me the latest Donny or Osmonds’ single.  Much as he pretended otherwise, he was always happy to oblige and for that I shall be eternally grateful!
Lyndhurst, meanwhile, was home to a menagerie of animals and we seemed to acquire a marmalade cat when we first arrived.  It was huge, and not particularly friendly, but we called her ‘Sally’.  To this day, I have no idea who was responsible for this but it wasn’t until Sally required veterinary attention that we discovered she was, in fact, a boy – a boy called ‘Sally’.  Oh well, you remember the Johnny Cash song about the boy named ‘Sue’ … ?
Pop did not like cats at all and, as you know, that is the green light for cats!  Somehow, he was elected to drive him to the vet and I shall never forget the image of the mad psyhiatrist driving down the road with this marmalade cat who had chosen to sit on his head!  As I said, we had a reputation to maintain and we did not disappoint …  which leads me on to one of the finest performances! 
My mother was nothing if not a character and, to her, the ponies were a gift!  Our house was rambling and old, as was the garden, but there was enough room to keep the ponies overnight.  This rarely went without incident but, on one memorable occasion, my mother gave the neighbours something more to talk about.  The ponies would always kick at the back gate for food or attention and we would let them as far as the back door but, this time, my nutty mother decided to allow Mickey into the house and she led him over the quarry tiles in the Breakfast Room, into the hall, down the two stairs and out through the front door!  He was happy as larry, we, kids, thought it was hysterical and God knows what anybody else thought when they saw a pony emerging from the front door?  Do you remember ‘Bewitched’ and Gladys, the nosey neighbour, who kept seeing things and nobody believed her?  I suspect it was just passed off as that poor psychiatrist and his family, again!
Our house happened to be across the road from the local senior school and the playing fields.  Unfortunately, Teasy, realized he could jump out of the garden and he and his accomplice, Shamus, would head straight into the school and onto the hockey pitches – in the middle of a match, of course!  The doorbell would ring and it would be some of the school children to say that the ponies had got lose, again, and could we come and get them.  So, off we’d go with the head collars, dying of embarrassment …
Pop seemed to relish our reputation as he, happily, went about his day to day life.  Aside from his clinics, he would spend afternoons doing ‘doms’ (home visits) which took him all over Fife.  As I said, he visited places I have only heard of (thank God!) and returned with a wealth of tales.  From memory, I think he came across something resembling an iguana in a house in Balingry and a Boa Constrictor in Kelty; there were fire arms, dead bodies and utter comedians amongst them – a wealth of stories for that book he never wrote …
The human face of psychiatry as it was.  His patients saw HIM, not some random registrar every six months.  He took pride in what he did and he cared.  He would, fondly, talk of his ‘cures’ who used to pop up everywhere, I might add.  Was it Becca and Manny who were with him, many years ago, or am I going back much further?  I’m not sure but picture one of those street performers sprayed, head to foot, in silver paint and ‘impersonating’ a statue or some kind of robotic tin man … you know the kind I mean?  Well, I think it may have been in Perth but the guy was completely in character until Pop and co walked past and he shouted out ‘Hello, Dr!’.  I’m sure it was Becca and Manny with him but, whatever, they got the fright of their lives as Pop walked on, smiling, and explained, ‘just one of my cures!’
For years, Christmas would not have been complete without that ring on the doorbell and the discovery of a hamper on the doorstep filled to the gunnels with the best of everything.  A ‘thank you’ from one of his ‘cures’ for whom he had an affectionate term – perhaps I shouldn’t divulge!  Grateful patients were aplenty, though, and deservedly so.  Not one Christmas morning went by without him driving up to Stratheden to go round the wards spreading cheer.  I think each one of us accompanied him once … that was more than enough, let me tell you!
Happy days and testament to someone who loved what he did and took great pride in it.  Well-known, respected and liked, he took early retirement in 1987 when he could no longer stand to be a part of the changing face of the National Health Service and, thus, psychiatry.  The end of an era.
So, in setting out to describe the human face of psychiatry as I knew it, growing up, once again it has turned into a memoir of my childhood and a tribute to my father …  My mother died in 2008 leaving a family, already irreparably fractured, and my father, understandably, bereft.  The profession he had served so well, however, saw fit only to pump him full of pills and admit him as a patient into the very hospital he used to run.  No wonder that I was drawn to James Davies and his book ‘Cracked’, in the Edinburgh Book Festival of 2013 … 
‘… in recent decades many areas of psychiatry have become so lured by power and money that they are in danger of putting the pursuit of pharmaceutical riches and medical status above their patients’ well-being.’
An excerpt from ‘Cracked. Why Psychiatry is Doing More Harm Than Good’ by James Davies.
To be continued.
This is Trish, signing off.