James Gall, 21 April 1924-18 July 2022: An Appreciation

02 December, 2022 / editorial

James Gall was known by many as Jim, or Jimmy but to his family he was Grandpa Gee or just Gee .   He reached the remarkable age of 98 and maintained a vibrant hunger for learning and living life to the full, with a keen sense of humour right up until the end. His professional achievements listed here speak for themselves; his passion for hypnosis, particularly in relation to helping anxious patients, and his love of teaching will be his legacy in this profession.

Early life

James Gall was born to Robert and Agnes (nee Fraser) on the 21 April 1924 in Wishaw. He attended various schools in Lanarkshire, having to move due to his father’s work as a policeman but eventually settled at Bellshill Academy.

Jim had decided that he was going to be a postman like his namesake Aberdonian grandfather, James Gall. He wanted to buy a car and had felt that leaving school and gaining employment with the postal service like many of his friends was the fastest way to achieve this. His BB Captain had spoken to his father and had informed him that he should not apply to the Post Office as it was his firm belief that Jim should instead go to university.

Jim had been a keen footballer and had a trial for the Scotland Under 16s team, but this was cut short when at age 15, war broke out in Europe. He recently spoke with his grandchildren about hearing the air raid sirens, being in the Home Guard, and even having to sleep some nights in the school building. Jim had then wanted to join the Airforce, but it was suspected that he had TB and he was sent to stay with his grandparents in Kennethmont, Aberdeenshire to recover. This move would change the course of his life forever; firstly, because it was here that he met Margaret Cran who he would later marry on 20 September 1952 and secondly, he met David Williamson. Jim had careful good dexterity and enjoyed fixing things and was encouraged into dentistry by David – and Jim did note David drove a fancy car!

Jim moved back to Glasgow and settled with Margaret, initially in Bellshill living above his practice and then to Douglas Gardens in Uddingston, where they raised three children – Robert (b 1957), Jane (b 1958), Morag (b 1966) .

Dental career

Jim gained his LDS from the Royal Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow on the 10 May 1948, just a couple of weeks after turning 24 and just as the NHS started. It wasn’t long before he finally fulfilled his indulgence and bought his Jaguar.

James with his sister Helen (Massingberd), who was his first receptionist in Dental Practice.

He worked in General Dental Practice from qualifying in 1948 until 1974, working in his Mossend practice in Bellshill and at first, living above the clinic. In 1959, Jim and Margaret moved to the family home at 22 Douglas Gardens in Uddingston and his parents moved in above the clinic. In 1980, with the family home too large, they built and moved for a final time into a bungalow in the grounds of an orchard that the house overlooked.

Jim served as President of Clyde Toastmasters Club in 1962 and as a Boys Brigade Officer with the 1st Bellshill, experiences which no doubt held him in good stead for presenting to and organising students, dentists and indeed members of the various committees he was involved with over the years. He was elected to the Local Dental Committee in Lanarkshire and served on the Executive Council from 1958-1974 and was a Dental Member with the Scottish Dental Estimates Board between 1971-1974.

After leaving general practice in 1974, he joined the Scottish Home and Health Department (SHHD) as a Dental Officer and joined the Area Dental Committee for Lanarkshire Health Board from 1974-1985. Jim also worked 24 hour on-call for dental emergencies at various hospitals including Law, Carstairs, and Hairmyres Hospitals.

He was an Honorary Visiting Dental Surgeon at the Glasgow Dental Hospital and School from 1964. Following on from George Fairfull Smith and Charlie Downie, Jim took over the ‘Anxiety and Hypnosis Clinic’ and continued working in this clinic helping anxious patients and offering hypnosis well into his 70s. He continued working with hypnosis cases on a private basis for Arshad Ali.

The 72nd FDI Meeting in Helsinki, 1984. James was Depute CDO in Scotland – and acting CDO 1983-84 as Martin Downer, also shown, had left his post as CDO to become CDO in England in 1983.

Jim served as Deputy Chief Dental Officer in Scotland from 1976 and when CDO Martin Downer stood down to become CDO in England in 1983, Jim fulfilled the chief role on an interim basis managing to persuade the civil service not to enforce the rule of retirement at aged 60!  He was Senior Dental Adviser (Supplies Division and Building Division) for the Common Services Agency in the NHS from 1977 and was also Senior Dental Adviser for the Prisons Division (Scottish Office) for many years. Only a few weeks before passing away, with a glint in his eye, Jim was teasing a carer attending to him at home, telling her that he had \”been in every prison in Scotland”!

Jim was a Life Founder Fellow of the Federation Dentaire International (FDI) and a Provisional Fellow Royal Society of Medicine. He attended various conferences around the world, expanding and sharing his knowledge.

Jim had a great passion and natural skill for dental hypnosis and alongside David Keir Fisher and George Fairfull Smith, among others, was one of the founding members of the Scottish Branch of the Dental and Medical Society for the study of Hypnosis, which would later become The British Society of Medical and Dental Hypnosis (BSMDH) in 1968. Jim held the position of President of the Scottish Branch at this time, from 1968 to 1971. He then held the position of Chairman of the national BSMDH between 1977-1980 and was President between 1980-1982. It was at the end of this term as BSMDH national President that Jim was on the organising committee for the most successful 9th International Congress of Hypnosis and Psychosomatic Medicine for the International Society of Hypnosis which was held in Glasgow in 1982. Some 800 delegates attended this congress at the University of Glasgow. Jim presented a talk to delegates on ‘The Difficult Dental Patient’ in Boyd Orr Lecture Theatre 1 and wrote a chapter for the subsequent book Modern Trends in Hypnosis in 1983.

In 1987 Jim was awarded the title of Honorary President of the Scottish Branch of BSMDH for his contribution to the society. The branch went on to become an independent society in 1991, and Jim served again as President between 1993-1994.

Jim was involved in teaching and mentoring on hypnosis society training courses, dental CPD Section 63 courses and with dental students for many years. He had no hesitation answering a call for help and acted as a mentor for a Scottish delegate at the University College London’s Masters in Hypnosis Applied to Dentistry. By passing on his knowledge of hypnosis in this way, Jim helped hundreds of dentists and countless patients.

Other interests and family life

His commitments were not limited to dentistry and hypnosis; Jim was a Life Fellow of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.

Despite all of his commitments, he actively pursued many and varied interests and pastimes. He had been a keen Clyde FC supporter from his youth, visiting Shawfield every other Saturday. Having a love for the game (but never being one for the ‘tribalism’), he also attended games at Hamilton Academical FC and Queens Park (where he has a named brick).

He loved to travel. After Margaret passed away (in 1989 ), and to the surprise of his family, Jim bought a ‘round the world ticket’, went travelling and visited far flung relatives. On his return he was more self-sustaining and ready for the next chapter of life. Jim taught many techniques in hypnosis to help change people’s ‘state’, however he also recommended a simple exercise to others experiencing the effects of grief: “Start by simply taking a shower and changing into clean clothes.” He was able to apply hypnosis principles in practical ways, enriching his life and always looking forward . He was fortunate to form a long-lasting close friendship with Elizabeth Thomson and they both benefited from the fun companionship and adventurous travel together.

Jim enjoyed his food (especially vanilla ice cream) and his family remarked on the fact he lived such a long life without ever eating anything green! Family legend was that there was always a Tunnock’s pie in the freezer at Grandpa Gee’s.

He enjoyed gardening, roses being a passion, music and reading. He played golf and bridge. He loved his boating. Jim often said: “Get on the water and your troubles just float away.” The family still own the affectionately named inflatable ‘Big Jim’ and small boat ‘Gee Whizz ‘ as well as an updated version of the original speedboat ‘Rojamo’.

While other members of his generation were left behind in the age of the computer, Jim embraced it. He took courses in computing into his 90s, and indeed was eligible for student discounted meals; a fact of which he was most proud. Despite his technological skills, he did love a Post-it Note and found them to be one of the best organisational tools.

Despite all his professional activities and interests, his family were what mattered the most to him. Family gatherings and family trips to places like the Trossachs and Mossyard on the Solway Firth were what he loved the most.

Jim and Margaret sadly lost one daughter (Sheena) at an early age, but from their son Robert and other two daughters Jane and Mo, they are survived by eight grandchildren and eleven great grandchildren.

Among his many words of wisdom, in his 1983 book chapter Jim writes: “Dealing with frightened patients is an occupational hazard of dentistry. However, having the knowledge and ability to relieve these persons’ fears and anxieties is a satisfying and rewarding experience which additionally simplifies the task of the dentist.” And: “We should remember that with hypnotherapy, the benefits are remedial, not palliative.”       

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