Sunday, 3 October 2021

The Doctor Will See You Now?

"Dear Dr Lindsay," begins a charming email from a much younger person, to whose request I have been delighted to accede, and who holds a doctorate. I am not, I have never claimed to be, and I have never attempted to become Dr Lindsay. But this error, which I always correct and have corrected in this case, has now been made for a quarter of a century.

In either September or October 1996, and in one order or the other but I cannot remember which, I received a letter addressed to "Dr David Lindsay" from Jimmy Goldsmith, of all people, and a letter addressed to "The Reverend Dr David Lindsay" from a Reverend Doctor who, at almost exactly the same time, admitted me as an undergraduate for the next year at the Durham college of which he was Principal.

Sir James was corrected, although he continued the correspondence even once he knew that I was a 19-year-old barman, but my other correspondent left both his position and this country very soon afterwards. To this day, I have never met him, so I can only assume that he thought that there were two David Lindsays at this address, presumably a father and son.

Goldsmith is the only person without a doctorate ever to have assumed me to have held one, but people with their own have done it with remarkable frequency. For example, the Centre of Theology and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham innocently listed me among its members as "Dr David Lindsay" until Oliver Kamm noticed and threw a hissy fit.

I corrected it, and it was put right. Kammiknickers in a twist had been completely ignored on the subject, as was only right and proper. I have no idea why, but academically distinguished people read my work and just assume me to be a PhD. None of them has ever had that reaction to Kamm's effusions. Hey, ho.

As for the Reverend thing, an old lady from South Shields did once ask me, "Are you David Miliband, Father?" I explained that I was neither, and that it would have been impossible to have been both. Apart from that, though, the only people to have assumed me to have been ordained have themselves been ordained.

Again, I am not, I have never claimed to be, and I have never attempted to be. Yet, among other things, I have had "Dear Father Lindsay" from bishops and from Vatican officials, both of whom one might have expected to have been in a position to check. I cannot begin to explain it, although, again, I do of course always correct it.

I might let "Dr Lindsay" go among my own people, variously conceived, if it were to arise spontaneously among them, in the manner of the late Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. It would wind up Kamm no end, and what is life for, if not for that? Other than that, I would tolerate objections to it only from people who would never have said or written either "Dr Paisley" or "Dr Angelou".

"We hand this woman, Margaret Thatcher, over to the Devil." "I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size." Dr Lindsay would be happy to give his most favourable peer review to that vintage Dr Angelou and to that vintage Dr Paisley, in that order.


  1. The departure of that Reverend Doctor is how you never became either and are not now Principal there yourself.