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Patrick Wakeling obituary


My father, Patrick Wakeling, who has died aged 84, was an innovative child psychiatrist and a keen poet. Patrick was one of a group of professionals who helped shape the child guidance clinics of the 1970s. The new, and successful, idea was to see a child's problems within the context of wider family dynamics. He also worked at the Lawn hospital, Lincoln, where children could stay in residential accommodation, with or without their parents. These units were supported by teams of psychologists, social workers, nurses and teachers.

Born in Rochester, Kent, where he enjoyed a happy and free childhood, Patrick won a place at University College, Galway (now the National University of Ireland), to study medicine. Having completed his national service, he headed off to London for an interview about a much-needed grant. Sweating and nervous, he recounted how the officer simply sat him down and said: "You'll love Galway. I've been fishing there."

He met and, in 1957, married Vivienne in Dublin and worked in various parts of England as a doctor – bringing with him an expanding family – before becoming a consultant child psychiatrist for the Trent regional health authority in Lincoln.

My brothers and sisters and I never really knew what our father did for a living: psychiatrist is a big and mysterious word to a child. He was a literary and philosophical man, and we were often tempted to try to find clues about his professional life in academic books, but it was in poetry, which he wrote and published throughout his life, that his true take on the world was revealed.

In the poem The Day the School Burned Down, he is standing next to a policeman surveying the ruins of the building: "The policeman said he was appalled. I said nothing, but saw that schools could actually be destroyed." Heartening news for many schoolchildren the world over.

Patrick is survived by Vivienne, five children – me, Julian, Aubrey, Sylvia and Melissa – and three grandchildren.

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