Sue Young Histories

John Stephen Hughes Games 1927 – 2004

November 02, 2009

John Stephen Hughes Games 1927 – 2004John Stephen Hughes Games 1927 – 2004 was a British orthodox physician who converted to homeopathy to become the President of the Faculty of Homeopathy, Physician at the Bristol Homeopathic Hospital, and he was an effective, persuasive promoter of homeopathy as a broadcaster, writer and lecturer.

Hughes Games was one of Bristol’s most flamboyant and best loved characters, as well known in the city’s social and sporting circles as he was on the council estates of south Bristol where he worked tirelessly as a GP for over 40 years.

Hughes Games was a colleague of Marjorie Grace Blackie,

Hughes Games practiced in Bristol,

From The Independant 19.8.2004 by James Belsey:

John Hughes Games was an effective, persuasive promoter of homeopathy as a broadcaster, writer and lecturer.

John Hughes Games, doctor and homeopath: born Parksville, British Columbia 26 May 1927; general practitioner 1954-1997; President, Faculty of Homeopathy 1984-87; married 1955 Hilary Cove (one son, one daughter; marriage dissolved 1964), 1975 Susan Driver (two sons); died Bristol 22 July 2004.

His lectures inspired generations of doctors to take up homeopathy and in 1988 he founded the Bristol Medical Homeopathic Group in a vain attempt to save the city’s Homeopathic Hospital in Cotham after its patients were moved to the Bristol Eye Hospital. The hospital building was bought by Bristol University for student residences but, as a compromise, a homeopathy outpatients department was opened in its grounds in 1994.

Hughes Games was one of Bristol’s most flamboyant and best loved characters, as well known in the city’s social and sporting circles as he was on the council estates of south Bristol where he worked tirelessly as a GP for over 40 years.

He firmly believed that homeopathy should only be practiced and used as complementary treatment by properly qualified doctors. He had seen the results of lay homeopathy in cases where serious illnesses had failed to be diagnosed by non medical professionals. He regularly published articles and letters and these included powerful attacks on unqualified homeopaths.

Both his father Guy and his mother Betty came from well known Bristol families, but John Hughes Games was born on Vancouver Island in Canada where his father - who suffered bouts of depression - had moved to start a poultry farm. The venture did not work out and the family was back in Bristol before John was a year old.

There was a strong medical tradition on his mother’s side. Two generations of her family, the Munro Smiths, had worked as surgeons in Bristol. John Hughes Games went to preparatory school in Bristol before he was sent to board at King William’s College on the Isle of Man to escape enemy bombing in the South west.

He did not do well academically, but National Service came to his rescue. He served with the Royal Artillery in Kenya for 18 happy, fulfilling months. He learnt fly fishing in the foothills of Mount Kenya and was delighted to discover later the coincidence that the first trout he landed had been exported to Kenya from Bristol Waterworks Company’s fishery at Ubley, which serves Blagdon and Chew Valley lakes. He also learnt Swahili.

After National Service, he crammed hard to catch up on missing academic qualifications and was accepted at Bristol University’s Medical School, qualifying as a doctor in 1954.

With his useful family connections, Hughes Games could have joined a well heeled practice in one of Bristol’s smarter areas. Instead he chose to work in south Bristol among very mixed communities. Privately, he would say that the privilege was his - his commitment to his patients and their communities was total.

Hughes Games began to explore the complementary role of homeopathy after one of his patients died following routine treatment, and took his first homeopathic course in the 1960s. He met and established a warm friendship with the distinguished Marjorie Grace Blackie,, honorary homeopathic consultant to the Queen, and spent 18 months working a day a week at her practice in Thurloe Street, South Kensington.

Marjorie Grace Blackie, invited Hughes Games to join the practice. He would have succeeded her as the Queen’s homeopathic consultant, but his loyalty to his Bristol patients was too strong and he declined, much to Marjorie Grace Blackie,‘s regret.

In 1996, he became a Vice President of the Blackie Foundation Trust and also served as Chairman of the William Kadleigh Memorial Fund which supports young homeopathic doctors.

Away from work, he was a keen fly fisherman and a founding member and later Chairman of West Country Fly Fishers. His favourite fishing haunts were Blagdon and Chew Valley lakes and the rivers Usk and Wye in Wales and the Tay in Scotland. Hughes Games had many other interests, including rough shooting, and was a useful amateur artist and loved sketching.

He was also a keen amateur photographer - one of his earliest schoolboy photographic experiments was to rig up a camera with a trip wire attached to a mousetrap. He was very proud of the resulting print which clearly showed a mouse’s bottom. He enjoyed gardening, driving and acting as an assistant for hot air balloon flights by inflating them and then chasing them across the countryside so that he was on hand for landings.

John Hughes Games was a devoted father and, after his first marriage was dissolved, brought up his son and daughter himself. He married his second wife Susan, a biology teacher, in 1975 and, to his joy, became father to two more sons.

When Hughes Games turned 70, it took all his sunny character and extrovert good humour to conceal his bitterness when, after more than 40 years’ devotion to the NHS, his only official recognition was a curt letter informing him that he would be no longer be allowed to practice as a GP because of his age. Instead he continued to treat patients with homeopathy from his home in Bristol until his final illness.

The swashbuckling, larger than life Hughes Games never did things by halves. When he was recently undergoing treatment at the Bristol Oncology Centre, he was appalled to discover that the grubby windows through which he tried to peer had not been cleaned for seven years. He asked friends to contribute to a £1,500 appeal for every single window in the building to be scrubbed. The money has been raised and tendering for the work has begun. Even after his death, John Hughes Games is still adding a little sunshine to the lives of patients and NHS colleagues.

Hughes Games’ Obituary is in The Hindu Times, and in The British Medical Journal 2004; 329:861:

The Hindu Times 2004: In the final weeks of his life, Dr. John Hughes Games wanted to be able to see the sky and the birds flying past his hospital ward. However, the grimy windows denied him much of that simple pleasure.

He became so concerned that others should not be similarly deprived, that he asked his wife, Susan, to ensure that money was made available after his death for the building’s windows to be cleaned.

Dr. Hughes Games, a general practitioner in Bristol for 40 years, died two weeks ago, aged 77, after being treated for leukaemia at the city’s oncology centre.

His family placed a death notice in newspapers informing those who knew him that any donations should be sent to a window cleaning fund for the centre. Ms. Hughes Games, 51, said her husband was diagnosed with leukaemia in February. Several weeks ago, he became `quite ill” and was admitted to the centre, where he was monitored and given transfusions over three weeks.

When they realised it was not really working they allowed him to come home,'' she said.He was at home for a week before he died.

Whilst he was in hospital he just said,I would really like to leave some money to have these windows cleaned’.”

Dr. Hughes Games was at the top of the four storey building. Ms. Hughes Games, a biology teacher, said: `He was able to see the sky, and the clouds and the birds, all of which he loved to look at, but the windows were so grimy that every day looked grey and gloomy.

`They had not been cleaned for some years, I believe. He just wanted people inside to be connected to the outside world. The windows could not be opened because leukaemia patients are susceptible to infection, she added.

Ms. Hughes Games, whose husband died four days before their 29th wedding anniversary, stressed that she had nothing but praise for the treatment her husband received at the centre. She said:`He had such terrific, wonderful care and I hope this fund is a way of giving something back.”

One estimate put the cost of cleaning the 400 windows at the centre at between £700 and £1,000. Ms. Hughes Games said she was pretty confident'' that the sum could be raised.The family will make it up if it does not reach that figure,” she added.

We would like to raise more so we could set up a fund and have them cleaned regularly.'' She said her husband's gesture was unusual butit was the kind of thing he would have done.”

I would not say he was an eccentric but he was an original,'' she added.He was a terrific enthusiast who was very passionate about lots of things. He was interested in other people. He thought it was a privilege to be allowed into other people’s homes in his job, to hear about their lives and to be able to help them.”

Asked if she was surprised by the state of the unit’s windows, she said: `It is difficult. I imagine it is low down on their list of priorities.” She added that the centre was very light inside. The dirty state of the windows was, however, apparent from the outside.

Dr. David Spence, clinical director at the United Bristol Healthcare Trust, which runs the oncology unit, said of Dr. Hughes Games: He was quite a spontaneous guy.One day he said, `I’m going to set up a fund to have these windows cleaned’, and absolutely true to form he is having it done.”

The trust said in a statement that Dr. Hughes Games was a larger than life character and had a great rapport with staff at the oncology centre." A spokesman said the trust would discuss with Ms. Hughes Games how to take the plan forward. He added that the trust had several large old buildings that required special equipment for window cleaners to operate safely which meant costs had becomeprohibitively expensive.” He said: `The inside of the windows are regularly cleaned and we clean windows whenever we carry out maintenance work.” He was unable to say how regularly the outsides were cleaned.

A window cleaner, Steve Glasson, of Bristol based firm Gleaming Windows, said: `It is a big job. They are a terrible mess and it would not be a simple case of giving them a wipe. They will need a thorough clean to get rid of all the bird mess and dirt. It is at least a week of work.”

Dr. Hughes Games, who had five grandchildren, retired from the NHS when he was 70. He was a specialist in homeopathy and continued to see patients privately at home.

The British Medical Journal 2004; 329:861: John’s great passion was homeopathic medicine. He was past president of the Faculty of Homoeopathic Medicine, a lecturer, author, and an examiner in faculty examinations, and he did regular phone ins on local radio and cable television. He was a talented sketcher and painter, and enjoyed fishing and shooting. He leaves a wife, Sue; four children; and five grandchildren.

Hughes Games wrote to object about Edzard Ernst’s attack on homeopathy in his article Homeopathic Arnica in The Journal of Tthe Royal Society of Medicine, where he comments ’It would be a tragedy if this effective, non toxic and inexpensive medicine was denied patients because scientists cannot believe that it works‘.

Hughes Games also wrote to complain to the BBC in 2003 after its shameful programme on BBC, criticising homeopathy without allowing a single homeopath to be present to defend homeopathy.

Hughes Games also published Homeopathy and the placebo effect in Homeopathy. 2003 Apr;92(2):125-6.