Richard Duggins’ Speech

Good morning, my name is Rich Duggins, and I have had the privilege of been one of Mat’s friends since we met on our first day of Medical School in September 1992.

When I first met Mat he was in some ways a rather serious, respectful young man with a really strong work ethic. Many of us remember the days when he would bring his sleeping bag into medical school so he could sleep over in the library at night to get even more work done. We have seen Mat grow a deal since those early medical school days. He still kept his enjoyment of hard work, and his respect for others, but he added to these attributes, some new qualities: his charisma, his charm, his confidence, and his ability to be at the centre, and often create, many of the great things that have happened in our lives.

In this terrible week since I heard Mat had died, one of moments that really helped me was reading Julie’s thoughtful and wonderful letter on the website she set up in memory of Mat. In the letter, one of the aspects of Mat Julie describes was his enthusiasm.

Mat had a determined, unfaltering, and sometimes infuriating, enthusiasm. A passionate enjoyment of everything. A love of life.

Mat had some strong, unchanging, and specific enthusiasms, passions and loves, and it is these that I would like to talk about now.

His enthusiasm and love for his wife Julie.

His enthusiasm and love for his Mum, Dad, Joe and Liza, and his wider family.

His enthusiasm for his friends – of which I am one of many, many friends who benefited.

His enthusiasm for Newcastle, and Newcastle United, and it is absolutely wonderful that we are able to join together this afternoon at St James Park.

His enthusiasm for India – and one of my cherished memories is the 3 months when we were medical students that Mat took Mark and myself round India – and he certainly tried to ensure we saw everything we could see, travelling by train, bus and on one occasion cattle truck, from Kerala to the Punjab.

And his enthusiasm for medicine. Mat was an exceptional medical student, leaving medical school with a distinction. I was fortunate enough to be in Mat’s study group for our medical school finals, but it was not really a study group, more a Master class with Mat teaching us how to do things properly.

Mat is remembered at medical school not only for his generosity in educating, but also in entertaining. I would think that few people from Newcastle Medical School will ever forget Mat’s performances including the Spanish Inquisition, Mr T., and of course, and I think his personal favourite, Mr Medalion Man.

It is hard when talking about Mat not to get carried away by his enthusiasm, and like him carry on talking until the early hours of the morning. But I would like to mention one other characteristic Mat possessed. John F Kennedy is described as possessing charisma, and this charisma is described as Kennedy’s ability to make the person he was talking to, feel like he or she was the most important person in the world, and that he or she had his full and undivided attention. Mat had this special gift of charisma. You knew when you talked with Mat that he truly believed what you were saying, and doing, was important and special. I think this gift made him so valued by his patients as a doctor, and certainly incredible to have as a friend.

Today, the next months, and time after that, are going to be so painful. But one thing I hope I can do at times is to remember Mat’s enthusiasm, passion and love of life, and his belief that what we each say, and do, is important and special.