Paediatrician who treated the survivors of the Dunblane shooting

Paediatrician who treated the survivors of the Dunblane shooting

Born: March 24, 1959; Died: April 9, 2014

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EIRWEN Bengough Bell, who has died aged 55, was a community paediatrician who, in the aftermath of the Dunblane shooting in 1996, worked tirelessly and sensitively with the surviving children.

Her gentle approach and professional commitment helped reduce the impact of the tragedy on the infants, in terms of both physical injury and emotional trauma.

The circumstances surrounding the incident - in which 43-year-old Thomas Hamilton shot and killed 16 primary one children and their teacher in the gymnasium at Dunblane Primary School - also motivated Dr Bengough Bell to campaign successfully for the introduction of tighter procedures for doctors when signing off on firearms certificates. Hamilton had been armed with four handguns which he owned legally.

At the time, Dr Bengough Bell's contribution to the wellbeing of the youngsters was singled out for praise by the then Secretary of State for Scotland Michael (now Lord) Forsyth and by Lord Cullen, the High Court judge who led the subsequent public inquiry into the massacre.

She was born in Helensburgh, the daughter of a Welsh academic and his wife, and was educated at the town's Hermitage Academy before going on to study medicine at the Welsh National School of Medicine in Cardiff.

Graduating MBChB in 1981, she set her sights on paediatrics as a speciality. Although she never had any children of her own, she loved working with them and her kind, friendly approach always helped to put them at ease.

She returned to Scotland, settled in Dunblane, and took up the post of community paediatrician with Forth Valley NHS. Although formally based in Stirling, her job took her to schools and clinics across a huge part of Central Scotland, from Crianlarich to Loch Lomond and all points in between.

Then on March 13, 1996, life changed dramatically. On that day it was the emergency doctors and paramedics who dealt directly with the victims of one of Scotland's worst ever incidents of mass murder.

However, in the months and even years which followed, it was Dr Bengough Bell's job to pick up the pieces of the children's shattered lives. It was an onerous task and a challenge which she carried out with all the compassion and medical training at her command.

Always gentle and unassuming by nature, Dr Bengough Bell was a dedicated professional who quietly got on with the job of tending to those in the community who had suffered, whether physically or psychologically, as a result of the shooting.

Although she often found the experience distressing, she discovered an inner strength which allowed her to focus on her work.

That same courage and inner strength came to the fore once again when she was diagnosed with the illness which eventually took her life.

She knew she was suffering from ovarian cancer last year when she finally married her long-term companion, the award-winning author, poet and broadcaster Robin Bell. The couple had first met in 1985 when he was invited to be guest speaker at the Writers' Group in Stirling of which she was secretary.

Mr Bell was immediately struck by the fact that she went out of her way to make everyone feel at ease. They became firm friends but it was not until after the Dunblane shooting that they were drawn closer to each other and became partners.

Their wedding took place in September last year at Braeholm, a historic house in Dr Bengough Bell's native Helensburgh. It was a poignant choice of venue.

Now a family centre run by a Royal Navy charity, it was a maternity hospital in the 1950s and the place where Dr Bengough Bell was born.

The couple, who lived in Auchterarder after their wedding, shared a love of writing. Like her husband, she was a published author whose collection of children's stories, The Unspoken Water, was broadcast on BBC Scotland in the 1990s.

When she retired from medicine in 2003, she spent much of her time helping and inspiring Mr Bell in his work.

Dr Bengough Bell, who died peacefully at the Beatson Cancer Centre in Glasgow, is survived by her husband.