A former chair of the British Medical Association and lifelong NHS campaigner from St John’s Wood has died aged 97.

Dr John Marks passed away last Tuesday (September 20), having let the fanfare of Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral die down before taking his leave.

Born in 1925 in Hackney, John was the eldest of three children. His brother Vincent came along in 1930, followed by Sheila in 1934.

Their father was a publican, running the Grand Junction Arms in Harlesden and later establishments in South Norwood and Tottenham.

In 1936 he started at Tottenham County School, and went on to study medicine at the University of Edinburgh in 1943.

He qualified as a doctor in July 1948, on the first day of the National Health Service.

Brent & Kilburn Times: John Marks studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh and became a doctor on the day the NHS beganJohn Marks studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh and became a doctor on the day the NHS began (Image: Sally Patterson)

This was fitting, as John was a staunch supporter of the NHS, epitomised in his aptly named 2008 autobiography The NHS: Beginning, Middle and End?.

His first job was as locum casualty officer at St Leonard's Hospital in Shoreditch, before moving to Wembley Hospital.

In 1949 he was conscripted into the Royal Army Medical Corp, and was posted to Egypt, the one place he asked not to go.

While in service a patient coughed in his face and John later lost sight in his left eye permanently.

In the early 1950s his brother Vincent brought John to a dance organised by the London Jewish Graduates Association, where he first met a “beautiful gem in a green dress”, fellow doctor Shirley Nathan.

Shirley and John were married at Hendon Synagogue on June 17 1954, and they rarely argued in their almost 70-year marriage.

Brent & Kilburn Times: John Marks married Shirley Nathan in 1954John Marks married Shirley Nathan in 1954 (Image: Sally Patterson)

When asked about the most important thing he had done in his life, John’s answer was always the same - marrying Shirley.

They went on to have three children; Richard, Helen and Laura.

The newlyweds moved to Borehamwood where John was made a partner at a new GP group practice.

He served as a family doctor there for more than 30 years, and many of his patients still recall the smartie jar on his desk.

Shirley joined him at the practice, despite objections to female doctors by other partners.

John was a steadfast supporter of abortion law reform, having seen the fatal effects of botched home attempts to end a pregnancy.

He spoke passionately on the topic at British Medical Association meetings, which he chaired from 1984 to 1990, and was instrumental in passing the 1967 Abortion Act.

He continued to campaign for women’s access to free and safe abortions over the following decades, speaking at rallies and on television when the Act was threatened.

Brent & Kilburn Times: John and Shirley had three children: Richard, Helen and LauraJohn and Shirley had three children: Richard, Helen and Laura (Image: Sally Patterson)

In the 1980s, John led the BMA's campaign against proposed NHS reforms put forward by Conservative Minister of Health Kenneth Clarke.

A particularly memorable poster featured a steamroller and the words: “Mrs Thatcher’s plans for the NHS.”

Another read: “What do you call a man who ignores medical advice? Mr Clarke.”

Other professional achievements included campaigns enforcing seat belts and respecting the confidentiality of AIDS sufferers.

John was also key in the founding of the College of General Practitioners, which he thought was needed because “general practice was looked upon as the dustbin of medicine”.

John was known for speaking his mind and standing up for what he believed in - his strong moral compass may have made him enemies in Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet, but it gained him the respect of countless doctors across the UK.

Brent & Kilburn Times: Every year, the couple held a Channukah party in their St John's Wood flat, attended by their large extended familyEvery year, the couple held a Channukah party in their St John's Wood flat, attended by their large extended family (Image: Sally Patterson)

Alongside his professional achievements, John loved nothing more than spending time with his eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

He treated them to days out at war museums, trips to the cinema and curry lunches near his St John’s Wood flat.

John will be remembered for standing up for doctors and their patients, his booming laugh and having an answer for everything.