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5th November 2012

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John Myatt finds out why John Plummer avoided the call of the sea.

It was the idea of having a new car at regular intervals which finally turned John Plummer away from the family's fishing tradition and set him on course for a very different dynasty of dentistry.

Shrewd investment, backed up with a lifetime of experience, had seen father Jack (John Robert) Plummer make a good living. Fishermen frequently put all they had into the purchase of a vessel, only to find they had no money left for nets, without which there was no income. Jack Plummer supplied and serviced nets through which he gained a share of the catch and, from time to time, ownership of the vessel when boat owners buckled under the harsh realities of the life.

'The family tradition went back to the time when a group of Winterton fishermen moved into Caister where they saw the chance to make big money,' said John. Some of them did well, but it was all relative. And ironically it was a relative which led to John's career direction being steered away from any idea of going to sea.

'I had an older cousin, we called him 'Uncle' Ralph, who was a dentist and doing so well that he had a new car every two years whereas we had no car at all.' The cars were a good reason to consider dentistry.

By now his father Jack was - in fishing terms - doing well but his tales of the sea were of narrow escapes and drowned crew members, and he certainly did not want young John to perpetuate the family's nautical tradition. With that degree of superstition common among fishermen Jack felt the family had already had their fair share of good fortune and he didn't want to push his luck with his son.

In 1885 Robert Leech Plummer was one of seven who survived, adrift and half frozen, when the yawl Zephyr went down with the rest of its 15-man crew. And in the Caister lifeboat disaster of 1901, when nine members of the 12-man crew of the Beauchamp were drowned, an earlier John Plummer had only survived because he was a member of the first crew who were sent home to rest while the second fateful crew put to sea.

Instead John went away to study in Newcastle to return a fully qualified dentist and his future mapped out with wife Carole whom he readily acknowledges as 'the business brain of the family.'

'Uncle' Ralph offered him a partnership in his Great Yarmouth practice and eventually he took over the whole business, which included half a dozen rooms up two tremendously steep flights of stairs in a building on Queen Street where photographer Brian Colton and myself also set up a press agency.

John, over 6ft of muscle, would take those steps two at a time while the struggling journalist had to stop 'for a fag' halfway up! At this time John was an important figure in local cricket and football - the sight of this very, very determined chap bearing down on a defender suggested to one onlooker that he was out to create business for his dental firm but it was just that John brought great enthusiasm to everything he did.

It was that enthusiasm and, as John will not allow anyone to forget, the support of his wife Carole, which led to the start of a dental empire.

And it is a big business today with eleven branches under the banner of John G. Plummer and Associates in places as far apart as Lowestoft and Wymondham. While alongside there is a flourishing private practice offering cosmetic work and orthodontics the Plummers have stayed faithful to the NHS - for a time even refusing to charge for regular inspections when they were first introduced by the government.

A few years back when some areas were facing a severe shortage of NHS dentists thanks to earlier government cutbacks in training, John headed o to Poland to find new recruits - Poland's dental training easily matching the UK's standards. The vacancies were filled and no patients were turned away.

Now the practice has its own dedicated training premises near its Great Yarmouth surgery where there is a full training course available for the various aspects of modern dentistry. Currently the company employs around 240 staff , 65 of them qualified dentists making it the largest privately-owned dental practice in the country.

One of their two daughters, Samantha, lives in London, is married to a lawyer and has a boy and girl. The other, Suzanne, is a qualified dentist and is married to the practice manager Andrew Cross. They have two boys so between them there's every chance then that the business will stay in the family. And, yes, John still enjoys driving those new cars!

 
Author: Amy Platten RDN -

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