Obituary for Carlo Biagi
Consultant orthopaedic surgeon
Born: 8 August, 1924, in Maybole, Ayrshire.
Died: 13 June, 2006, in Clovenfords, Scottish Borders, aged 81.
IN 1959 a young registrar from Southampton General Hospital was asked to stand in as track doctor at a local speedway meet. At that meeting a rider was killed. The fledgling doctor vowed he would never return. In spite of his avowal, he continued his involvement and 20 years later he was appointed honorary medical officer to the Speedway Association. Carlo Biagi's career as "miracle doctor" for the sport of speedway had begun.
Carlo was born in Maybole, Ayrshire, the younger of two sons, to Italian immigrant Amos Biagi. He attended George Watson's College in Edinburgh where he achieved sporting success in rugby and athletics and to this day holds the record for the longest throw of a cricket ball. He left the relative security of his education and immediately threw himself into the maelstrom of the Second World War, enlisting, with typical recklessness, into the Commando regiment. Carlo saw active service in Holland, France, Belgium and Germany. He received the French and German stars and was mentioned in dispatches. After the war he served with the Paratroop Regiment in Palestine.
When he was finally demobbed from the army, he followed his older brother, Bill, into medicine and began his training at Edinburgh University, graduating in 1954. There followed periods of work at the Royal, Chalmers and Leith hospitals in Edinburgh and also his beloved Peel hospital in the Borders to which he was to return, in 1964, for the rest of his working life as an orthopaedic consultant. But, in the intervening decade, Carlo discovered speedway and speedway discovered him.
At Southampton in 1959, now newly married to glamorous, young actress Bridget Claire, Carlo met and became close friends with many of the speedway riders he was to patch up over the years; Barry Briggs, Ivan Mauger, Ronnie Moore, Peter Craven and many others. Days before the 1963 world final, Ove Fundin broke some bones in his foot and his chances of riding at Wembley looked slim. He visited Carlo who devised a special cast that not only enabled Ove to ride, but helped him to win the title with 14 points. Another young rider, Bob Duckworth, crashed at a Southampton meet one night and all but severed his foot on the fence. Carlo Biagi set to work right there and then to save the foot with such success that the rider was eventually able to continue racing for many years to come.
Carlo's move to the Scottish Borders in the1960s did not deter the steady stream of riders making the pilgrimage north to seek his advice and ministrations. On many occasions, a rider would be told by his local hospital that the injury he had sustained was irreparable, career ending or at best would require months of recuperation, only to receive a very different prognosis from Dr Biagi. Carlo respected and perhaps identified with the courage shown by the professional sportsmen who came under his care. He admired their dedication and did everything possible to support them in their determination to ride against the odds. Many a medical colleague of Carlo's would remark that one rider or another should barely be out of bed never mind riding around a circular track, at high speed, on a bike with no brakes.
His medical skills extended further to the field of rugby and he was for many years one of the two doctors who provided medical cover for Galashiels club. There were very few Sunday mornings when players were not phoning to report injuries, minor and major, sustained the day before. Eventually he was appointed an honorary vice-president of the club.
More recognition followed. In June 1981, the Speedway Association held a testimonial meeting in his honour at which Carlo was presented with a brand new Rover car as an expression of gratitude for all the work he had done for them over the years.
In 1982, Carlo was awarded an honorary fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons - a tribute normally reserved for distinguished international visiting surgeons and almost unheard of for a surgeon at a small hospital such as Peel. In 1990, he was presented with an MBE at Buckingham Palace for services to orthopaedic surgery.
In 1988, Peel hospital closed and Carlo moved, with the rest of the staff, to the brand new Borders General Hospital. While he appreciated that it was the inevitable march of progress that brought about the change, he missed the sociable, intimate atmosphere of Peel. A year later, at the age of 65, Carlo retired to pursue his hobbies of gardening and model-ship building.
Carlo was a gifted surgeon and an instinctive healer. Many owe a huge debt of gratitude to him, and he became legendary among the speedway fraternity as the "miracle doctor", a title he was the first to dismiss with his characteristic humility. However, his undoubted appeal stemmed from his lack of self importance. He treated everybody the same and seldom, if ever, played the status game. He was a much loved man.
Carlo Biagi is survived by his wife, Bridget, and their four children.
(From the www.scotsman.com 26 June 2006)