Dr David Wilkinson: Full Transcript

I:             Right, Dr Michael Ward at the Association of Anaesthetists, 21 Portland Place, on the 6th of March 2017, interviewing Dr David Wilkinson.

P:           Thank you very much.

I:             I want to start, if I may, right at the beginning, so I want to you to tell me when you were born, where you were born and tell me a little bit about your parents, and how you got into medicine.

P:           OK, I was born in Pontypridd in South Wales, and I was born in my family’s house where my mother was born also, and that was up on the common looking out across Pontypridd. My father at that time was in the post office and my mother had just qualified as a teacher.

I:             Were you a first born?

P:           Second born. My sister Sheena is five years older than I am and she was a lecturer in Medieval English at Leicester University. My father was a very strange figure in a way because he was scheduled to have an open scholarship at Oxford or Cambridge, he had Latin, Greek and maths ‘A’ level at the age of 16, and a fantastically bright guy, and his father promptly died. His father had been very badly affected in the First World War. He’d won the Military Cross at some point for apparently attacking a machine gun nest, and was then promptly blown up very badly and lay for a day half-buried and then they found him and he had very severe shell-shock and so he never fought again after that. He came back and he went … he was a solicitor in Yorkshire, where my father was born, and then he developed tuberculosis and was sent to a sanatorium in Aberdeen where he died of laryngeal tuberculosis, which I can’t imagine anything worse than that really. So my father was 17 when his father died and his mother told him he couldn’t go to university, he had to go and get a job, so he went and became a clerk in the Post Office adding up numbers, which just seemed such an intellectual waste. He then obviously met my mother in London and she’d qualified in teaching in Bangor University, was teaching in London, and they were in digs together and then one thing led to another, and then my father went off to the Second World War and disappeared for five years or whatever and then came back again, and then I appeared. And my father kept moving around. He obviously got promoted quite rapidly when they realised what he was I think, so we kept on the move. I think I’d been to something like 11 schools by the time I was ten, so we moved from, he was working in Cardiff, then we moved to Swansea, then we moved to Preston in Lancashire and then down to Warwick and I went to school in Warwick.

I:             Do you think he was moved around because he was so good at what he did, was he being promoted all the time?

P:           He was, he was being promoted all the time and he ended up as Managing Director of Personnel for the whole of Birmingham’s … I think he got where he should have been in the end.

I:             Good childhood? Do you look back on it fondly?

P:           Yeah, I had a very, very sheltered childhood. My father was a very staunch Yorkshireman who believed that you should never buy anything unless you could pay for it so he didn’t have a house, so he paid rent till … I think he bought his first house when I was 18 and he borrowed some money from my sister at that time because we’d both had a legacy from a great uncle, and he bought his first house near Warwick and so I had a very sheltered, strict upbringing somehow. It was a very happy time. I was very close to my mother and I think I was a fairly spoilt mother’s boy in a way! And so going off to university …

I:             Well hang on, before you go to university, you went to secondary school and was that a private school or a state school?

P:           I won a scholarship to Warwick School, which was one of the great public schools, I think it’s the third oldest school in the country, funded in 912. So it was a classic boys’ half-boarding half day-boy and I was a day boy. My mother was then head mistress of a village school just outside Warwick and so I’d come in on the bus every day to school and the happiest days of your life it wasn’t at all. It was a very sporting school and I’m very big and I’m very ataxic, and quite fat and so sport was really a nightmare for me. And then I had the intellectual curiosity of a snail I think. I just … nothing captured my imagination somehow at all at school. It was grim.

I:             So you don’t look back on any one master or mistress at school that encouraged you?

P:           Well two I suppose, yeah. I had a fantastic geography master who I excelled in ‘O’ level geography and then my biology master was a guy called Brocklehurst, Keith Brocklehurst, who wrote a textbook on biology, school biology, and he was a big influence on me.

I:             And when did you feel the need to go and do medicine … or maybe you didn’t at that stage?

P:           I decided I wanted to be a doctor at the age of seven and then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because you then go and see aunts and uncles and they, ‘What are you going to be when you grow up, David?’ ‘I’m going to be a doctor.’ ‘Oh, that’s wonderful!’ And so, is it? Alright. Better go and do that then! And I was much more science-oriented than art, I have no artistic skills at all so science was going to be the way forward. I had this terrible thing at school, because I started off doing Latin, ‘cause Latin was supposed to be compulsory if you were gonna do medicine, and after two terms of Latin they stopped me doing it ‘cause I was so bad at it! And I thought that was the end of my medicine career and I then spent several years in a panic that I wasn’t going to be able to do medicine, but … in the end I did.

I:             Good ‘A’ level results?

P:           Yes, ‘A’ level was fine. I came for an interview at Barts from the sixth form. ‘cause we were in Warwick we used to go to Stratford for the theatre and the school used to run, it was three and sixpence for a school trip to go and sit in the gods in Stratford, so I must have seen the whole of Shakespeare and everything else for years, and there was a wonderful theatre in Coventry called The Crucible, which we used to go to a lot as well, and then I went for this … I scrawled all this on all my application forms and I had two people interview me and the first one was an ENT surgeon called Cope and he said, ‘Do you play rugby?’ and I said, ‘Yes sir’ ‘cause I did, and I was captain of one of the house teams but I was pretty hopeless. And he said, ‘If you came here, would you play?’ And I said, ‘Yes sir.’ He said, ‘I haven’t got any more questions. What about you?’ So he turned to the next chap and this, I then learnt later on, was George Ellis, who was an anaesthetist, and George said to me, ‘You’ve written this thing about going to Bradfield College to an open air amphitheatre to see a Greek play. Tell me about that.’ So I’d been to see Antigone at this school play and it was an absolutely stunning place, they’d converted an old quarry into a Greek amphitheatre and they’d put on Antigone and I couldn’t understand a word of it, but it was emotionally quite a fantastic thing, so I said all this. ‘I’m pleased you enjoyed that,’ he said. ‘I went to Bradfield College as a boy.’ So I felt I was in there and I was.

That was the last year they just asked for three Es. You just had to pass Physics, Chemistry and Biology and I managed to do that, so that was that.

I:             But you didn’t only get three Es, did you?

P:           I got two Bs and an E.

I:             And that was to start what year?

P:           ’66.

I:             You started the same year I did then. That’s interesting.

P:           It was extraordinary coming to London at that time from a very sheltered environment to college hall, halls of residence in your first year, and I remember going into the refectory and the only question you were asked, people said, ‘What school did you go to?’ And ‘Was your father a doctor?’ ‘Warwick? No, never heard of that!’ Very strange.

I:             When you decided to be a doctor, what sort of doctor had you thought you were going to be?

P:           I suppose I thought I was gonna be a GP because that was the only sort of doctor I’d ever seen and I saw a lot of the doctor, I had really bad asthma as a child, so I was sick a lot of the time and so the doctor kept coming to call and that’s what I saw, and he seemed to have a good lifestyle, always seemed to be going away on holidays and he drove a nice car and things, so it seemed to be the right thing to do.

I:             Tell me about your life at medical school.

P:           I didn’t do any work at all for five years.

I:             <Laughs> I can’t believe that.

P:           Not a stroke. I was a terrible medical student. I never went to anything. When I first arrived I started to go to everything and of course the first …you did two years of Second MB where you did physiology and biochemistry and anatomy and of course I knew all the physiology and biochemistry, that’s what I’d done at school, there wasn’t very much more to that. Anatomy I hadn’t seen before and I didn’t really enjoy very much. I failed Second MB anatomy and so had to retake it that summer, and eventually passed it and it was a nightmare really. So I just didn’t do any work at all really for those first two years and then I went to clinical and I did nothing for three years in clinical. I was busy enjoying myself in London.

I:             What sort of things did you get up to then? Were you music, dramatic society? You weren’t sporty.

P:           No I wasn’t really sporty. I was a keen supporter of sports. I used to go to rugby matches and shout on the thing, and I suppose I used to enjoy a beer afterwards, I became … involved in the wine committee, which was an organisation which ran the college bar, and it was a classic medical student college bar which opened at 11 o’clock at night and shut when the last man standing left, so there were amazing characters coming in. I mean Graham Chapman was just qualified and was wandering in and out all the time and people were amazing characters I think. So I used to stand behind the bar and watch all these people. It was an extraordinary life.

I:             And did you get any exposure to anaesthetics as a student?

P:           I did. You had a month’s compulsory anaesthetics and so I went to some of that, and then George Ellis was president of the wine committee and so I went to see him and he, ‘My dear boy,’ he said, ‘[13:05] hang around doing that. I’ll sign you up for the month.’ So he signed me up for the month and so I didn’t really do very much more than that. So and then I failed finals and we used to take … we took conjoint and MB so you could take conjoint in bits and pieces so I failed medicine and surgery conjoint to begin with, and then I think we had to take obstetrics as MB was the next exam and I failed that, so I then failed conjoint obstetrics and pathology and then retook it again and failed it all again.

I:             <Laughs>

P:           People don’t believe this, but eventually … and I failed the whole of MB and then I managed to get … ‘cause you start conjoint so early I managed to then qualify in conjoint by September of the year when everybody else was qualifying in MB, and I then got my house jobs and I took MB in April the following year and passed it, which was fairly straightforward.

I:             So you ended up with all the necessary qualifications.

P:           Exactly.

I:             And the first job you did?

P:           I did a house physicians at Connaught Hospital which was a very small cottage hospital next to Whips Cross in Walthamstow.

I:             I used to work at Whips Cross …as a porter!

P:           Oh OK!

I:             When I was doing my Second MB course.

P:           I won’t tell you about driving a mini down that corridor then.

I:             No, but I can believe that things used to go on!

P:           <Laughs>

I:             So you enjoyed that job?

P:           It was quite shocking because I was not a good doctor I don’t think at that early stage.

I:             Was it a chest job?

P:           It was general medicine. Three consultants, a young guy who had been appointed about two years beforehand, and you were on with … there was myself, a registrar and the consultants, so when you’re on a call there was just you and the consultant, quite stressful. I think I survived thanks to the skills of the nursing sisters and the general staff nurses on the wards really.

I:             And the second job?

P:           The second job was houseman surgery at Crawley with Julian Healey and John Bull which was an extraordinary job.

I:             Why extraordinary?

P:           Well Julian Healey was a really dynamic … he said he was an operating physician and he was just a really interesting clinical man. He didn’t operate all that much. He was relatively young, he’d passed fairly recently. And Bull was an amazing vascular surgeon. But my first day down there I’ll never forget. There was a chap, he said, ‘Oh, hello … I’m from St Thomas’s. Where are you from?’ I said, ‘Barts’. ‘Oh … never mind’ he said. ’10:30 … I normally have a gin now. Would you like to come to my house and have a gin?’ And I said, ‘Well, it’s frightfully early for me!’ ‘Oh, come along dear boy.’ And so we went to his house and that was the first time I’d had gin and lime. ‘Only have lime with gin, don’t you know. What what?’ So that was fairly extraordinary.

I:             And were you involved with looking after aneurysms and stuff like that?

P:           Yeah, normal sort of vascular stuff.

I:             Vascular surgery in the late sixties, early seventies.

P:           Exactly.

I:             And the next step?

P:           The next step, I think thought … I had this in my mind I was going to be an obstetrician gynaecologist and I was going to solve the problems of eclampsia, I’d decided that was going to be my contribution.

I:             You were going to be an academic?

P:           Yeah … well no, I was just going to be able to do this in my spare time while delivering women. So I applied for a whole series of obstetric jobs and didn’t get them. <Laughs> And so I was feeling a bit … wasn’t sure what to do, so I went home really and learnt to drive for the first time, so I passed my driving test and applied for a few more jobs and then eventually applied for a job at Whips to do obstetrics at Whips and was given that.

I:             Where they knew me.

P:           Well they didn’t know me, no, ‘cause I’d been at Connaught Hospital, which was a separate hospital. So I went to Whips Cross, and three quite extraordinary people there. There was a wonderful lady who appointed me called Daphne Caton, who would do ward rounds where we used to discuss the state of the curtains and the patients’ handbags and general clothing, and occasionally used to do the obstetric side of things. And a mad Irishman called JJ O’Sullivan who had a huge private practice and then another chap whose name’s gone right out of my head, who suffered from very severe depression and used to wear sunglasses all the time even during the operating theatre, and on one occasion I remember him driving round and round the outside of the obstetric block at Whips Cross, which was a separate unit, on the walkway round it in his car, and he eventually died, sadly.

I:             Whilst you were working there?

P:           Yeah, just after I’d left, which was quite sad. And one of the obstetricians there, another chap, was the Lord Mayor of Henley and he used to turn up in full regalia at times, in a morning suit to do his ward rounds and things. That was quite spectacular.

I:             Did you enjoy obs and gynae?

P:           I did. I did, to begin with, and then it drove me crazy really, gynae outpatients was a nightmare for me. And postpartum women I found quite hard to equilibrate with or whatever you want to call it. So I realised that wasn’t for me and I hadn’t a clue what to do, and I was sitting there one day and there was this wonderful man called Bill Chew, who was the senior anaesthetist there at the time. And he said, ‘What are you going to do next?’ And I said ‘I haven’t a clue.’ He said, ‘Well there’s an anaesthetic job coming up. Why don’t you try that.’

I:             At Whips?

P:           At Whips. So I said, ‘Oh, alright’. So I applied and he gave me the job and it just suited me. It was just suddenly it was me. I don’t know why or what but it just suited my personality.

I:             If I remember correctly you said you’d done virtually no anaesthetics as a student?

P:           Yeah. <Chuckles>

I:             And then you found yourself as an SHO …

P:           Yep.

I:             How quickly were you left to yourself?

P:           Oh almost instantly.

I:             We’re talking about the sixties or seventies.

P:           Couple of weeks, completely on your own. I can remember there was a chap called Louis de Jode who was a brilliant vascular surgeon at Whips, and he got caught for a ruptured aortic aneurysm and Louis came in with his senior registrar and I was an SHO in anaesthetics and I remember ringing up the consultant and asking could he come along and help with this and he said, ‘There’s no point’ and put the phone down.

I:             No point?

P:           No point. And I remember Louis leaning over the green [21:10] at one point and he said, ‘Do you think you could give a little more blood old chap? It’s leaking clear fluid through the graft at the moment.’ Just hadn’t a clue what I was doing really. It was pretty frightening and you’d ring the consultant and I can remember the surgical senior registrar ringing his consultant asking him to come in ‘cause he’d opened up a belly and it was just a total mess, and the chap would always say, ‘Deal with what you find as best you can’ and put the phone down. It was very much a … you know.

I:             Interesting experience!

P:           It was.

I:             Was Whips at that point part of Barts?

P:           No, it was totally separate. It was an isolated big DGH.

I:             But students went there?

P:           Students went there. Students came from both the London and from Barts, so we had a lot of students coming in and out. And a huge clinical workload. I mean when you were on call you just had a massive number of cases coming through.

I:             How long were you an SHO for?

P:           I’m not sure. Over a year I think. I took my primary and failed that several times.

I:             <Laughs>

P:           I know! There wasn’t any teaching really as such. I can remember going along and asking one of the bosses to tell me about the oscillotonometer, which you had to know about the blood pressure gadget, and he said, ‘Oh, I’ve no idea. Look it up in the book’ and I had Scurr and Feldman? as the book which was just a nightmare of a physics book and physics was always my downfall. So yeah, I failed primary, I think I failed three times really but they were very kind, ‘cause I’d been there for a while they put you up to registrar even though I’d failed primary. So I was a registrar there for a while and then eventually I … it was in my interview for the registrar post, the outside assessor was Dick Ellis from Barts, and Dick came along and he said to me afterwards, ‘Congratulations getting the job. When you’ve finished here, when you’ve done a bit more time here, come along and apply for a job at Barts. I’m sure we’d love to have you there.’ So I thought wow, that’s really nice, so I then passed my primary and almost instantly there was a job available at Barts so I thought I’d give it a go and I applied and they appointed me instantly which was really fantastic, and then I was in a completely different place because the consultants were there and they were teaching and it was remarkable and I took my final exam,  I worked with a chap who’s still a very good friend of mine, [24:05], and Lorrie Doolan and I both worked together for our finals and we used to bounce ideas off one another and we both passed.

I:             First time?

P:           Yeah, first time. He took it the day before me and I passed the next day and so that was the stimulation I think to get me through. First time I’d done any work probably as well.

I:             Well you were at Barts until March ’77.

P:           Yep, and then I became a senior registrar there.

I:             And what were your interests as a senior registrar? Just to get the job done?

P:           Yeah. I became the chief assistant so I did all the rotas and things, I really wanted to be a neuro-anaesthetist, I talked to the … there were two brilliant people, a guy called Ian Jackson who with Bob Ballantine had written the definitive textbook on neuroanaesthesia at one stage. Neuro was just fantastic in those days. You used to do these aneurysms cooling them so you’d put patients in ice baths with subcutaneous ECG electrodes and freeze them down, and you’d have oesophageal and peripheral temperature probes on them and you’d watch the oesophageal temperature probe and as it came down to a certain point you had to get them out fast or they’d fibrillate, so you had to take them out of the ice bath and then you’d put them in a cooling mattress and then they were able to clip these aneurysms. And I can remember in the research lab we had a chap called Peter Cole who used to … he really developed nitroprusside, and I can remember going along and saying to Ian Jackson, ‘Can we introduce nitroprusside into doing these aneurysms?’ He said, ‘Yeah, you can do whatever you like.’ I said, ‘Well, going to have to put in an arterial line into these cases …’ ‘Yeah, that’s alright,’ he said, ‘yeah, pop it in, carry on …’ So I said OK and I couldn’t get the darned thing in! And I was walking up the arm in my usual way, up the radial artery, and he said to me after a bit, ‘Would you like me to have a go?’ And I thought, ‘Oh goodness, this old buffer, what’s he gonna do?’ And he just picked it up and slotted it straight in. And I sort of went … and he smiled at me and said, ‘Have you read my paper on arteriotomy and neurosurgery?’ And I said, ‘No sir, I haven’t.’ And he’d done this technique for doing aneurysms where he put in a cannula into the radial artery, bled them into a bucket, which he’d put some citrate, and then brought the mean pressure down to almost nothing. He’d then clip the aneurysm and then they’d pour the citrated blood back into them and the pressure came back, arteriotomy, written up in Anaesthesia. So all these guys had done it all before. They did three craniopagus Siamese twin sets.

I:             Whilst you were there?

P:           No, no, before I was there, so and they had one survivor. It was an incredible place really to work. Great teaching. Great people.

I:             Was it neuro that was your thing at that stage?

P:           Yeah, I wanted to become a neuro-anaesthetist and I couldn’t imagine working at Barts, I mean nothing could be further … I wanted to go and live by the sea really, and of course I’d been brought up on the Gower coast when I was young and I missed it and my parents used to go to the sea all the time, my mother missed the sea terribly, so I always wanted to be by the seaside. And I can remember being called to the C1 anaesthetic room one day and Wallie Bowen who was head of the department said to me, ‘You heard I’m retiring?’ I said, ‘Yes sir, we’re all going to miss you terribly’ and all that sort of stuff. He said, ‘Well are you going to apply for my job?’ And I just burst out laughing.

I:             <Laughs>

P:           He said, ‘What are you laughing for, boy?’ I said, ‘Well, just can’t imagine anything more ridiculous. I’d never dreamed of working here.’ He said, ‘Well I can tell you, you’d get a lot of support. Go home, talk to your wife and think about it.’

I:             I’m glad you’ve mentioned your wife at last ‘cause I was just about to ask you did you have any life outside of the hospital!

P:           Of course, yes.

I:             Anyhow, let’s finish this story about –

P:           So then I … in the senior registrar mould one of the things you could try and do was paediatric anaesthesia, I wanted to go and do paediatrics, and when I was working at Whips Cross one of the … my registrar at that time was a guy called Rob Ayres and Rob was a very extrovert Australian who got the Nuffield Prize and then went back to Melbourne and working in the children’s hospital in Melbourne, so I wrote to him and said, ‘Can I get a job in Melbourne as a senior registrar?’ And he wrote back and said, ‘I don’t think there’s much hope but I’ll ask Kester Brown, who was the consultant in charge there at that time.

I:             When you were asking for a job, did you mean a consultant job or training?

P:           No, no, training post. And he said, ‘We’ve got so many of our own people here, it’s very tough for outsiders to get in, especially one as bad as you.’

I:             <Laughs>

P:           So Kester then wrote to me and said, ‘I can’t offer you a job, but there’s one probably in Perth in Western Australia if you’re interested in that.’ So I thought that’s fantastic! And at the same time I got offered a job in Kingston, Jamaica, at University of the West Indies, because I’d met John Homi who was Professor of Anaesthesia in the West Indies, he did a rotation to London I think and so I met him and he offered me a job in Kingston, Jamaica, and right at that time there was a lot of unrest in Jamaica and I remember ringing up John and saying, ‘Look, my wife now is …’ I think she was about 30 weeks pregnant at the time, ‘and we’re a bit unsure about coming to Kingston, and I’ve been offered this job in Australia and I’m not sure what to do. What do you think? Am I being silly about coming to Kingston?’ He said, ‘Don’t come David! Go to Australia. You’d be fine on the university campus, but as your wife went out on busses and things and going down to the market, people might give her a hard time, so I think you’d be better in Australia.’

I:             Sad.

P:           Yeah, it was. I rather feel I missed out on that.

I:             But you went to Australia instead.

P:           So I went to Australia and Ronnie then retired and I had an interview for a consultant post and I was appointed to start in January 1979. Said to them, ‘Well I’ve just been offered a post in Australia for January ’79 for a year. Can I go there. Would you get a locum for a year and allow me to go and do paediatrics for a year?’ and they said yes. So they held the job for me.

I:             Wow!

P:           They appointed a locum for a year and so I was appointed in October ’78, disappeared for ’79 and came back in January ’80, and I think that was quite good in a way because I think if you’re a senior registrar for four years or three years in a hospital and then become a consultant …

I:             It’s difficult.

P:           … it’s different from if you’ve been away and come back as a consultant.

I:             I think you’re absolutely right.

P:           And that suited me really.

I:             And how was Perth?

P:           Perth was magical, really, absolutely magical. Paediatrics was fantastic, had a wonderful teacher there who I still see when I go out to Australia, I try and get over to Perth and see her, Mary Liddell, a fantastic lady.

I:             Bit isolated, Perth, isn’t it?

P:           Well you know, Australia’s fairly isolated isn’t it? It is nearer I think to Singapore than to Adelaide or something, but I liked it. Because I wasn’t going to stay there I didn’t have to produce or do anything … and work finished at about 3:30 or something in the afternoon, and you’d go down and pick up the kids and go down onto the beach, so we’d be sitting on the beach in the afternoon in the sun. It was just incredible lifestyle.

I:             Did you sail?

P:           No.

I:             Too sporty?

P:           Yeah, far too. <Laughs>

I:             <Chuckles> Before we come back to Saint Bartholomew’s, tell me a little bit about the lady who has appeared once so far in this story. Where did you meet?

P:           We met at Whips Cross Hospital. There was a bar in the hospital in a place called India Lodge, and I think partly because of my activities in the wine committee I found myself running the bar a bit in India Lodge, and this lady appeared with another chap one evening. They used to have discothèques every Friday night. This guy who ran the hospital radio used to come and play, run a discothèque every Friday night and all the nurses would come in and everything, and I don’t know if it was a Friday or whatever, and she said to me, just chatting and she said, ‘Why don’t you ask me out somewhere?’ And I … what? I couldn’t imagine. I mean she was stunning, I thought! And I couldn’t imagine anything less likely that she’d say yes. And we went out and had a drink in a pup in Loughton and one thing led to another.

I:             So when did you marry?

P:           Oh goodness, that’s a tricky question.

I:             No it’s not!

P:           ’76 we married.

I:             So you were still a registrar?

P:           I was still a registrar, yeah.

I:             And your firstborn was born when you were –

P:           Fiona was born at Barts when I was a senior registrar there, so she was born in ’77. She was born on the day before Jubilee Day, so her birthday was 6/6/77 which is easy to remember.

I:             Oh, how lovely.

P:           And then … so she was fairly young, a year-and-a-bit, when we went to Perth, and Norma was about 32 weeks’ pregnant when we arrived in Perth, which was … I think it was about 42 degrees centigrade and … she won’t mind me saying, she was a big lady when she was pregnant and it was just killing. She used to go down, there was an Olympic swimming pool just down the road and she’d go with Fiona and sit in the pool and sit with a fan. It was really tough. And she had a lot of fluid. We went along and saw an obstetrician and he sent her for a scan and I was doing a list in the theatre in the Children’s Hospital and they said, ‘Phone call for you, David’ so I wandered off and a voice said, <in Australian accent> ‘Ah, can you come and get your wife? She’s really making a heck of a fuss down here at the scanning unit.’ And I said, ‘Why is she making a fuss?’ ‘Ah, you know, it’s about this cripple child you’re having.’

I:             What?

P:           I said ‘WHAT?’ ‘Oh, haven’t they talked to you about that?’ ‘Erm … no…’ ‘Ah, hang on a minute, I’ll go and get the doc for you.’ So I’m on the phone thinking … what, what … and this voice, <in upper crust British accent> ‘Oh, hellloooo,’ I said, ‘Hello.’ ‘Oh, you’re English. How marvellous! Where are you from?’ I said, ‘Look, what the heck’s going on?’ ‘Oh, your wife’s very upset, it’s about this child you’re having. Honestly, it’s terribly hydrocephalic and I can’t find one of his legs at all on the scan, so I’m afraid you’d better come and get her. She seems rather upset. It’ll be nice to see you.’

So I … <laughs> I went and picked her up and we sat on a beach, I remember sitting on this park bench next to the beach wondering what on earth we were going to do. There she was with this hydrocephalic child with one leg … and so we went and saw the obstetrician and he said, ‘Look, it looks really grim. I’m going to do the …’ What was it?’ ‘the LS ratios to see whether the lungs are mature enough for it to breathe. We need to deliver it straight away because otherwise you’re gonna have to have a caesarean section ‘cause the head’s so big and you don’t wanna have a caesarean …’ So at about 34 weeks or something we went in and Norma was induced and she had this terrible South African anaesthetist who jammed an epidural in her without much friendliness, and worked well and out came a baby boy with a normal-size head and all limbs normal, absolutely plumb normal, at about 34 weeks, and he couldn’t swallow, bless him, and had to go in an incubator and he got a bit jaundiced and nasogastric down and … said you know, you’d better sue them all and I thought … well it was just a horrible mistake they’d made and I think scanning at that time was not very accurate, so Stuart is now two inches taller than me, so he’s about 6’7” and a pretty mean basketballer and … doesn’t seem to be too [38:25].

I:             That’s a horrific story though, isn’t it?

P:           Yeah, exactly. But a good result in the end.

I:             Stuart was the last child?

P:           No, no. Then seven years later, after Stuart, we had Andrew, who’s my youngest.

I:             And where was Andrew born?

P:           Andrew was born at Barts as well. I was a consultant there then obviously. He was one of the last obstetric births because they moved the obstetric out to Homerton after that.

I:             Highlights of your time in Perth, anything in particular? Did you do any research or did you do anything out of the ordinary?

P:           I did an extraordinary research which I never published. We had an oral pre-med which was partly amnesic and I bought a huge red lion which would be about the size of these two chairs put together, an enormous blow-up red lion, and I would give the child … half of them I gave the pre-med to and half of them I didn’t, and then in the anaesthetic room I’d show them the lion and say ‘remember this lion’ and then I’d go and see them afterwards and say, ‘Do you remember the lion?’ And the ones that had had the pre-med didn’t remember it and the ones that hadn’t did remember it. Just a sort of remembering through amnesia and that. So it was quite fun.

I:             Why didn’t you publish it?

P:           I never wrote it up really. I remember showing the results to Peter Cole when I came back to Barts and he was totally disparaging about the whole set-up of the thing so it was …

I:             Fair enough!

P:           I was appointed consultant without having published anything.

I:             They kept the job for a year, you had a great year.

P:           I had a fantastic year and I came back again and took over Ronnie’s sessions.

I:             Any regrets about coming back? Would you have liked to have stayed?

P:           They offered me a job there. When I left they said they understood that I had a consultant job waiting at Barts and they understood I had to go back for that, and they said, ‘Any time in the next three years if you change your mind we’ll take you into our practice’, private practice there, and I often wonder what it would have been like. I would have had a very different life obviously and the kids would have done well I think and thrived, and I would have done all sorts of different … but who knows what it might have been like, but there were times when I was sitting in deepest, darkest suburban London with the rain pelting down and I’d think maybe I should have been in Perth.

I:             I think Perth has become a very vibrant city. It had to to keep anybody there really!

P:           Yeah. Huge mineral wealth in Western Australia, that’s what made it. They dug up the whole of the northern part of Western Australia and sent it off to China! Very rich.

I:             So you came back at the beginning of 1980 to a new post for you. What sort of sessions did you have at that time?

P:           I had a vascular surgery with a professorial surgical unit so one professor was very keen on endocrine disease, so did a whole series of FIOs and parathyroids and thyroids. And the other one was vascular surgery on [42:03] and we did a huge amount of vascular, a lot of … his big interest was intracranial extracranial anastomosis for patients with abnormal vasculature. So that was pretty heavy stuff and the FIOs were really a nightmare and they had a brilliant medical professor who’d control them all and then do those. Then I had a urology list, I had a dental list, I had a gynae list and I had a neuro x-ray list.

I:             Wow, that’s a big job. And private practice?

P:           Yes, I went straight into private practice in a big way because fairly soon after I’d got home we bought a house, we’d been living in Walthamstow. When I went to Australia we were living in Walthamstow and I came back and soon after that I bought a house in Loughton and that was very good and we were content there and then my wife decided to buy a detached house further up, five doors up the road, and I supported her there … it wasn’t her decision obviously … I remember the mortgage repayment on that house, it was 5 years before my NHS salary was more than my mortgage repayment on the house. I mean we had no money. My father couldn’t support us in any way, so it was really tough and it was obviously one of the best investments I’ve ever made because that allowed me then to later on pay off all my debts and things, so I had to do a lot of private practice and I was running round like a beetle. I found an old diary a few years ago which I was working in about ten different private hospitals around London, running around in the evenings and at weekends, just accepting everything and other consultants who were double-booked would offer me cases. I had just nightmare things I went to do. I can remember going and doing ECT almost in a house off Park Lane once and going to funny clinics down in the West End of London where as you walked in the technician, the nurse there would say, ‘Have you got your halothane with you, sir?’ ‘My halothane? No!’ ‘Well, we’ll borrow doctor so-and-so’s…’ And the vaporiser was a golden vaporiser! On a back bar … and you can’t get anything out of the damn thing.

I:             Holding it to keep it warm.

P:           Holding it and shaking it. Ooh, just terrible! Obviously the London Clinic and places like that were fantastic, but first day in the London Clinic … I mean I’d been to several of these things as a senior registrar helping my consultant doing neuroanaesthesia cases, big neuro cases, and then going on your own, the general surgeon I worked with, ‘cause I had one day in Hackney Hospital with a general surgeon there as well, and he invited me to do a few hernias and varicose veins and things and you go along to the London Clinic and the technicians, the ODAs there would look at you and, ‘Oh, who’s this new boy coming in?’ All fairly stressful at times but very interesting.

I:             Your job plan that you described at Barts, that continued all the way through or did you modify that?

P:           I changed it a lot. Neuro x-ray was really tough lists, we were doing bilateral carotid stabs and bilateral vertebral stabs, four injections to do carotid angiography and we used to do air encephalograms under neurolept anaesthesia where you’d have the patient on oxygen who would be strapped in a chair and then they’d inject air into the CSF and then whirl them around trying to outline all the ventricals, and they’d vomit and the cardiovascular systems would go haywire, and it was just really tough stuff. And then after a while doing that I went and talked to the bosses and said, ‘Remember when I went to Perth you said when I applied for this job you could change the sessions round and I can do a bit of neuro.’ ‘I don’t remember saying that’ he said to me. I said, ‘Yeah, we said we were gonna do a neuro.’ ‘Yeah, I can remember you helping me, but no, I can’t remember ever saying … no, there’s no chance of you ever doing that.’ So I went away again and got on with what I was doing.

So my sessions were fairly standard and very stimulating and the trainees coming through were very stimulating, but I felt that as a consultant I ought to be doing something else as well, perhaps I ought to write something or publish or do … something. So I went and saw Peter Cole and he said, ‘No, I’ve got nothing for you. Why don’t you go and talk to the Department of Medical Electronics, or Medical Physics.’ So I went and saw Professor Watson and he put me in touch with a guy called Steve O’Conner who was a PhD physicist there, and together we decided we’d measure respiratory volumes and patients breathing spontaneously on a McGill circuit. For the first time we built a wet wedge spirometer and then tried out a whole series of agonist antagonists, nalbuphine, meptazinol, and a pre-med called Zopem…Zop …

I:             Zopiclone.

P:           Zopiclone, that’s right. And we did amazing studies on this and then that allowed me suddenly … some of these got published and then we could present them at various places. I did a study on the use of ginger as an antiemetic, which was fascinating and –

I:             Did it work?

P:           As good as metoclopramide, so … not much different from placebo. So that was really quite exciting ‘cause working with this physicist, he really understood how to write papers and how to do proper science, and so our studies were well set up.

I:             Good. You were lucky to get in with him, yes.

P:           Yeah, very, very fortunate.

I:             And the CV you sent me, you had removed all the papers.

P:           Yes, probably just as well.

I:             But how many overall have you published?

P:           In my whole career? 50 I think, something like that. But most of those were historical.

I:             And that’s a fairly recent development.

P:           Exactly. Well, no, the history started with final exams because in the FFA they asked, in the final viva, you sat at a table and they’d give you a Clover inhaler and say, ‘Tell me about this.’ So I went to, with Lorrie Dollan, we went to St Thomas’s Hospital and met the great Charlie Foster there. Charlie had got this huge museum at St Thomas’s and he taught us all about the equipment and it was magic. And I came back from there and Lorrie said to me, ‘Ya know Dave, you oughta have one of these museums here at Barts.’ And I thought, ‘Yeah, that’s true! Why don’t we?’ And so I started collecting.

I:             For yourself or for Barts?

P:           For Barts, and I used to put adverts in, there was a free GP’s magazine called Pulse and I used to put free adverts in that saying, ‘If you’ve got any old anaesthetic equipment I’d love to come and get it off you and have a look’ and Norma and I used to drive off round the country collecting anaesthetic equipment and bringing it back to Barts. And then you’d find the ODA would suddenly come up and say, ‘I’ve found this cupboard in the bottom of Theatre C with this stuff in it…’ and I got the great Langton Hewer, I met and brought him back to show him what I’d collected, and he walked round and was telling me about all his things and took me back to his house in Highgate and we drank cups of tea and he chatted to me about introducing trilene and … it was just magic. I tried to get him to come and talk to the department and he refused point blank. He said he was asked to give a paper at the RSM on triline anaesthesia introduction and he wrote the paper and then read it to his wife, and his wife said he was terrible! And so he said, ‘I gave the paper to young Atkinson’ Dick Atkinson from Southend, ‘and he did it for me’ and he never spoke again so he wouldn’t come. And I always wondered, was his wife protecting him, was he perhaps not very good as a speaker? He was partly deaf by that stage. Or did she stop us all from learning from one of the great men?

I:             When did you get involved with the Association? You presumably have been a member for a long …

P:           I haven’t been a member all that long. I think I joined as a … after I’d got my FFA.

I:             Why did you join?

P:           I think just turning up at meetings, I think I went to a couple of annual meetings and joined at that stage, and Dick Ellis at that time, with Charlie Foster, was … they were co-curators of the Charles King collection. They’d taken over from Bryn Thomas who’d been the first curator, or the second after Armstrong. So Dick was too busy doing other things and Charlie Foster never went to see the collection, which at that time was in the College of Surgeons in the Nuffield Block on the top floor, where Jimmy Payne had his office and his research labs. So Dick suggested that I could become … take an interest in that and I met Tom Boulton and we got on and so I got appointed to Charles King Curator.

I:             So you were never, as a trainee, involved?

P:           Not at all, no. I didn’t see it at all as a trainee.

I:             I’ve got your CV in front of me and 1982 you became a curator, so it was only a few years after you’d become a consultant, and you carried on doing that until 1995? 13 years.

P:           Yeah, yeah.

I:             Partly perhaps because of that, you got more involved with the Association?

P:           It was. We set up the museum in the basement of 9 Bedford Square. We’d had it in the Nuffield Department and there was a chap up there, technician called Sid Askall, and one day Jimmy Payne … they were shutting the whole thing down so we had to get rid of the whole collection. So we got the company to come along and pack the whole thing into cases and store it. It disappeared off the face of the earth and then when the Association bought 9 Bedford Square they gave us the basement area and Tom was the head archivist, I was the curator, and Ian McLellan from Leicester, another youngish person like myself fascinated by history, he looked after the books, he was the librarian. And so I was in and out of 9 Bedford Square all the time meeting … and you’d meet people at lunchtime and things when they had their meetings, and I can remember Peter Baskett and Jean Horton saying to me, ‘Why don’t you apply for Council’ so I thought oh, OK … give it a go. So I did.

I:             And what year did you get on Council?

P:           Oh, I can’t remember now. I know I failed a couple of times in the usual manner, and I know the year I got on, it’s quite ironic really, I got the same number of votes I know as Colin Blogg did, but because I’d been a member of the Association for two years longer than Colin had, I was elected, because I was longer member. That’s the way the rule was at that time.

I:             Well it’s not unreasonable.

P:           So I always felt sorry for Colin ‘cause he was such a nice man. And I used to see him a lot at history things as well, he was interested in that.

I:             Lovely bloke.

P:           Lovely man.

I:             So you got onto Council. Who was president when you go on? That would help to tie it down?

P:           That must have been Bill MacRae I think as president, yeah.

I:             And what sort of jobs were you given? How did you make your way up the greasy pole.

P:           I don’t think I did very much for a while. And the normal sitting as a representative on one of the glossies or whatever and that sort of thing, so nothing very active particularly, and then I applied for Assistant Secretary and got that.

I:             Presumably that was at the end of your three year time.

P:           End of my three years, yeah.

I:             I think you were the Assistant Secretary when I went on to Council. I can’t remember what year that was though. Well actually it says here you were Assistant Honorary Secretary from 1994.

P:           OK.

I:             Found it.

P:           So I must have gone on Council in ’91 then.

I:             And then you became Honorary Secretary as one does, two years later, in 1996. Did you enjoy your time as Secretary? It’s a very heavy job.

P:           I did. It was a fantastic job. I think it’s the best job in the world really! Because you knew the whole of the country, you knew exactly what was going on throughout the whole thing. And I had a wonderful president that I served, Leslie Baird, in Glasgow, and he … it was just a very social time and it was … you’d go up and have an away day at the president’s house with the whole of the officers would go up there and stay for a weekend or whatever and come down again having solved the world’s problems, and it was just a very social time, very good time, great time. And Leslie was a big influence on me because he at that time was involved in Europe and he was Secretary of the European Section of the WFSA so he then became president and I became his secretary there. Or I applied for the secretary post and then Dietrich Kettler from Germany became the president and then Evan [58:19] became president of that same European section.

I:             So you saw the progression from the Association to European society and then you took over the world! Well, not quite as quickly as that!

P:           Not quite as quickly as that, but because I was then meeting people from all around the world it seemed like a natural progression to apply for Council of the WFSA, which I again didn’t get elected onto that. I failed and I was appointed onto the Constitution Committee, what was then statutes and bylaws, and then I became chair of statutes and bylaws and Chair and Statutes and Bylaws sat on Council. And then I applied from there to be Secretary and Treasurer and then President.

I:             Of all those three, Great Britain and Ireland, Europe, World, did you enjoy them all equally?

P:           I think they were all so different, although they were all stimulating in different ways. I’ve always been very much an Association person. I think I flogged my guts out for the Association really. It was something I really believed in very strongly. I worked very hard for that, and so that was my prime focus. And then moving into Europe was a lovely expansion. All those phenomenal people that I met across Europe, very stimulating thing to do, and what the CENSA board was like at that time and you joined the CENSA board, they were really exciting meetings to go to and to listen to people talking about so many different things in different countries.

I:             I never got up to World, I stayed at Europe level but I remember we were both involved with CENSA and there seemed to be an ongoing battle between the two of them, CENSA and the ESA. They saw their roles differently but overlapping, unfortunately.

P:           Well there was a tremendous friction at that time. I think the old ESA, the European Society was a bit unstructured, and the new … it was a real rival at that time to the CENSA, the Confederation, the European arm of the WFSA. And the Academy, which was the third group, was a sort of self-electing, academic small group who were very elitist, and so there was a need to somehow pull all that together, and I didn’t want CENSA to join in with the new ESA, I have to say. I was very much against it to begin with. I thought that the two yearly European Congresses, they would have enough people in Europe to run a lot of meetings and why not have the two organisations together but I was outvoted by my Council, who were very keen, Council and board were very keen to join in with ESA and I wasn’t gonna go out on a limb and fight it indefinitely and so eventually it all came together, but it took a long time for it to be as it is now, which is a lot more evenly …

I:             It seems a much more friendly Europe than it was when you and I were involved.

P:           Much more friendly! Exactly.

I:             But I think what is still unresolved is the place for the small European national societies and how they fit in. Now you would know better than I.

P:           Correct.

I think the other thing that was going on at that time in parallel with that was my work for the College.

I:             Tell me about that.

P:           I became an examiner for the College fairly rapidly and got involved in the primary, where you start off, and I was the guy who brought the OSCEs into the primary, so  I ran the OSCE exam and after usually … it was a 12-year examinership at that time and usually after about 6 or 7 years you moved up to the part 2 and did that but I enjoyed the OSCE so much I didn’t want to do that so I stayed with the primary for my whole 12 years and I had a really tight group of people who, four of us who ran the OSCEs and they were a tremendous. Iain Armstrong from Scotland, Roddie? McNichol from [63:11] and Chris Dodds from Teeside. Fantastic group of people running the OSCEs together and producing new questions and running the whole thing. It was really challenging. I really enjoyed that.

I:             That’s good to hear.

P:           And Peter Hutton asked me to come and apply for the College Council but I always felt I was more an Association person and I decided not to do that. I didn’t want to cross that floor as it were.

I:             There were lots of people who went more from the Association to College than the other way around, interestingly enough, and I think they’re two very different bodies actually.

P:           Very different, yeah.

I:             I mean they have different raison d’êtres which is not unreasonable that they should have different ways of … how long were you on Council of the Association from your first appointment as Hon Sec?

P:           Oh, I don’t know. A long time. 1990 to … whenever. I finished as Vice President.

I:             When you look back on that time, any particularly amazing stories that you’d like to share with the recording?

P:           It’s very hard to think of individual moments. I think a lot of it was related to the characters that were there, the previous presidents and the officers who strode the anaesthesia stage at that time, phenomenal style and grace. I mean I think people like Peter Baskett, Ed Charlton, incredible characters really who had amazing impact on anaesthesia and the way it was practiced. I mean just to see Ed Charlton writing his Deefer the Dog and his battles with BUPA and all of that sort of thing were quite amazing. He was such an outspoken character.

I:             And do you feel the Association served its members well during that time?

P:           I think it did. I think it had a very … it was in touch. I think one of its great strengths has always been the GAT Committee, the Trainee Committee, and to have the incredible nous to put GAT right into the Council so that everything happened all the time. I think that’s such a skill to bring the next levels through and so I think it’s served its membership very, very well. I think everybody who was involved in it really cared about trying to get things right for the person who was working out there on the periphery. I think it was very cliquey at times within the organisation as a lot of organisations are, but I think the overall basic thing is to do the right thing for the members.

I:             I would tend to agree. One of the major differences now, as I understand it, is that they meet face-to-face much less often. My time on Council almost every Friday we’d be here, and once you got an officer it was Thursday and Friday sometimes, and when people who were doing jobs that you were doing, Treasurer and Hon Sec, probably three or four days a week sometimes you’d be here.

P:           Treasurer’s job was amazing. When I was Secretary we had Earnest arlburton was still in charge of the finances and he was a genius really, and he handed over to Francis Wirgman[67:00] who was his sort of protégé, and Francis and I used to work together all the time and I think that was to my detriment in some ways because when I was here in the house during Council meetings and Advisory meetings at lunchtime I would go and sit with Francis and try and work out what we were going to do, shifting things around all the time, so I wasn’t in the milieu chatting to people quite so much and that had repercussions for me later on.

I:             Yes, I think that might be fair.

And the World, have you enjoyed your time?

P:           I’ve absolutely loved the World, the World has been quite dramatic for me I think.

I:             We are of course talking about the World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesia, in case people are thinking emperorship or something!

P:           Galactic Emperor now I think is the next thing to go for, I’m building a Death Star!

I:             What would you say has been achieved during your term as president. Was there anything particular you are proud of?

P:           Yeah, I’m very proud that we now have an organisation in an office which can support whoever is appointed president in the future. My big concern was that we had too much of the … I call it the WASP syndrome, the white Anglo-Saxon Protestant running WFSA, not totally but it pretty much … and we had one very good full-time secretary/administrator here in an office and she did a fantastic job but there was a need to create a structure that would allow anybody, whatever their language, whatever, wherever they lived, to be able to be president of this organisation, and it’s supposed to be a world organisation. So one of the first things I did was appoint a Chief Executive and that was … I was very fortunate to find a unique person who’d spent a long time working with the Red Cross, had worked all over the world, spoke three or four languages fluently and understood what we were trying to create. So he’s there in the office and then we appointed four other staff to make it a really vibrant, active thing. The other thing I’m really pleased about was reopening our links with the World Health Organisation. The World Health Organisation is set up, WFSA, back in 1955, and we used to have talks with them all the time and we’d been invited to meetings all around the world, we’d send representatives to … which must have been pretty dull I think, a lot of them, because they’d be discussing clean water as an anaesthetist in wherever, so after some time in the seventies they’d stopped replying to World Health Organisation and so that had been that, and I reopened that link and started going to Geneva attending the World Health Assembly and we’re really right in the forefront of the World Health Organisation again as a prime mover.

I:             Did you interface with Mike Dobson at all?

P:           Mike had been our liaison person with WFSA and done some excellent work with them and I talked to him obviously but it had moved on, Iain Wilson had taken over from him and then I decided that I, as president, was going to go and try and make things happen.

I:             I know Mike well, colleagues in Oxford, and he’s still involved.

P:           He’s still involved with teaching in a brilliant manner, yeah, fantastic. And the other thing I think, we rejuvenated the whole of the board and Council and made the … rewrote the constitution twice and made it a much more vibrant, active sort of business. It used to be if you joined Council of the WFSA you met on the day that you were appointed at the World Congress. You then might meet two years later on, and then you’d meet when you handed over two years after that, so people didn’t do anything. Some people did an incredible amount and some people did nothing, and there was no communication or anything so we’ve changed all that. If you don’t communicate, you don’t contribute, you’re asked to leave and we appoint somebody else, and that applies to all the committees as well, so it’s very exciting I think.

I:             And Norma has been able to be involved in some of your travels?

P:           Norma has come along on a lot of my travels, in the early days, more recently she decided she’d had enough really, she felt she’d seen a lot of the world, which she has, and so I used to go … and if I was really heavily involved in a meeting there’s nothing worse for either of us than I’m at a work congress or something or a European meeting in Latvia or whatever and I turn up and I’ve got to talk to so many different people and she’s stuck in a hotel somewhere or she goes shopping for a while and then she’s shopped out and then where the heck am I and then I’m worried about what she’s doing and it just doesn’t work, or it didn’t work.

I:             And your children, have they gone into medicine?

P:           My daughter became a physiotherapist, Fiona’s a physio, she’s in Canberra in Australia.

I:             She went back to Australia?

P:           She went back to Australia in the end and married … only because she met an Australian and married him. So I’ve now got two children in Canberra, grandchildren rather. My eldest boy Stuart, hydrocephalic with one leg …

I:             Who isn’t!

P:           Who isn’t, is now a consultant respiratory paediatrician in Manchester, and he looks after home ventilation of children, which is extraordinary. I didn’t know it existed but he’s got some couple of hundred patients on home ventilation, and so he’s married with two daughters in Manchester. And then my youngest son, Andy, after two years in Australia after he’d qualified, came back to this country and started his anaesthetic training and he passed his FRCA two months ago.

I:             Congratulations.

P:           So he’s following on.

I:             And where is he working now?

P:           He’s working at Barts and the London! <Laughs>

I:             Ah!

P:           But he has been at Whips Cross as well. So it’s a very strange thing to see him –

I:             And he’s single still?

P:           He’s single, yep. Living in [74:28] Hill.

I:             Oh, almost your old stamping ground! Where did they go to school?

P:           They all went to … they started at primary school in Loughton and then all went to Bancroft.

I:             They did go to Bancroft?

P:           Yeah, all three of them.

I:             You know why I asked that?

P:           Yes, ‘cause I think you had the misfortune to –

I:             I had the misfortune to go to Bancroft too.

Well, we’ve come a long way in this life.

P:           I have!

I:             So now you are no longer President of the World but you’re still connected?

P:           I’m a trustee of the charity, the UK charity, WFSA UK Charity.

I:             We haven’t really talked about your history, because that’s your other big love now isn’t it?

P:           Yeah, that’s my passion really and always has been, and worked really hard at history, I’ve given hundreds of lectures all over the world on history. I haven’t written as much as I should have done because I’ve been so busy doing other things. I’m constantly being chided by other historians that I need to write more. The final culmination of that was being appointed Wood Library Laureate in the History of Anaesthesia, which I was appointed in 2008, a four-year position, and that was a highpoint as it were, but I was President of the History of Anaesthesia Society, editor of their proceedings when it first started.

I:             It’s much easier now with the most amazing access to documents online.

P:           Staggering!

I:             I can’t imagine what it must have been like before we had Google and other search engines to do.

P:           Well I used to go and sit in libraries and I used to go and sit in … one of the things when I was collecting for my museum, it was incredible how you would go and have afternoon tea with some GP and he’d suddenly get out his … the box which had something in it. I remember being given a Clovers inhaler down near Southampton once, and the chap told me that he’d last used it in 1966 in this domiciliary obstetric practice for somebody with a retained placenta, and so things were really alive still. And the people that you meet, I think that’s the excitement for history for me because it is so tangible, and it’s not something you’re trying to find on the tomb in Carnac or whatever, trying to understand the hieroglyphics. It’s there, it’s in black and white, and the other thing is you’d think by now with all the stuff that’s been written on anaesthesia history there’s nothing new, is there? But I go along to history meetings on a regular basis and there’s always something brand new and really exciting coming out of it.

I:             Can I refer to the list of eponymous lectures that you’ve given? Some of the titles I find most extraordinary. I loved the one here, for the 16th Roderick Calverley Memorial Lecture, Is Picking the Pockets of a Drowned Man the Best that you Can Do?

P:           <Chuckles>

I:             Now that’s an example but there are several along the lines of that one! <Laughs> And it must give you pleasure to think up good titles.

P:           It does.

I:             Are you still lecturing regularly?

P:           I’m still lecturing, yeah. I’m submitting some stuff that we’ve got the 9th International Symposium on the History of Anaesthesia in Boston in October this year. I’ve been to all the other eight and it happens every four years, and then –

I:             What are you presenting?

P:           I’m probably going to be talking about the … I haven’t sent it in yet but I want to talk about the BMA’s Anaesthesia Committees. BMA’s doing all sorts of stuff from about 1907 onwards with anaesthesia and there’s a tremendous amount in their archive.

I:             And you’ve been able to access it.

P:           I’ve been able to access their archive, yeah. So it’s good stuff.

I:             One of the things that the heritage people here are doing is going back to our archive and digging stuff out and looking at how we have got where we are. And I think we’re sitting here in I suppose the third home of the Association, BMA House and then Bedford Square and here, and of course the talk is … where next?

P:           Where next? Yeah, exactly.

I:             So it’s exciting times.

P:           Yeah, it is.

I:             Now is there anything that you’d like to talk about or add that I hadn’t specifically asked you? I know you have done many oral histories before. You told me that. What more is there to say? And I said this one was going to be different and I hope it has been different.

P:           It has. Yeah.

I:             I hope it’s been enjoyable.

P:           It has. You’re a good interviewer.

I:             Is there anything I’ve missed out?

P:           No, I don’t think so. I think that’s … sums up most of what I’ve been doing and enjoy doing.

I:             I think you were one of the best Presidents the Association of Anaesthetists never had! And we have a lot to thank you for, so thank you for coming.

P:           Thank you very much Michael.

<Interview ends>