Reg Elliot, who was a significant figure in the TC movement during the late sixties and seventies, died in Galashiels in November 2014. He worked at Dingleton before, during and after Maxwell Jones’s time there, and was a controversial figure in ATC gatherings through that period.
Born in 1925, he was abandoned by his mother and spent his childhood in foster care. He joined the Navy during the War and served all over the world. After being invalided out, he trained as a psychiatric nurse at Dingleton. At first he was seen as a troublesome character by the very traditional nursing administration of the time, but he was identified as someone who could challenge authority effectively, and make good relationships with patients. Very soon, in about 1966, he was promoted to Charge Nurse of the male admission ward, working with an innovative American psychiatrist, Paul Polak. The hospital then moved quickly to merge the male and female wards, and Reg made a formidable partnership with the Ward Sister, running the combined unit and often fighting one another.
He had an instinctive grasp of what made people tick: he sensed how to get a disturbed patient to hand over a knife, or when to let someone threatening suicide walk off. He could relate to anyone in trouble, whether a drunken tramp, a depressed minister of the church, or a banker with a marriage on the rocks. He spoke truth to power, and demolished bullshit like a muckspreader. Some people saw him as a hero for this and modelled themselves on him (not always successfully if they lacked his skills); others continued to see him as a troublemaker. He had an unusual knack for stirring things up and making people think. In ‘sophisticated’ environments he could seem clumsy, but people ignored him at their peril, because he had their emotional measure.
When he decided to leave Dingleton, he went to Hertfordshire Social Services to set up a mental health hostel in Welwyn Garden City. He again established a special role for himself, and this was recognised by many there, including the Director, who set out to learn from him. He also made wider contacts, and eventually moved to work in residential care in Greenwich, and then with Richmond Fellowship.
In the 1980’s he was invited to run Trainer Self Development groups at the Civil Service College in Sunningdale. These were for trainers from all branches of the Civil Service, who wanted to look at themselves and the way they worked. He was highly regarded there, and became known throughout the Civil Service. He was invited to contribute to TC gatherings in Italy and elsewhere, and never failed to make his mark.
He was devoted to Mary, whom he married in 1952, and was devastated by her death in 2013.
They leave three children, George, Colin and Claire, and eight grandchildren.
Reg was a one-off, special person, to whom many people owe a large debt. He was just perfect for the therapeutic community movement, and, although his name may not be known in a hundred years, he is justly famous to people in countries all around the world and is recognised with affectionate and amused respect.
You can bet he is running a group among the angels, and will be trouble for anyone trying to act God.