Peter Isaac Silverstone

Peter Isaac Silverstone

27 May 1941
Hampton Court, Surrey, United Kingdom
17 April 2023
London, United Kingdom
Words by
Ellie Cannon Daughter

My Dad would have loved this.

A Jewish event, loads of free parking, and so many people to chat to. He would have had a connection with each of you, and even if he didn’t he would have found one. There is a lot of cake in my house, and he would have enjoyed it so much with a cup of tea, after telling me how awful the traffic was even though he came on the A41.

He found the jokes in everything, and taught me and everyone else that laughter is the best medicine. It really was for you Dad.

My Dad was born in 1941 in Hampton Court. I have to tell you that because he would want you all to know, and grew up in Shepherds Bush above his dad’s shop with his sisters and his parents Michael and Ada. He had hilarious nuggets and anecdotes about the war and his Polish and Lithuanian grandparents, but essentially what you need to know is that he didn’t eat a banana until he was seven and he once went to Canada on a boat. Yes, from England. Incidentally he didn’t get on an aeroplane until well into the 1990s and only learnt to swim aged forty, when I did, because he didn’t want me jumping in the pool without him being there to catch me.

Medicine was his life

He tried to get into medical school three times. He would be happy to tell people that because even when he was a top consultant in “obs and gynae”, he didn’t have an ounce of arrogance. He told me in the late 1950s all the clever Jewish boys did dentistry and the less clever ones did medicine and was proud to have tried so hard and got there eventually. He did his A Levels at least two or three times and during that time worked as a delivery van driver in London for Harrods, amazing for a man who never had a sense of direction.

Only my Dad could get caught up in a smallpox outbreak in Cardiff while having an interview at medical school that he didn’t even get in to. He went there for not even a day but ended up having to be vaccinated in the outbreak response.

Eventually he went to Aberdeen medical school. He happily told people he was trying to get away from his mother and the five hundred miles was only just enough to do that. He adored Aberdeen, the JSoc did summer Friday nights in the pub because Shabbat came in so late, and was so proud to be a bit Scottish as a result, not to mention a massive whiskey drinker. Graduates of Aberdeen are entitled to wear the Gordon tartan, and he did that with pride whenever he could. When we were younger we had tartan kilts to wear, and for my wedding although smart in his black tie, when he took his jacket off he revealed the back of his shirt to be entirely tartan and loved showing it off while he danced with joy.

My Dad became an obstetrician and gynaecologist. My Mum would be keen for you to know he was a consultant very young (and don’t call him doctor, it’s Mr because he was a surgeon) and was hugely successful in a quiet and supremely modest way ahead of his time in surgery and HRT. Medicine was his life. I knew the words National Health Service before I even started school, and our lives were timetabled around his on call rota and his bleep. We even went on holiday to Cornwall because he locum-ed in the hospital there while we went to the beach.

His full name was Peter Isaac Silverstone, but my Mum always wrote everyone’s names as initials in the family diary. That was fine for the rest of us as ERS CRS and BRS, but not so great for him. You can imagine the childhood hilarity we had laughing when it said “PIS off work” in the diary.

a hero Jewish doctor to the Gateshead Jewish community

Dad was a consultant in Gateshead in the Charedi community and specialised in looking after women in labour who had already had fourteen babies before. He regaled stories to us of women he looked after who were delivering their fourteenth or fifteenth baby while their own daughter would also be his patient, having their first or second child. He was a hero Jewish doctor to the Gateshead Jewish community very respected by the women and rabbis, and loved by their kids, most of whom he had delivered. Even today I meet people who tell me he delivered them. I think we were always a bit disappointed he hadn’t delivered us, as we met so many other people he had.

My Dad wanted to deliver babies because he really wanted to be a paediatrician but found looking after ill children so upsetting. He said being an obstetrician worked well because he got to be with happy healthy babies instead, sharing mostly joy. He never stopped loving cooing at babies and the best days of his life were when his grandchildren were born. As a child he used to take me on Sunday mornings to see the babies he had delivered and I went to medical school myself to look after those babies and also be a paediatrician. Like father like daughter. I also couldn’t handle the sadness of paediatrics, and went elsewhere in medicine. For that, and the curly hair genes, thanks Dad.

When my Dad’s career ended abruptly he had one evening of pain and depression. Then he did what he always did and picked himself up and got on. He satisfied his vocational medical instincts elsewhere, becoming a phlebotomist in a surgery in London, volunteering for Help The Aged, donating to Magen David Adom and being the all round good egg he always was. He was upset when he turned seventy and could no longer donate blood. I cannot imagine, knowing the characters I do in the medical profession, any other doctor having the humility and grace he had, to take on with pride other jobs after losing so much.

just big love

But luckily for him, once his career ended, grandparenthood started with the arrival of Lottie, Annie and Jude. He adored them and they adored him. He picked them all up from school, drove them all over the place, just like he had with us, bought them and himself endless Cadbury fudges and took them on trips of absolute joy to the RAF Museum, the end of the tube line, or to his favourite Italian restaurant. He didn’t do grandiose gestures, just big love and would have been in our house at two in the morning if he thought we needed help. I was annoyed he fasted for Yom Kippur this year and spent the whole day in shul. He was annoyed I questioned why he would do that aged eighty one.

He spent his life surrounded by women; his sisters, our Mum, his daughters, his granddaughters, and his patients so when I knew I was pregnant with a boy, I told him secretly to let him choose the mohel and finally hold a boy of his own in his arms as he did for his bris. Only just before Pesach, he was so proud to see Jude was just taller than him. We think the last thing he probably did was drive Annie to the tube station after spending time with her. We found in his wallet his note to himself to pick up Lottie from her chemistry A Level last year, written in his beautiful writing with the exact time and date and her phone number. He had also done chemistry A Level but self-deprecating as ever, told her it was easy when he did it, because they hadn’t invented half of it in his day. He was reliable and loving and silly, and would have done anything for the people he loved.

ever the contrarian he had the most beautiful handwriting and calligraphy

He also loved to be contrary which is why a man who grew up in West London and spent his life by St James’ Park ended up avidly supporting Sunderland, despite having no connection at all to the place.

His general knowledge was astounding and ridiculous, and ever the contrarian he had the most beautiful handwriting and calligraphy despite what people say about doctors. He did the crossword religiously, went to shul religiously, and criticised everyone in the public eye religiously. He never forgot a birthday, a yahrzheit, a milestone, a name or an anniversary, writing us and hand delivering beautifully written cards and presents.

My Dad died watching TV, with no warning and no fuss. I think that was a good death for him. He will be really annoyed that he missed University Challenge and Mastermind and probably had to sit there through Pointless, which he found, well, pointless. A few weeks ago when he come over to me he was so serious I was worried what he was going to tell me. He just wanted to make sure I didn’t mind if he had his dinner in front of the telly as it was the last ever episode of Inspector Morse. He will be disappointed to have missed the Coronation. He would have talked the whole way through it, criticised the attendees and explained to us all the entire line of succession back a few hundred years.

For someone who spent their life in health, he was blessed with amazing health himself. He walked everywhere his whole life, never got sick and couldn’t have been bothered to get ill before death. When they asked, we had no medical history to give the coroner and the GP had no medical problems to report to them. For that I am very happy as it would not have suited him to be ill or fragile.

He didn’t even bother getting Covid in the last few years despite sitting next to me when I had it last month , and going to the supermarket every day in the special pensioner hour. We told him the hour was just meant to be once a week, but he went every day because it was so boring in lockdown.

you would have loved the medical angle of your parsha

Dad, we are shocked to have lost you so suddenly but I know you would not have wanted to give us any trouble. You would not have wanted me to miss the other funeral and shiva I had to go to this week for your sake. We would have all been happy to have the chance to finally look after you, but you never needed it or wanted it. I was really happy when I asked you to come over and watch dinner or just have a cup of tea and you said yes. We thought you would have your second barmitzvah next year and you would have loved it so much; all that shul and chatting with the Rabbi ,and you would have loved the medical angle of your parsha with Moshe praying for his sisters recovery from leprosy.

I will miss you, and the kids are devastated.You would have been so chuffed Lottie flew home to say goodbye to you, and been beaming that Jude keeps telling that awful doctor joke of yours. I cannot believe you are no longer here but only hope wherever you are, you have already poured yourself a huge malt whiskey, found your dad and a packet of biscuits, and are settling down together to some good telly.