Obituary: Dr Alexander Sherlock

Don Black
Tuesday 09 March 1999 01:02

ALEXANDER SHERLOCK represented the former South-West Essex constituency in the European Parliament from 1979 until 1989. He was known in particular for his wit and the breadth of his scientific knowledge. Two ills he attempted to cure at Strasbourg were costly bureaucracy and verbal incontinence, using blunt language (such as "cretins" for interrupters) that might have caused him trouble had he ever been a Westminster MP.

As a European Democratic Group MEP, Sherlock was more successful in his official duties as front-bench spokesman on the environment and in the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Consumer Protection. Whether speaking on budgets, hazardous waste, pollution in general or the quality of beers and wines, he could be relied upon to get quickly to the heart of the matter .

In a debate on dumping at sea (10 June 1986), he contended that the Rhine and the Meuse accounted for "well in excess of 20 times the highest emission that could ever be made by the United Kingdom into the North Sea alone". Sherlock went on:

I would say that the dirty man of Europe is collectively a responsibility of those potentially beautiful but filthy rivers.

Second, disposal in this way looks upon the environment as if it were divisible. The environment is indivisible. One cannot protect part of it without increased pressure on land disposal sites. I invite those select few who remain here for these debates to start looking at the disposal sites in their backyard and say what we are going to do with it all? There is a lot of stuff, from doctors' gloves all the way down to sewage sludge. You may turn your back on that every morning but it has been one of the problems of Homo sapiens all of the time.

Educated at Magdalen College School, Oxford, and Stowmarket Grammar School, Sherlock achieved his MB BS Honours degree at the London Hospital and, while a flight lieutenant in the RAF, researched airsickness.

As a general practitioner in Felixstowe from 1948 until 1979, he worked with the consequences of such disasters as the East Coast flood of 31 January 1953 that claimed 39 lives in the town. He himself became a casualty when called to an explosion that killed three men at Felixstowe gasworks in 1956. He was caught in a second blast and suffered severe leg injuries.

He found relaxation in legal studies and, in 1961, was called to the Bar. He applied his various skills as assistant deputy coroner for St Pancras in 1971 and 1972. He was also Suffolk county surgeon for the St John Ambulance Brigade, a member of the former Felixstowe Urban District Council, of East Suffolk County Council and Harwich Harbour Conservancy Board (now Harwich Haven Authority) and had active roles in Rotary and Freemasonry.

After leaving the European Parliament, Sherlock continued to live at Felixstowe, where he loved to work in his garden.

Don Black

Alexander Sherlock, medical practitioner, barrister and politician: born Coventry, Warwickshire 14 February 1922; called to the Bar, Gray's Inn 1961; MEP (Conservative) for South-West Essex 1979-89; CBE 1989; married 1945 Peggy Scarff (died 1975; one son, two daughters), 1976 Eileen Hall (one stepdaughter); died Felixstowe, Suffolk 18 February 1999.

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