John Wagget was born in Chester le Street, County Durham and had his secondary education at Dame Allan’s School, Newcastle (where he played and developed a life-long passion for rugby) before entering the medical school of Durham University. He qualified in 1961 having won the Sir James Spence Prize in paediatrics and wanting to pursue a career in surgery. It was appropriate therefore that he opted for the then relatively new speciality of paediatric surgery. The majority of his training was done in Newcastle with John Scott but a Fulbright Fellowship allowed him to spend a year at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia under the tutelage of C. Everett (Chick) Coop.
He was appointed Consultant Paediatric Surgeon in 1971, initially at the Fleming Memorial Hospital for Sick Children and the Babies’ Hospital and later at the Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI) Newcastle after both those institutions closed. He had learned about total parenteral nutrition in the post-surgical neonate in Philadelphia and made setting up that service in Newcastle one of his top priorities – a considerable advance in the treatment of those vulnerable patients.
John was a meticulous, skilful and caring surgeon much loved by staff, parents and patients alike. He was also an excellent, patient and generous trainer taking seriously his role of teaching the next generation of surgeons; I was one such beneficiary.
As a hands-on surgeon he would not have described himself as an academic but he published thirty papers in scientific journals (TPN and acetyl cholinesterase in rectal biopsies featured prominently), contributed four chapters to standard textbooks and gave numerous presentations to learned societies including the BAPS. With the closure of the Fleming Hospital he wrote and published a short history of it aided by his close friend the Clinical Biochemist Gordan Dale. After the move to the RVI he became involved in medical administration serving for 6 years as the clinical director for paediatrics and as a member of numerous local and national committees.
John retired early at age 59 because of health problems and, although these became further complicated over the years, he had a long and generally active retirement. He remained very active with a local children’s charity, with his church and a local primary school. Aside from rugby – he continued to support the Newcastle Falcons – his other main passions were his garden and hiking.
While a houseman John met Ina Graham, a theatre staff nurse, and they were married in 1963. They had three daughters, Kathryn, Rachel and Lois and he was a devoted family man. They all survive him as do two grandchildren and his younger sister Vera. His younger brother Eric predeceased him.