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George Patterson

Missionary, author and activist;

Born: August 19, 1920; Died: December 28, 2012.

George Patterson, who has died aged 92, was an engineer, preacher, medical missionary, journalist, Liberal Party candidate, author, lecturer, campaigner, counsellor and fundraiser. Above all he was an adventurer. The opening sentence of his first book God's Fool (1954) read: "I am a man with a passion for God", and it was this passion that turned his life into an eventful, challenging and always vibrant journey.

His two biggest adventures were in Sino-Tibetan politics as a traveller, emissary and commentator, and in the world of opiate trafficking as a reporter, healer and friend of addicts. In 1950 he alerted the world to the imminent invasion of Tibet by China and was part of an aborted plot to help the Dalai Lama to exile in America.

Two decades later he dedicated his life to supporting his wife, Dr Meg Patterson, as she pioneered a radical new treatment for addictions.

These two adventures seem unrelated but he believed his experiences with Tibetan guerillas, Indian gurus and Chinese triad members prepared him for his later work with Western addicts.

Born into a Plymouth Brethren family in Falkirk in 1920, he studied engineering and worked for six years in the munitions department of the local Carron Engineering Company. He gained a reputation as a dynamic preacher in Brethren assemblies but became dissatisfied with what he thought had become empty traditionalism.

It was while reading books on mountaineering that he felt the call to go to Tibet, a country only a handful of Westerners had visited in the 20th century. He enrolled at a medical missionary college in London in 1945 for a year of preparation. The most obvious, safe and economical route to Tibet was through India but he believed God had told him to travel overland through China, a country then ruptured by civil war.

Arriving in Shanghai in 1947, he crossed China to Kangding where he met fellow Scottish missionary Geoffrey Bull. Mr Bull had gone into Tibet with medical supplies and treated Pandatshang Togbye, a powerful regional revolutionary.

When the communists approached Pandatshang Togbye to side with them against the Lhasa government they revealed their plans to invade Tibet. Having been privy to this information, Mr Patterson wrestled with his conscience as to whether he should stay as a missionary or leave to alert the outside world to Tibet's predicament.

After much prayer he decided on the latter move even though it meant over 1000 miles of travel by foot and horseback in freezing conditions to reach India. On his arrival in Calcutta he met representatives of the American, British and Indian governments and revealed what he knew.

Unable to return to Tibet, Mr Patterson lived on the Indian border and became a stringer on Asian affairs for several newspapers. He also wrote the books Up and Down Asia (1956), Tragic Destiny (1958) and Tibet in Revolt (1960). In 1952 he met a brilliant young surgeon, Dr Margaret "Meg" Ingram. They married in 1953.

The couple returned to Britain briefly in the 1960s during which time Mr Patterson stood as Liberal candidate for Edinburgh West.

In 1962 Meg was awarded an MBE and two years later was offered a job in Hong Kong. This move opened up a new area of interest in their lives. Through his work as a journalist and television correspondent, Mr Patterson became an expert in the colony's underworld of drug trafficking.

At the same time Meg was meeting Chinese heroin addicts at the Tung Wah Hospital where electroacupuncture was frequently used as an analgesic for surgery. Patients who were coincidentally addicts reported that the electrical pulses removed their craving for drugs without the symptoms of withdrawal. This started a process of research that was to last the rest of her life.

In 1973 the couple returned to Britain, this time to an apartment in Harley Street where Meg trialled electroacupuncture as a treatment for drug addiction. Mr Patterson now devoted his skills to supporting and promoting his wife's work.

The treatment, by now branded NeuroElectric Therapy (NET), was soon being sought out by some of the world's best-known rock stars and Mr Patterson found himself counselling the likes of Eric Clapton, Keith Richards and Boy George.

The only predictable thing about Mr Patterson's life was its unpredictability. He never owned a home or knew where his next source of income was coming from. After Harley Street he moved to Broadhurst Manor, a 16th-century mansion in Horsted Keynes he hoped would become a permanent clinic, and then in the mid-1980s to San Diego from where he helped open a charity clinic in Tijuana.

His final return to Britain came in 2001 after Meg suffered a stroke. She died in Scotland in July 2002.

He continued writing and publishing into his 80s and left behind a number of unpublished adventure novels and books of theology.

In 2011 the human rights organisation International Campaign for Tibet awarded him the Light of Truth Award for making a significant contribution to the public understanding of Tibet.

He died at his retirement home in Lesmahagow, and is survived by his sons Lorne and Sean, daughter Myrrh and five granddaughters.

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