It is with great sadness that we report the passing of Alan Vickers. John Alan Vickers was born on 20 November 1928 in Bishop Auckland in County Durham but everyone, with few exceptions, called him Alan.
I had the pleasure of knowing Alan for 40 years, working with him in the NHS in his role as Area Pharmaceutical Officer for the South Tyne Region (this title becoming district pharmaceutical officer by the time of his retirement in 1988). I also worked alongside him as a committee member and officer of the Hope Winch Society, the alumni association of ex-students and staff of the Sunderland School of Pharmacy.
He excelled at school and in 1945 he went to work in a retail pharmacy in Bishop, called Pickerings, which was where he started his long and illustrious career in pharmacy. On 8 October 1945 he signed an “article of pupilage” with the owner of Pickerings, which was the start of his pharmacy training.
In 1947, Alan went to Sunderland Technical College to undertake his pharmacy training (travelling from home nearly two hours each way), which culminated in him gaining a Bachelor of Pharmacy degree. He registered with the Pharmaceutical Society on 16 August 1950 and was designated a Fellow of the Society on 1 January 1954. Alan was proud to be a pharmacist, always remembering his registration number with the Pharmaceutical Society and avidly reading The Pharmaceutical Journal. He displaying his certificates with pride at home in Sunderland, and latterly in his room in the care homes.
Having started lecturing at Sunderland Technical College in 1950, Alan had become a principal lecturer in pharmaceutics by the time he left in 1973. By then, the college had become a polytechnic. Alan enjoyed his time as a lecturer, remembering all the students that he had taught over the years and taking an interest in their subsequent careers.
Alan joined the NHS in 1973. He had a number of job titles, as a result of the various reorganisations for which the Service is famous. At the time of his retirement in 1988, his designation was district pharmaceutical officer for South Tyne. He held the post with professionalism and dedication.
Outside of pharmacy, on his retirement on his 60th birthday, Alan became a magistrate and soon became chairman of the bench. Always flexible and willing to help, he would readily stand in at the Magistrates’ Court at short notice when anoter magistrate was unavailable. He was genuinely sorry to have to retire from the service on his 70th birthday, although he continued to attend and enjoy the Magistrates’ luncheons. Alan was also a Methodist lay preacher and regularly preached throughout the Sunderland Circuit. Again, ever willing to help, he would stand in a short notice if the Circuit was short of a preacher. He continued as a lay preacher until his early 80s.
Alan was very heavily involved in a number of committees and sub-committees in the pharmacy and Methodist areas. He was very proud of the mortar and pestle that he was presented with after he retired from being secretary of the local branch of the Pharmaceutical Society.
Alan was also a member of the Hope Winch Society (alumni of the Sunderland School of Pharmacy) from its inception in April 1984, contributing greatly to the development and efficient functioning of the Society. At the 16th committee meeting, held on 22 June 1987, he was nominated for the office of treasurer after the sudden death of Alf Firth — the original treasurer of the Society. Alan took up the post officially a few months later and continued in this office until he stepped down in September 1996. He did, however, remain a committee member of the Hope Winch Society and continued to make a major contribution to it until October 2004. Alan remained a member of the Hope Winch Society until he died.
The Hope Winch Society and Alan’s colleagues and friends in pharmacy in the North East would like to pay tribute to a very special, kind and professional gentleman for whom we all had so much respect. Alan truly was an excellent ambassador for pharmacy and we will miss him greatly.
Alison M. Beaney, on behalf of the Hope Winch Society, University of Sunderland