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18th June 2008


Mick Ryan
Eleanor Cranstoun


Dr. David Annal

It is with much regret that we record the death of Dr. David Annal, one of the founder members of the Independent Computer Products User Group (ICPUG) South East, dating back to when it was a PET enthusiasts club. David died on 6th May 2008, after a two year battle with cancer.

Born in October 1934, the only child of an entrepreneurial engineer, David was also fascinated with technology and was building electrical gadgets at a very early age. He chose, however, to go into medicine as a GP. He never wanted to be anything else and trained at the old Charing Cross hospital, which is where he met Rosemary who was a nurse there. They married in 1958 and throughout his working life he practiced as a GP in Streatham, South London.

They had two children Christopher and Jacqui. Chris remembers a generous father and some fun times, camping in the New Forest, sailing their narrow boat - good memories. Then later 3 grandchildren, Steve, Mandy and Bethany, came along - a source of much pride and happiness. But sadly, Jacqui died at the age of 44 a couple of years ago and that was a terrible upset for David and for his family.

David never remarried after his marriage ended in 1981 but Rosemary and he always remained firm friends. After he retired David was able to devote himself to his passion for computers and for computer graphics. This was his creative outlet and he had a wide circle of friends, both real and cyber. After his retirement from medicine, David took on paid work in computer graphics and in web site design. The computer work was in effect a second career and he was busy with it, on his new laptop, right until the end.

His career as a GP is best described by his colleague Hattie Blacklay, his general practitioner partner:

"I first met David 30 years ago when I came for an interview for a partnership at the Rowan Surgery, then at the corner site of 182 Rowan Road, Streatham. I recall the interview as warm, friendly, informal and fun, no less, in huge contrast with current day styles. Douglas Watt, senior partner sat at the doctor's desk. I was in the patient's chair and David sat casually on the couch swinging his legs. We all liked each other immediately and I was offered the job. The only sticking point was my unwillingness to work out of hours, so we mutually decided to leave it. Three months later David rang up and asked if I had found a permanent position yet. The answer was no and so he kindly offered me the job on my terms, an example of his flexibility and practical, pragmatic approach. We had a very happy, strong partnership that soon saw me working out of hours as well, on the rota, due to David's persuasive powers!

David had a very good sense of humour and was full of fun. On a clinical level he would frequently tease me when, being naive and insecure, I did many more blood tests than he would to confirm my diagnosis, whereas he would manage purely on his excellent clinical skills. When I asked for advice on how to manage minor abnormalities on blood tests he would laugh and smilingly advise me not to do them in the first place! Another example of his humour was when I always complained that there was never a pen to hand when wanted. On my return from holiday one day I opened my consulting room to find that at least 40 pens and pencils were hanging from string from every fixture, fitting and free standing item in the room. I tried to remove as many as possible before my first patient arrived but continued to find many more during morning surgery, providing much entertainment for all!

David's personality was such that he had a gruff and sometimes abrupt exterior but underneath was always supportive, helpful, friendly and kind. Both patients and his partners admired, trusted and respected him greatly for his precise clinical acumen and very sound medical judgement and experience. He was a fine physician and I will always be grateful for the enduring support he gave to me as a junior doctor. He always spoke with great clarity and to the point, with no wasted words. This gave patients great confidence in him.

David's other interests were his devoted cats, which were always around him. They gave him beautiful companionship and were faithfully on his bed to the very last. One of David's other notable characteristics was his amazing stoicism throughout episodes of great sadness in his life, such as the death of his daughter. This stoicism also included his own terminal illness. He would give you factual information but never, ever complained, however tough the going.

I leave you therefore with a picture of a very intellectually able, independent, quite private person who has been an excellent, dedicated and sincere doctor, giving years of his life to his patients and the NHS but also developing and sustaining his other interests. He managed to maintain his stoic, uncomplaining, yet humorous outlook to the very end and I will remember him as a much valued and admired working partner and friend."

David’s main interest outside medicine was computers. He was already writing articles on computers whilst working as a full time GP. His logical and enquiring mind, which made him a practical doctor, also led him to melding computers into his wide range of interests: building his own electronics (including one of the earliest "always-right" Rugby controlled clocks); understanding and solving puzzles; appreciating art; manipulating images (especially those of his cats, friends and neighbours!); collecting music, including works by Karl Jenkins, Enya and all the works of J S Bach. With the latter he learnt about the maths behind the music, which led him to the maths of fractals and a whole world of tessellations. He also designed a structure, (an Aeolian harp), for recording the sound of wind inaudible to the human ear until by complex means he had translated this into a computer generated sound. He was very pleased to have been able to write up and put this, his final project, onto the web. Some of these talents can be seen on his brilliantly designed and much visited web site, http://www.tessellations.org.uk.

David became an expert on HTML and web site design and construction. He designed the RAF Jever web site at http://www.rafjever.org and found a home for it. He then taught Mick Ryan how to continue building the site which today has 4,500 pages and 94 videos. He was always patient with stupid queries and always came up with a solution to problems.

David never missed the ICPUG social outings, in particular Lourdes and Charmouth. (At the former he revealed a working knowledge of French, which was particularly useful in the restaurants). It was at one of these events when he was bestowed with the affectionate nickname "Dr David" to differentiate from several other David’s who were around at the time - the nickname stuck. September 1987 saw the first Charmouth event and David and Eleanor Cranstoun set off from Mitcham and quickly realised that the clutch was unwell. It finally failed about 30 miles from the ultimate destination of the Queen’s Armes and they were rescued by the AA. The story did not end there, however. The car remained on the south coast to be mended and he was due to fetch it when the great storm hit - the one which changed Sevenoaks to Oneoak! David was car-less and on duty but, typically, he borrowed a car and set off to help. Unfortunately he managed to crash it into a fallen tree, carelessly left in the road. David enjoyed telling this story, especially the bit where he phoned Charmouth to say he couldn’t come to collect the car yet due to the storm and Pete Miles said, "What storm?"

Continuing the Charmouth theme, David always had an interesting subject or two to share with the gathered experts and could be relied on to solve several of James Dalgety’s dastardly puzzles, as well as playing practical jokes on the waiting staff.

Always keen to help people, David was a tower of support to the computing community from the early days. He attended computer fairs in his spare time, answering all manner of questions and setting-to in order to solve problems. Once he was retired, this led to a project which was almost a part-time job. Together with Len Beard and Harry Broomhall, David tirelessly attended computer fairs in the south-east on behalf of ICPUG SE. Do not get the idea that this was all serious stuff though - he was able to turn his hand to the odd practical joke or two when he felt like it. On a sunny Sunday in Battersea Park a fellow member decided he’d had enough answering questions and was going to recline in a deck-chair for a while. David then constructed a notice over his head - "I’m Robin Bradbeer. Ask me questions about computers". As this was the purpose of the day, people did just that - and it was ages before Robin discovered why.

Like most computer enthusiasts David liked to buy the latest things that would help him with his hobbies, such as disc drives or the latest digital camera. Every so often he would travel, (sometimes with his fellow aficionados Tom Cranstoun and Nigel Haydon), to find that specialist shop or warehouse that had that state-of-the-art thing. The growth of the web of course meant that travelling was usually no longer necessary and he could order these bits from the comfort of his home - which of course led to a whole new avenue of battling with the suppliers when it was not exactly as described or failed to turn-up on time.

When David was diagnosed with cancer his first thoughts were for his cats - siblings Felix and Kiki - and for his tessellations web-site. Luckily he was able to find homes for all. This award winning web-site is regularly used by thousands of children across the world as it is quoted on many a maths syllabus. Seth Bareiss was recruited to inherit the mantle of webmaster and the site continues to grow. Seth plans to hold a tessellation competition in David’s honour.

Because he was the man he was, he left his affairs in good order, with clear labelling and instructions. At the end he went downhill very quickly, though on the Sunday before he died he was able to laugh and joke with his family. Thanks to their devotion and determination and the help from the visiting nurses, he was able to die at home as he wanted, cat on the bed, peaceful at the end.

Ed: I would like to add just a couple of points to the above.

David was involved with IPUG from the earliest days. He first made an appearance on the membership list in January 1979.

David gave great service to the club, none more so than during the committee meetings run by Mick Ryan, our Chairman at the time. I'm sure Mick will not mind me saying that he could talk the hind legs off a donkey! When David decided that Mick had talked long enough on a particular topic and it was time to move on he raised a little sign which said, "Waffle, Waffle"! It had the desired efect. Happy memories.