University of Otago Otago Medical School Alumni Association

Obituary - Dr Nigel Eastgate

Nigel Eastgate died on 7 September 2001 at the age of 71 years after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. He retired from active practice four years ago. After secondary education at Christ's College he graduated MB ChB from the University of Otago Medical School. He was a delightful man of many talents and while at university he edited Capping book, and began nearly 40 years of writing extremely witty lyrics for the Capping Sextette and for Capping Conceit farces. (I well remember Hoof Hearted!). While studying medicine he completed most units of a music degree and trained the University choir for concerts and for performance with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. He incidentally introduced Bach, Handel and Mozart to Capping Concerts.

Dr Nigel Eastgate

Dr Nigel Eastgate

In 1959 he joined New Zealand's first established group practice in South Dunedin and practised there until his retirement in 1997 - one day short of 38 consecutive years, all in the same premises. He was a traditional general medical practitioner, and was adored by his patients. He had a special interest in neurology, psychiatry and medical ethics. He chaired the Ethics Committee of the Otago branch of the NZMA for many years and was a member on the national executive during the difficult period of abortion law reforms. He also served a term as President of the Otago branch. He practised hypnosis in his work and was a member of the Australasian Hypnosis Society, as well as practising acupuncture. His view of the qualities of a good GP? - "knowledge, care, enthusiasm and empathy - a wee bit of intelligence helps but it's not essential". There was, however, no doubting of Nigel's intelligence, and razor sharp wit. Even while working as a busy medical practitioner, he tutored in the Music Department, particularly in counterpoint and fugue, and even at one time performed a series of harpsichord recitals for television.

His one-act comic opera libretto with Professor John Drummond's music (Bridge to Somewhere) was performed in Dunedin in 2001 as part of the Otago Festival of Arts. Nigel was a keen philatelist and specialised in New Zealand postal fiscals and 1998 pictorials. His many talents also included calligraphy (unlike most doctors) and this interest extended to prescription writing - his scripts were a joy to pharmacists! His sporting love was golf - he played for many years at Chisholm Park and latterly at Cromwell, where he and Coreen had a holiday house. He never quite made a single figure handicap, but this was made up for by his enthusiasm.

He was twice married, his first wife, Lindsey died of carcinoma many years ago and he subsequently married Coreen and they had many happy years together. Coreen, children Judith, Adrienne and Margi, two stepchildren and nine grandchildren survive Nigel.

Nigel Eastgate - the doctor, the musician, the writer, the philatelist, the calligrapher, the golfer, and the friend - the man - his will be a very hard act to follow. He leaves a rich heritage.

Associate Professor JJ Reid
Bulletin 26, 2002/2003
(Reprinted from the NZ Medical Journal 2002)