DOCTOR, RADIOLOGIST AND FATHER OF BASIL BUNTING
Situated in the Consecrated/West Section of Jesmond Old Cemetery.
Thomas Lowe Bunting was born on 6 April 1868, the son of Mary Elizabeth Lowe and Joseph Bunting, a Draper from Heanor, Derbyshire. Mary died at the age of 53 and Joseph died at the age of 54, having become a heavy drinker.
Thomas Lowe Bunting took his Degree at Edinburgh University in 1889 after a distinguished career as a Student. Whilst at the University, he became associated with Professor Patrick Geddes‘s, the biologist, sociologist and pioneering town planner, whose work amongst students, then just beginning, was to grow into the Town and Gown movement, formed in 1896. The overall aim of this new way of thinking emphasised the cooperative undertakings of citizens and students for the mutual benefit of city and university, particularly in relation to the welfare of the poor – this interest lasted with him all through his life. After leaving Edinburgh, he went first on to work in an asylum near Buxton and then on to Newcastle where he joined the Fabian Society in 1892.
In 1898, when the Buntings were living at 95 Jesmond Road, Dr. Bunting joined the Newcastle Literary and Philosophical Society and remained a member until his death in 1925.
In 1904, Dr. Bunting was awarded a Gold Medal for his thesis on the Histology of Lymphatic Glands and, in 1911, he took his B.Hy. (Bachelor of Hygiene) and D.P.H. (Diploma in Public Health), both with Honours, at the University of Durham.
Dr. Bunting then set up as a G.P. in Scotswood, building up a large general medical practice, where his services were much appreciated and he was held in high esteem. He also found time to be the pit doctor at Montague Colliery, also in Scotswood. Additionally, he took up the study of radiology and also worked as a Radiologist to the Children’s Hospital in Newcastle and, on the outbreak of the Great War, he was appointed Radiologist to the Northumberland War Hospital in Gosforth.
Dr. Bunting was keenly interested in the politico-social movements of the times – initially via the Northumberland Contract Committee before it was taken over by the B.M.A. From this, he finally became a leading figure in the north east of England as Secretary of the Newcastle Panel Committee. In 1912, the agitation over the National Health Insurance Act came to Dr. Bunting as a call for work on behalf of the profession. He had a wonderful grasp of the Act, what it could and what it could not do and this led to his devoting an increasing amount of thought and time to medical politics until he became, in Newcastle, the guide and adviser of the Panel Committee in general and of many individual doctors in particular.
Dr. Bunting was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1905.
Dr. Bunting married Annie Cheesman (1875 – 1968), daughter of a mining engineer from Newburn, in 1898. They initially set up their family home at 27 Denton Road, Scotswood, before moving to Jesmond, where they brought up two children, a son, Basil Cheesman Bunting (1900 – 1985), the acclaimed modernist poet whose greatest work is generally thought to be Briggflatts, named after the Quaker village in Cumbria, where he is now buried. Their daughter, Joyce Lowe Bunting (1902 – 1992), also studied at Edinburgh University, graduating with a degree in medicine and surgery and helped with his practice.
Dr. Bunting suffered from persistent angina and, on the 18 February 1925, he died of ‘angina pectoris’ at the comparatively early age of 57, with his funeral taking place on 21 February 1925.
A Strong Song Tows Us: the life of Basil Bunting (2013) by Richard Burton
Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh: pages 368 -369 (1924 -25)
The British Medical Journal: page 433 (Feb 28, 1925)