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Gordon, P. (1991). R. D. Laing: A distant memoir. Free Associations, 2(1):86-89.

(1991). Free Associations, 2(1):86-89

R. D. Laing: A distant memoir

Paul Gordon

When there are so many we shall have to mourn …

Of whom shall we speak? For every day they die

Among us, those who were doing us some good …

Such was this doctor.

W. H. Auden

I never met R. D. Laing, yet his death in August 1989 haunted me for what remained of the summer. But it is only as the weeks have passed that I have begun to grasp the meaning of his death for me.

Even before I first read Laing as a student he was already part of my life. While I was an infant he was working as a young psychiatrist at the Gartnavel Royal Mental Hospital, a vast, brooding place, only minutes from where I lived, which dominated the view from our family's top-floor flat. (Laing himself would be reminded of Homer's Hades by its wards.) Against its menacing background I would later fish for minnows in Bingham's Pond and be rowed in a boat in the colours of summer. It was there too that my grandfather would die. And it was the young psychiatrist from Gartnavel whom my mother met when he visited the Glasgow child guidance clinic where she then worked.

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