South Shields pharmacist loses battle with cancer

William Darling and his wife Ann a week before he lost his battle with cancer.
William Darling and his wife Ann a week before he lost his battle with cancer.

Tributes have been paid to a South Tyneside pharmacist who became a leading light in his profession.

William Darling, affectionately known as Bill, was highly respected in the field of pharmacy and within the National Health Service.

William Darling when he was made Deputy Lieutenant of Tyne and Wear.

William Darling when he was made Deputy Lieutenant of Tyne and Wear.

His expertise was called upon in countries throughout the world where he attended countless functions and meetings in a variety of prestigious roles.

His dedication to his profession earned him an OBE from the Queen in 1972 and later a CBE in 1988.

The grandfather-of-two, who was best known in South Tyneside for owning JM & W Darling chemists, lost his short fight with liver cancer on July 12 - only three weeks after being diagnosed.

He died at his home in Cleadon, with devoted wife Ann and his family by his side. He was 83.

While we travelled a lot, his heart was always in South Shields

Ann Darling

Paying tribute to her husband of 58 years, she said: “He was a wonderful, generous, loving, kind-hearted man. He was a lovely man through and through.

“He was always interested in administration and the National Health Service. He always believed it was the best thing since sliced bread and he would do anything he could to improve it.

“He was a very public-spirited man. We did travel a lot to various countries and I supported him the best I could, and he would encourage me to do what I wanted to do.

“He was recognised nationally and internationally as a very important figure in pharmaceuticals.

“But while we travelled a lot, his heart was always in South Shields. He was South Shields through and through. He was South Shields born and bred and he was proud of it.”

Bill’s great-uncle, John Darling, established the well-known South Shields chemist’s more than 120 years ago. It was taken over by Bill’s father William until his death in 1957.

Despite only graduating from Sunderland Polytechnic’s School of Pharmacy the previous year, Bill made the decision to take on the family business.

And it was there his passion for medicine and his love for the NHS grew.

Bill Darling with one of his prized leeks.

Bill Darling with one of his prized leeks.

It was also around the time he met and married his wife Ann. The couple went on to have two children, Paul and Ian.

During his career Bill, who attended Mortimer Primary School, held many positions, including Chairman of Gateshead and South Tyneside Health Authority, Chairman of the National Association of Health Authorities and Trusts, Deputy Lieutenant of Tyne and Wear, Chairman of the Counter Fraud and Security Management Service which oversees policies and the management of security in the National Health Service, President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, Chairman of The Pharmaceutical Group of the European Union, President of the International Hospital Federation and until recently he was Chairman of the Standards Committee for South Tyneside Council.

Aside from his work with medicine, he loved to grow vegetables, was an avid Newcastle United fan, was an honorary member of Westoe Rugby Club, loved horse racing and raised funds for St Clare’s Hospice, which he helped to set up.

Ann, 79, added: “He used to love growing leeks and dahlias. He loved to travel and always attended the flower shows. His dahlias won him prize after prize.

“He loved life and he loved his family and he thought the world of his great niece Heather and great nephew David and his grandchildren, Alfie and Athena.

“He was very generous with his time. We did have a full and wonderful life together. I enjoyed it all.”

Bill Darling meets the Queen at the opening of the new courthouse in South Shields.

Bill Darling meets the Queen at the opening of the new courthouse in South Shields.

Ann praised the support given to her husband and her family following the cancer diagnosis by the palliative care team and district nurses from South Tyneside Hospital.

She said: “The care towards our family was phenomenal. The trust should be really proud of them - they were amazing.”

A service will be held for William at South Shields Crematorium on Saturday at 10.30am.