Obituary: Colin Dove

It was with great sadness that we heard of the passing of Colin Dove, former Principal of the (then) British School of Osteopathy last weekend. Colin made a significant contribution to the school during his leadership and to the profession throughout his lifetime and will be remembered by many.

Dr Martin Collins, another former Principal, has kindly written the following words.

"The recent death of Colin Dove is a great loss to the profession. It is impossible to overstate the debt osteopathy owes to him.

Colin was of a generation of osteopaths, of whom sadly few now remain, who were pioneers of the profession as it began to assert itself in the post-war years. Having received osteopathic treatment following a cycle injury, he entered the School after National Service (compulsory military service, of which youngsters today have no conception) graduating in 1956, one of seven students. With his small moustache, he never quite lost a certain military air.

The early 1950s was a period of transition when significant changes were instigated in the curriculum, following the death of John Martin Littlejohn and the appointment of Shilton Webster-Jones as Principal. Colin was one of the first of a new breed of osteopath who were taught the new curriculum, but who also grasped the torch and ran with it. Initially a Clinic Superintendent, he took over the teaching of ‘Principles’ from Webster-Jones and became its Head of Department, encouraging a ‘biopsychosocial’ concept of health.1

He was a man of strong views and not afraid to express them. He joined the Board of Governing Directors of the School in 1962, but became critical of it being self-perpetuating and dominated by Edward Hall, who with the support of his cabal, had control over the School. In 1963 Colin was one of the working party with Clem Middleton and Commander Morris, who brought about a controversial change in the management of the School, which came into effect in 1964. The Board was replaced by one accountable, elected by graduates each with a share and with a Principal who was the Chief Executive Officer.2 From 1962 to 1964, with Donald Norfolk, he strengthened the Osteopathic Educational Foundation (OEF) as the principal fund-raising body for the School, leading to the demise of EPOC (the Extension of the Practice of Osteopathy Campaign).

Colin became Principal of the School in 1968 following the retirement of Webster-Jones. The School had become somewhat moribund. Colin, with considerable energy and experience, lay the foundations for the next phase of its development. James Littlejohn commented to him, ‘My father would have been so pleased. The School has waited 60 years for you’.2 Throughout his tenure as Principal, ‘his energy had been irrepressible and his leadership refreshing, marked by a forthright, pragmatic attitude. If he though an idea would not work, he was not afraid to share his beliefs regardless of who he was talking to’.(1)

In 1966 there were only 29 students in total in the School. Colin launched a vigorous recruitment campaign, underway by 1970, which increased the number and calibre of students. He promoted a career in osteopathy through advertisements in magazines and career journals, wrote articles, attended careers exhibitions and conferences, initiated open days for students and career officers and contacted career teachers and the Career Advisory Service. A leaflet was produced, ‘Osteopathy as a Career’. An added value was that doctors were finding out about osteopathy from the prospectuses that their children brought home.(2)

The School participated in the National Careers Exhibition at Olympia 1970, using six linked projectors - quite sophisticated technology for the time. Not being able to afford a stand, in return for a pint of beer, Colin managed to get it paid for from money left over from stands for more wealthy participants. He was good at nurtured important contacts. Through Sir Toby Weaver, a patient of Webster-Jones, who had been Deputy Secretary at the Department of Education, he succeeded in overcoming the resistance of recognition of the School by the DEpartment and gaining publicity for it through the Central Youth Employment Exchange. By 1978 the number of students in the School had increased to 98.

Furthermore, during his period as Principal, he tackled the difficult problems of the School’s finances by reducing expenditure and increasing income, the School was modernised and the building extended, the curriculum revised and a four-year course introduced in 1970 and he ensured the school was better understood in government circles.

He stepped down as Principal in 1977, have indicated his intent to do so the year before, to be succeeded by Stanley Bradford, who was responsible for the relocation of the School to Suffolk Street, but Colin produced a report on the future of the School, which included the need to relocate, which he intentionally left in his desk for Bradford to find.

Colin’s involvement with the School was then far from over. In 1979, a Postgraduate and Research Department was set up, with Colin as Director, though shortly after research separated from it. Led by Colin, a more extensive programme of postgraduate courses was planned and delivered by a Board of Postgraduate Studies. The Board considered a number of models of postgraduate qualification and a small working party was set up in 1988 to develop a proposal. The Advanced Diploma in Osteopathy (ADO) was the first course of its kind leading to a postgraduate qualification in osteopathy and the first Diploma was awarded in 1992. Although short-lived, it lay the foundation for the development of the MSc in Osteopathic Care validated by the Open University Validation Service in 1966. Colin can take the credit for having initiated this process.

Colin was a supporter of research in the profession, that even in the 1980s was still virtually non-existent in the UK. In 1982 a Research Advisory Board was set up with a number of distinguished members including Irwin Korr, Head of Research at Kirksville, who had become a personal friend of Colin.

Colin’s influence on the osteopathic profession was far beyond his contribution to the BSO. He became a Council member of the General Council and Register of Osteopaths (GCRO) and then its Vice-Chairman and was also an important figure in the early years of the Research Council for Complementary Medicine (RCCM).

He made a significant contribution to unity in the profession, a prerequisite for statutory recognition, working with the leading lights of the other major schools and colleges of osteopathy at a time when the profession was very fractionated.

Through discussions with John Upleger and Tom Dummer, he enabled members of the Society of Osteopaths and European School of Osteopathy (ESO) alumni to join the GCRO en bloc. He was Instrumental in ESO gaining GCRO accreditation, which successfully occurred in 1983. He advised it to work with the GCRO to reach an appropriate standard before formal application for accreditation was made by making an informal application and to use the recommendations as a guideline for improvement.

Colin’s rare willingness to work with those who were not graduates of the BSO, was evident in other ways. In 1974 the Postgraduate Department admitted graduates of other schools and colleges onto its courses and the Board of Postgraduate Studies in 1986 included representatives from the ESO and British College of Naturopathy and Osteopathy.

Colin was initially sceptical of cranial osteopathy. As Principal of the BSO, he attended the cranial course arranged by Grieson ‘Greg’ Currie held at the Eccleston Hotel and in 1972 wrote, ‘so far the theories of cranial movements, whilst highly ingenious are unconvincing’. In 1973 he was invited to attend the American Osteopathic Association and Cranial Academy meetings in Colorado Springs, America. He went on behalf of the BSO as an ‘exploratory’ mission and was won over, a testament to his open-mindedness. He returned the following year and gave a presentation.

Colin became an Associate Board Member of the Sutherland Cranial Teaching Foundation (SCTF) and organised UK annual postgraduate courses under its auspices for medical and dental practitioners and GCRO members. The SCTF agreed to provide teachers. Many eminent American cranial osteopaths taught on these courses. In 1985 Rollin Becker, Executive Director of the SCTF, granted Colin permission to allow members of the Society of Osteopaths to attend the courses in that they were ‘honorary’ GCRO members, it being anticipated that they would receive GCRO membership in the near future. By opening these courses to non-GCRO members, Colin again helped to create a unity in the profession. However, the verbal agreement was not conveyed to the SCTF Board, or at least were never ratified by it, and a serious backlash occurred.

Being a key person in bringing about such unity, it is not surprising that he was present in 1988 at the lunch hosted by HRH The Prince of Wales at Kensington Palace, at which important members of the medical profession and two health ministers were also present, a pivotal event that ultimately led to the statutory recognition of the profession in 1993.

Occasionally Colin could be formidable. Outspoken and forthright he had no reservations about stating that one was talking nonsense, but there was a warm side to his personality. He remained a practising osteopath and accepted as assistants generations of freshly graduated osteopaths, whom he nurtured. Unlike some employers who chose ‘the best of the crop’ there were those who came under his wing who greatly benefited from the mentorship he provided. Some of the leading members of the profession were once his assistants.

Colin had a great interest in the history of osteopathy and taught the subject for many years, but he was, as indicated, also an important part of it. The National Osteopathy Archive is fortunate in him donating to it his personal papers and him providing an audio-recording of his recollections, made by John O’Brien. When writing my book on the history of the School in 2015, I sent Colin the chapters on the 1960s and ‘70s to read and comment on. He was highly critical of them. Not deterred, I offered to take him and his wife Mary to lunch in return for him correcting my errors. I mentioned, as this was likely to be the definitive history of the School, the importance of getting it right. In an armchair at his home and suffering ill-health he related in extraordinary detail key events that took place during his years at the School, with anecdotes and character descriptions that cannot be obtained from reading minutes of meetings and other paper sources. It was a for me an unexpected great privilege to be in receipt of this. I was able to include, with due acknowledgment, this rich tapestry in my book, to ensure its preservation.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that neither the University College of Osteopathy, nor the osteopathic profession would be where they are today if it were not for Colin Dove."

Charles Hunt, UCO Vice-Chancellor adds:

"Colin was a leader in the truest sense of the word both in osteopathy and the BSO. I can only thank Colin for what he achieved for the UCO/BSO and his friendly smile and support for me in role as Principal and then VC. Our thoughts and love are with his wife and family at this time."


1. O’Brien, J. (2013). Bonesetters: A History of British Osteopathy. (Ashan Ltd, Tunbridge Wells), pp66, 90-91.

2. Collins, M. (2016). The British School of Osteopathy The First Hundred Years. (Xlibris Publishing Ltd), pp113-14, 119, 125-7.

Photograph: Colin Dove, second from left)




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