About Dr. Jack Preger


Calcutta's "Pavement Doctor"
Kolkata, India.

Dr Jack Preger at the former Middleton Row Clinic     

        The purpose of this web site is to share with you the work of an extraordinary man, Dr. Jack Preger.

        Jack Preger has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and was awarded an MBE by the British Government. The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland presented him with their Distinguished Graduate's Medal. The Royal College of Physicians (UK) gave him a Fellowship in recognition of his work in West Bengal. Despite this, he is not well known. He he is a modest and retiring figure who does not seek publicity, and rarely gives interviews.

        This e-book hopes to change that status. Not only is his life a fascinating adventure story which needs to be told, and his example an inspiration to all ages, the charity he founded is in need of support. This does not come readily unless you are a ‘famous’ figure - and Jack, although he does not wish it, has every reason to be so.

        The more people that know about his work therefore, the more support he will receive, and readers can help without donating a single cent simply by telling compassionate friends, journalists, news editors and kindred spirits about this website.

       It is intended that the content will be published as a book entitled "Once You Begin, The Rest Follows" the proceeds of which will be donated, in full, to his charity.

        Since the interviews with Jack, many names in Calcutta have been changed (including the city, which is now called Kolkata) For the sake of familiarity however, the original names have been preserved in the text. If on reading this you feel you would like to help Jack's work, (eg. as a volunteer, a tourist, a blogger, a journalist, or promoting the charity's excellent handicrafts) please click here for details.

HOW  THIS  BEGAN  

        Around 1984/85 I was working in Calcutta for Mother Teresa in her home for the dying at Khalighat where at that there was no shortage of volunteers.  When I remarked that we were almost tripping over each other in our endeavours, Sven, one of the group who was going home the next day, suggested:

"Well, you should really be working for Jack - he needs all the help he can get"

        I had no idea then who “Jack” was, but the subsequent description I received sent me next day to a street called Middleton Row out of intense curiosity. Surely Sven's story of a "British doctor working on the pavement" was a joke?

On the contrary.

What met my eyes in the scorching sun that day was one of the most
astonishing sights I had ever seen. 

A small section of the former Middleton Row "Pavement Clinic"
(It treated as many as 500 patients a day)

        Here was surely the most extraordinary medical clinic in the world, operating from the dusty pavement, under battered tarpaulins. In the middle of a multitude of destitute patients and sincere-faced volunteers sat its stethoscoped operator, an indomitable, determined British doctor called Jack Preger.

Dr Jack consults with a medical colleague at Middleton Row

        The appear-at-dawn, disappear-at-dusk clinic offered free medical services, including on-site medical examinations, wound cleaning, dressings, and first aid. A dispensary issued medicines and drugs. Volunteer nurses gave injections, and took blood samples. The clinic paid for laboratory tests, X-Rays, and other investigative procedures. In selected cases, patients were sent for surgery, cancer treatments and other therapies. Before being established as a registered charity as Calcutta Rescue, this ‘illegal’ operation continued 6 days a week for FOURTEEN YEARS.  

        There is a 60-second YouTube video (in French) which shows the Middleton Row Clinic at this link
A worth-watching 7-minute video of Calcutta Rescue's work today, which also shows images of the former pavement clinic (at 01.40 mins) is here

        At one stage, Jack's  'illegal' status had him thrown into Calcutta's Alipore jail, where he shared a filthy cell with 40 other prisoners, scores of rats, and thousands of cockroaches.  This did not discourage him one bit.

Former Middleton Row Clinic - The Medical Records 'Department'

        So who was this man?  What on earth had motivated him to do this?  Where did he find the strength and courage to fight with the authorities? What had kept him going all this time? What were his private thoughts and philosophies? His future ambitions?

Waiting in line at Middleton Row for Jack's free medical care and compassion

        I wanted to find out, so I invited him for dinner. That was the beginning. This book is a record of many hours of exclusive and private interviews that followed. For the first time ever, Jack spoke out, sincerely, revealingly, very often amusingly and occasionally irreverently. The result is recorded in the chapters which follow.

        Since the Middleton Row operation was closed down, Jack has created four free medical clinics, two schools, plus provides many other services to the poor in West Bengal, including free treatment in for multi-drug resistant TB and free treatment for resistant cases of HIV on second-line anti-retroviral drugs.  As far as we know, nobody else in West Bengal offers this life-saving treatment, free of charge.

        Please read on to discover more, beginning with a Reader's Digest article on the next page - which accurately sets the scene for us and provides a preliminary insight into Jack's amazing, often tough and tragic world - and for most of us, a world unknown, a world completely apart. 

The author with Jack in Canning, rural West Bengal, circa 1992

        Thank you for visiting. I will be happy to receive comments, suggestions or critiques. Let me know too, if you wish to receive updates on Jack's work. I am in touch with him regularly. 

        I will also happily forward any personal messages which you wish to address to Jack. If you would like a printable text-only version Word document of this web site by email, please go here

Yours in the service of  "Calcutta Rescue"

Basil McCall
Page last Revised on 25 July 2015

HOME PAGE          SITE INDEX          NEXT PAGE