GP and founder member of the Royal College of General Practitioners

Born: November 21 1915;

Died: September 29 2016

DR PERRY Harrison, who has died aged 100, was a rural GP and founder member of the Royal College of General Practitioners who served the community of Strathblane in Stirlingshire single-handedly for 35 years.

Anyone encountering this slight, softly-spoken, genial, unassuming centenarian would have been hard put to guess what a remarkable individual stood before them: not merely a model family doctor, gifted artist, expert on all matters heraldic, devoted father and faithful Christian but almost certainly the only person in Britain who was still delivering Meals on Wheels at age 97.

Yet his life so easily could have been cut short on the evening of January 7 1944. By this time, having served in the merchant navy, the young doctor was a lieutenant surgeon in the Royal Navy on board HMS Nene. When a German U-boat sunk another frigate (HMS Tweed) nearby, it fell to Harrison to go out in a whaler and save as many sailors as he could.

For three hellish hours, unsure even if the Nene would return for him, he had the ghastly task of selecting and picking up those badly burned and drowning men he thought might live. Barely 40 survived. More than 80 perished. The incident left a deep mark on the 28-year old, though he rarely spoke of it.

Later the same year he wed his sweetheart Cecile and in 1950 they moved to Blanefield with their daughters, Kathleen and Sheila. A son, David, followed and Perry Harrison embarked on the unrelenting toil of a single-handed GP covering a large rural area in the early years of the NHS. This not only involved being on call 24/7, but making many of the pills he prescribed and conducting home deliveries, including on one snowy day a traveller’s baby in her bender, made of branches and tarpaulins. To help make ends meet, he took on extra work, including dental anaesthetics in Helensburgh and geriatric care at Schaw Hospital in Bearsden, working on even after contracting polio. Doctors were not expected to take sick leave.

Cecile became his unpaid receptionist and if an urgent call came in when her husband was out seeing patients, she was often to be seen frantically pursuing him round the neighbourhood. How easily we forget life before mobiles.

By the 1970s, Dr Harrison had become something of an institution and not just locally. As a founder member of the Royal College of GPs, he was responsible for arranging for medical students to gain practical experience by being attached to doctors’ surgeries, a practice now taken for granted. He also designed the RCGP’s coat of arms and its inscription “Cum Scientia Caritas” (“Compassion with knowledge”), since adopted by sister organisations all over the world. He dated his passion for heraldry back to his nine-year old self studying the badge on his school blazer.

Herbert Percival Cooper Harrison (always known as Perry) and his identical twin Ronald had been born in Guildford in 1915 as Zeppelins flew overhead but moved to Glasgow when their father landed a chief engineer’s job there. They attended Albert Road Academy in Pollokshields and Glasgow Academy before being packed off to boarding school in North London in 1930. The intention was to “anglicise” the boys but it had the opposite effect. They always thought of Scotland as home and at the first opportunity Perry and Ronnie headed back to Glasgow University and Glasgow School of Art to study medicine and architecture respectively.

Perry found he could grasp anatomical detail better if he made sketches as well as notes. All sorts of painting but especially watercolours of the beautiful landscapes around Strathblane became a lifelong passion, relieving the hard grind and isolation of solo general practice. His doctor’s black bag always contained a drawing pad, in case his eye was caught by the play of the light across a valley or hillside. A hasty sketch could be worked up later at home.

Another interest was subduing his one-acre garden, which he regarded as a fitness exercise rather than a form of relaxation. “He was rather obsessive about grass-cutting. It was his idea of enjoyment,” said his daughter Kathleen.

In so-called retirement his vigour and energy were legendary. He celebrated the millennium as the oldest participant in a charity 10km race from Killearn to Strathblane (having walked the course the previous day to make sure he was up to it). And, freed from the constraints of doctoring, he continued to care for the community in different ways, primarily as an elder of Strathblane Parish Church, where he worshipped for 65 years. His strong faith was at the core of all he did. And, blessed with excellent health, he continued delivering Meals on Wheels (almost invariably to those younger than himself) in all weathers until three years ago. He was also a regular volunteer at the Coach House at Balmore, recycling tools for African farmers and more recently helping in the charity shop.

His family interests encompassed both future and past generations. In 2007 he lost both his darling wife Cecile and his twin Ronnie but to the end he retained a lively interest in the activities of his three children, five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, who all survive him. And having once confessed to an addiction to defining and investigating things, he leaves behind a family archive that runs to 27 volumes. During his final illness he continued to work on a biography of one of his predecessors as Strathblane’s doctor. As Perry Harrison would cheerfully admit, his century of achievement necessitated a certain stubbornness and single-mindedness.

Typically, he celebrated reaching his century in November last year with an exhibition and sale of his watercolours that raised thousands for charity. The least two surprising facts about Perry Harrison are that he designed a family crest and that the motto he chose was “Help One Another”.