I: The date is the 28th of March 2011, my name is Barbara Thornley and I’m at The Association of Anaesthetists in Portland Place talking to Doctor Jean Horton. Good afternoon Jean.
P: Good afternoon Barbara.
I: Thank you very much for coming to talk to us today. I’m really looking forward to hearing what you’ve got to say.
P: It’s a pleasure.
I: So, can we begin at the beginning and can you tell us a little bit about your family and where you were born and any brothers and sisters and your parents?
P: Yes. I was born on the 28th of October 1924 and I was born in Weymouth, Dorset, where my father was a surgeon and my mother had been a nurse. My mother had been a nurse in the army in the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service and she met my father in 1915 and they got engaged in 1916 and married in 1917. And I forgot to say, of course, that my mother was born in the very far north of Scotland, in Caithness, and so I have a Scottish mother and an English father.
I: Do you have any brothers and sisters?
P: Yes, my brother Tom who was born in 1920. He’s died now, he died when he was 79 in 1999.
I: And what about your childhood? What can you remember? Anything very special about it?
P: Yes, I can remember virtually all my childhood from the age of two, I suppose. It was a very happy childhood. I went to the local school; I went to a local school which was two doors away from our house. It was one of these little private schools but I had a very good basic education. And then I went to boarding school when I was nine and a half and I went to Queenswood School in Hertfordshire, which is a boarding school for girls only and many of my family had already been there.
I: Just before we go further into your school days, I notice that you father’s name had Lister in it. Is there a family connection with Lister?
P: Yes, it’s very interesting. My grandfather, Thomas Horton, another Thomas Horton, was a general practitioner in Torquay but before he became a general practitioner he was a pharmacist. He had been apprenticed as a pharmacist and he had a shop in Torquay. The shop is still there, it’s not called Horton anymore, it’s called Quants. But when he was a pharmacist, Lord Lister, Joseph Lister, used to go down to Torquay to operate. It was a custom in those days for surgeons, London surgeons often went to provincial towns to operate. And my grandfather used to make the carbolic acid for Lister. And he would do the operations in people’s houses, usually in the bedroom. And he would soak sheets in carbolic acid for Lord Lister.
And the story goes that it was Lord Lister who persuaded my grandfather to study medicine. And so, at the age of 35, and he had two children then, first of all he went to … there was no Durham University and there was no Newcastle University but they went to Newcastle and it was Durham University College. And he did the basic sciences –anatomy, physiology – in Newcastle and then he went to University College Hospital from which he qualified in 1894. And then he went back to Torquay and set up practice but he had already named my father Robert Lister.
I: That’s very interesting. To go back to your school days, are there any special events there that you want to tell us about or any special influences at school that made you go into medicine?
P: Well, I had already decided before I went to school at the age of nine and a half, I decided when I was about five or six that I was going to study medicine.
I: What made you make that decision?
P: I had been thinking about it and one morning at breakfast I heard my mother say … first of all I must explain that my brother Tom was handicapped and so he could never study medicine which of course had been a family tradition because he had a rather nasty forceps delivery and he had a hemiplegia and so he obviously couldn’t’ study medicine. And one morning I heard my mother say that Tom was going to be a lawyer, they had decided that Tom was going to be a lawyer. Tom must have been only about … he’s four and a half years older than me so he must have been ten or eleven at the time.
So I thought, ‘Well, if they’re going to decide what Tom does, I shall decide what I do.’ So I went into our little sitting room – we had, as these families do, we had a drawing room and a little sitting room – so I went into the sitting room – this is absolutely true although they didn’t believe me at UCL when I went for an interview, this is a true story – and so I took a coin and I tossed the coin and it was going to be heads for medicine and tails for law. I made sure that it came down heads and so I decided to do medicine.
I had already made an initial decision: obviously it was going to be something medical and I didn’t really like nursing. I had observed that the nurse, the ward sisters, they’d had a different sort of social status from the doctors and also I didn’t like bed pans, I didn’t like the smell of bedpans and my mother ran the house rather as though it was a ward in the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. And so the decision was for medicine and I never altered any decision.
I: That’s fascinating. Tell us about your school days because I know you donated some money for a laboratory at school. Is that correct?
P: Yes, about two years ago I gave enough money for them to upgrade one of the laboratories in the biology department. So there is a whole biology room called the Jean Horton Laboratory.
I: Did you enjoy your time at school?
P: Yes, very much.
I: And what sort of training did they give you towards going to medical school?
P: Well, there was no careers advice but, oddly enough, all my contemporaries seemed to know what they were going to do so there was really no problem. And once I had passed school certificate I knew that I had to do biology chemistry and physics. So I knew that and also I made sure that I had a credit in Latin in the School Certificate.
I: And then you went to University College London, is that correct?
P: Yes, I went to University College London.
I: And how did you get on there?
P: Again, I got on very well but I failed second MB at the first attempt.
I: That surprises me.
P: Well, yes, I found when I went there … I had found exams very easy, I passed first MB, I passed school certificate and exams were no problem. I suppose when I went to medical school there were other people much cleverer than me and I just didn’t do very well in exams. I don’t know why. I did very well in the practical exams, always, and I didn’t do very well in the written exams.
I: But you passed eventually.
P: Yes, the second attempt.
I: And then you went on to the West London Hospital
P: Yes, the reason was that at University College they took 20 women in the first year … well 20 women into the second MB course. They took 20 women and 40 men. And of the 20 women only nine were going to UCH, University College Hospital and it was going to be the first nine in the second MB results. And so the rest of us went to the West London.
I: That was a normal arrangement, was it?
P: That was the standard arrangement. The West London had set up as a medical school in 1938 when they started the postgraduate medical school in Hammersmith and so there was no longer a need for a postgraduate medical school in the West London and so the staff of the West London decided that they would form an undergraduate medical school, which they did. Initially it was for women only and they took, again, the overflow from Kings College, they had much the same arrangement at Kings College. And if you went to Oxford or Cambridge you did not have a guarantee of a medical school. I would remind you then, of course, in London the only places that you could go were University College, Kings College and the Royal Free.
I: Yes, I realise that. Tell us about your time at the West London. Was there anything that you have special memories about?
P: No, I just enjoyed the whole practical course there. There were certain individuals who were great characters, particularly surgeons. There was Mr Greene-Armytage who was the obstetrician, he was a great character. Mr Roche who was a great character, he was the urological surgeon. And then there was Spencer Paterson who was the psychiatrist, he was the first person to use ECT without anaesthetics.
I: That must have been very interesting to watch.
P: Yes, it was.
I: Not so nice for the patients.
P: No, it wasn’t very nice.
I: So, was any time there … it made you interested in anaesthesia?
P: No, I had really not decided, I had no idea. I was always more interested in surgery because my father was a surgeon and I had spent a lot of time at home, once I had persuaded him to allow me to go the hospital with him. I had spent a lot of time watching him and the other surgeons who operated at the local hospitals.
I: You were very lucky.
P: I was far more … I was very, very fortunate because I don’t think now they would let a 17 year old into the theatre.
I: I don’t think they would. Tell us about your house surgeon and house physician posts.
P: I was persuaded … I qualified with the MRCSLRCP in July 1948, just after the Health Service had started and a friend said, who just finishing her post as a house surgeon, said, ‘Why don’t you apply for the house surgeon post and Mr Batchelor and Mr Hindenach. Mr Batchelor was a general surgeon, Mr Hindenach was an orthopaedic surgeon. This was not my intention; I had intended to continue studying to pass my MB. I’d already qualified with the MRCSLRCP conjoint but, anyway, I applied for the job and I got the job.
I: Did you enjoy it?
P: Yes, I enjoyed, again although it was an all-women hospital but there were male registrars.
I: That made a difference, did it?
P: Well, they were all ex-service, they’d all been in the services and so they were very mature men but the actual mess, the residents mess, was all female. But I enjoyed it, we enjoyed ourselves.
I: And then you moved up to Leicester?
P: I went to Leicester, yes. I decided that it was necessary to do … you didn’t have any career advice, nobody said, ‘You should do this or you should do that.’ So I decided that although I didn’t like medicine, not particularly – when I say I didn’t like medicine I was more interested in surgery than I was in the medical specialties – but I thought it was very necessary to do a house physician post. And so I applied for various posts and I applied to Leicester Royal Infirmary but they wrote back and said that their posts were full but I could go as ENT house surgeon. Well, I didn’t want to waste time being an ENT house surgeon but they said there was a post at the Leicester General Hospital and so I obtained the post at Leicester General Hospital.
I: Do you think the time doing a house physician’s job was useful?
P: Extremely useful. I think mainly because of the other people who were on the house. I learnt a great deal from them. And I think it was extremely useful.
I: And then you went to Cambridge for the first time.
P: Yes, again one just … no advice about what one should do. My parents never pushed, they never said, ‘You should do this. You should do that …’ Not like the mothers that you were telling me about. Nobody said, ‘You should do this or should do that.’ So in the British Medical Journal I saw an advertisement for a casualty officer at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge. Now, I had been to Addenbrooke’s, Cambridge, because my brother had studied at Trinity Hall.
I: So you wanted to go and …?
P: So I thought, ‘Well, that will be very useful, it will be very useful to be a casualty officer.’ It’s a post where, again, in those days you had to make up your own mind, you had to decide, you had to make decisions quickly. So I thought this would be a very useful post.
I: I noticed that you mention that was the first time you started to begin to think of a career in anaesthetics. Is that true?
P: Yes. While I was casualty officer each … first of all we had to do minor operations like reducing Colles fractures, opening septic fingers. Then I had a minor operation list, all on my own, circumcisions, removing sebaceous cists, all sorts of things. And I knew that then I must decide on a career track. Now, what was I going to do? I was interested in surgery, I wasn’t … I didn’t think that I would ever pass the Primary Fellowship because I had had this difficulty with second MB and I didn’t think … Primary Fellowship was an extremely difficult exam.
Again, in those days, I don’t know whether it is now, all they have to do is the MRCS but I’m not sure whether they still have to do the amount of anatomy, physiology at the standard that they had to do. And so I didn’t think I could pass second MB. Doctor Aileen Adams was the registrar at the time and she suggested I might like to apply for an upcoming vacant post as a resident anaesthetist.
I: And that was your first anaesthetic post?
P: And that was my first anaesthetic post. And so did a friend of mine who’d been casualty officer before that, she decided she’d like to apply so they appointed both of us.
I: And you were there for how long?
P: I was there in Cambridge for another year. I thought, ‘Well, I will try this anaesthetics and see.’ I liked giving anaesthetics; I had given a lot of anaesthetics because in Leicester when the resident anaesthetist was off duty it was always the duty of the house physician to stand in, so I gave anaesthetics in Leicester. I also went to watch one of the consultants, Brian Johnson … it wasn’t Bernard Johnson, it was another Doctor Johnson, who was a consultant at Leicester Royal Infirmary. I used to go and watch him giving anaesthetics. I enjoyed anaesthetics and I gave a lot of anaesthetics, even when I was casualty officer because I would get one of the orthopaedic house surgeons to come and do the operation while I gave the anaesthetic. So that was no problem so I thought, ‘Well, I will try this and give it a go and see how I get on.’
I: And then you proceeded to East Grinstead. Is that right?
P: Yes. Again, I looked, as one did, I looked in the British Medical Journal and there was a post at East Grinstead as a resident anaesthetist. I knew about East Grinstead because there had been a great deal … I had read Richard Hillary’s book, The Last Enemy, I knew about Archibald McIndoe and I’d also been to the Festival of Britain symposium that they held here at the Royal Society of Medicine. And there I heard Hale Enderby talking about hypotension, hypotensive anaesthesia. So I went off to East Grinstead and I managed to get the post.
I: The sort of people that you’ve just been mentioning, obviously they were influenced by the war. Do you think your career was influenced by the war as well?
P: I think it was influenced by both wars, really. My parents had met in France in the First World War, we had photographs all over the house of their time in the army and I think my career … I qualified in 1948, the war ended in 1945. When I went to East Grinstead it was still very much influenced by the events of the Second World War.
I: And you were there for one year, two years?
P: Again I was there for one year.
I: And where did you go after that?
P: I went to Great Ormond Street.
I: And you stayed there for two years?
P: Another year. All these posts were for one year only. Only registrar posts were two years.
I: And these were senior house officer equivalent?
P: Yes, the equivalent of a senior house officer when I went to Great Ormond Street.
I: Have you any special memories about Great Ormond Street?
P: Oh, I loved it, yes. It was the most wonderful place. I think both places, that anybody who has been at East Grinstead, anybody who has been at Great Ormond Street cannot fail to be influenced by it.
I: When did you start being interested in neuroanaesthesia?
P: One at Great Ormond Street, Sheila Anderson who was the anaesthetist to Wylie McKissock. When I was at Great Ormond Street Wylie McKissok started to operate at Great Ormond Street on children, so he started a neurosurgical service. And Sheila Anderson and Doctor Aserman were his anaesthetists, Mainly Sheila Anderson. Sheila Anderson was a great influence on my career and she also took a great interest in her junior staff. And so I was very interested in neurosurgery at Great Ormond street.
I: And then after that you had an interlude.
P: Well I had a little interlude, yes. I still hadn’t got Primary Fellowship. I was far more interested in practical anaesthesia so although I took the exam several times I really perhaps didn’t concentrate quite enough as I should have done and so I took a little … I thought, ‘Well, something has to be done about this,’ and so I thought, ‘I will go …’ I had already done part of the Primary Fellowship course, only part because there was a short gap in between leaving Cambridge and going to East Grinstead but I still didn’t pass the Primary exam. And then, I was now faced with having to pass the Primary FFA and this was very much like the Primary Fellowship, concentrated on anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, biochemistry. So I thought, ‘Well, I’ll go off to Edinburgh and do the Primary Fellowship there because again, if you pass the Primary Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh that would give you exemption from the Primary FFA. So I went off to Edinburgh.
I: And you passed.
P: No, I didn’t pass. I still didn’t pass.
I: So what happened about the exam eventually?
P: After I had been at the London Hospital and after I had been in the plastic unit in Chepstow for some time, all my contemporaries were getting consultant posts. I thought, ‘I’m as good as they are, if not better, and I have far more experience in the very best places. So I am much better than they are so I had better set to and get the Primary Fellowship.’ By which time my father had died and I was also making sure that my mother was OK and so I decided I would go and do the Primary Fellowship course in London.
And so I applied for three months leave and fortunately there was another friend living – who’d also been at East Grinstead – living in Chepstow because she was married to the maxillofacial registrar and she was able to do my locum. So I was able to take three months completely free of any work and I went to London. On the course I made friends with Doctor Pat Painter and she was an enormous help to me. She helped me … one of the difficulties that I had, although I had absolutely no problem with oral exams, I did have problems expressing myself on paper, particularly as far as anatomy was concerned. She coached me and coached me and coached me until I could write down the answers.
I: And you passed the Primary well?
P: And I passed the Primary Fellowship, yes.
I: And that was when you were over in Chepstow.
P: I was over in Chepstow when I passed the Primary Fellowship. So what I did then … Professor William Mushin was very kind to me and so I went over to see him and I said, ‘What shall I do?’ and he said, ‘Well, if you’ve got enough money to pay the entrance fee,’ which was £25, ‘I would go and take the final exam.’ That was six weeks later.
I: There were no rules then, no delay.
P: No, there was no delay. So I had passed the Primary and I paid my entrance fee and I said to my mother, ‘I’m not coming home for six weeks.’ And I studied, I read all the journals; I used to go over to Newport and read all the journals, I would go over to Cardiff to their meetings and I took the exam and passed it.
I: So you passed first time?
P: I passed first time, yes, because it was a practical anaesthetic exam.
I: That must have made a difference for you.
P: That made all the difference, yes.
I: So, after you finished in Chepstow you went back to Cambridge. Is that correct?
P: Yes because I knew that I was a senior hospital medical officer in Chepstow and I thought that there was what was called the ‘ladder’ then and no way was I going to get a consultant post from having been an SHMO. So I decided that I had better be a senior registrar so, again, I looked at all the advertisements and one happened to come up in Cambridge.
I: And you were there for another two years?
P: I was there for two years, yes.
I: And that was all your senior registrar training or did you have any more after that?
P: I would say there was no training.
P: It was experience, yes. And while I was there, Harold Youngman, Doctor Harold Youngman who was the senior anaesthetist, they were just about to build a new Addenbrooke’s, which of course they have now built which is an enormous hospital. We were then in Trumpington Street in a smaller, really just a small district general hospital. And they had just started up a neurosurgical department and they had appointed Mr Walpole Lewin who was then the neurosurgeon here in Oxford and so I went over to see Walpole. It’s always useful to know people and Walpole’s wife, Marion, was the daughter of a couple who lived in Weymouth and were patients of my father. Mr Cumming always took the family photographs. And so it’s very useful, so I knew Walpole, Walpole knew me. I went over to see Walpole but it was quite clear that Walpole wasn’t going to appoint me, that he wanted somebody who’d done a lot of research.
I: A very academic person.
P: Yes, he wanted an academic person rather than a practical anaesthetist, so he wasn’t going to appoint me.
I: So you went up to Edinburgh as a consultant instead?
P: Yes, so for various reasons I then decided that I really must get a consultant post. My mother had not been well so I thought, ‘I must find a consultant post where I can also look after my mother.’ I tried for a post in Bournemouth – we were then living in Bournemouth – but I didn’t get that because, again, they always appointed people from the southwest metropolitan region and it was Tony Leatherdale who got the post. Then I looked at another post in Brighton. This is quite interesting because I went down to see Rex Binning and he said, ‘I’m sorry Jean, we’re not having another bloody woman.’ So I didn’t apply to that.
I: What did you say back to him?
P: Sheila Anderson was very, very cross about that. I just didn’t apply because that also had neurosurgical sessions. So then, because my mother was Scottish I had this tremendous desire to live and work in Scotland and I noticed another post. First of all there was a post at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary at Haddington which is a town outside, which is in the North Berwick side of Edinburgh and I didn’t apply for that. And then I saw this post for a neurosurgical anaesthetist in Edinburgh so I thought, ‘There’s nothing …’ I knew about the fame of Norman Dott who was the chief neurosurgeon and that’s all I knew about it. I didn’t know very much about Edinburgh Royal excepting what my mother had told me about Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. And so I applied and I was shortlisted and so off I went to Edinburgh.
I: For ten years.
P: I went to Edinburgh for virtually ten years, except for the year that I took out to go to Nigeria.
I: Have you any special memories about Edinburgh?
P: Oh, yes.
I: Anything you can tell us about?
P: Where can I start? It was the most wonderful experience. I learnt so much, particularly from Norman Dott. I learnt so much about discipline and I learnt, of course, all about neurosurgery and neurosurgical anaesthesia and particularly from my colleague. There were only two consultants, Allan Brown and myself. But I learnt the discipline and also team work, in neurosurgery, the necessity for team work.
I: Are there any other characters that you have memories of up there?
P: Yes, the other character, I suppose, was Tony Donaldson who was the neuroradiologist. I worked with him two days a week and that was another great experience. And the other surgeons, Professor John Gillingham who succeeded Norman Dott, and Phillip Harris. Phillip Harris I am still very much in contact with. And John Shaw who succeeded Norman Dott.
I: And you mentioned going to Nigeria. Tell us about the time in Nigeria.
P: I had not done a BTA because: one, I didn’t have the Fellowship, two, my father had died when I was 32 and I had to look after my mother and I decided that it was time to take a year out.
I: I’m presuming you mean a ‘Been to America.’
P: ‘Been to America,’ yes, BTA, a ‘Been to America.’ Everybody else had been to America and I had not been to America. And so I decided that a year out was, again, something that I should do so …
I: What made you choose Nigeria?
P: Well, I had originally … there was an advertisement to go to Vietnam to be a paediatric anaesthetist and I’d enquired about that. And I telephoned Aileen Adams to ask what she thought and she didn’t think that was a good idea. She had already been in Nigeria for a year and had been invited out to the West African College of Surgeons to read a paper and go for a fortnight. She invited me to go with her so off we went to Nigeria. We went to Lagos which was where the meeting was, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, and we also visited Ibadan University College Hospital in Ibadan. And I had the choice; I could decide which one I would like to go to. I negotiated with both and I decided to go to Lagos because Lagos was then … the head of the department was a Nigerian whereas the head of the department in Ibadan was still Canadian.
I: Wasn’t this the time of the Nigerian civil war?
P: Yes, it was. It was the time of the Biafran War.
I: Did that affect your time out there?
P: Yes, you couldn’t travel out too far. You certainly couldn’t go to the east, you couldn’t go to Port Harcourt, you couldn’t go further than Benin – this is not the state of Benin but the city of Benin. So you couldn’t travel very far. So those were the only things and, of course, a number of our colleagues were in the army, they had to do a time in the army. We also had to anaesthetise soldiers.
I: Did you see a lot of injuries from the war?
P: Not really, no. Only the convalescent soldiers who came back and needed some more restorative surgery.
I: So what were your main responsibilities in Nigeria?
P: I was senior lecturer and so I was therefore deputy to the professor and head of the department. Routine anaesthetics, I gave anaesthetics for just about every specialty. We also had a system whereby for one week in every month we would take charge of the small intensive care unit and at the same time cover the obstetric department. So that was one week in every four and then the rest of the time every afternoon we would have teaching. And there was a very organised, by the previous Canadian professor, there was a very well structured teaching programme for undergraduates, not just undergraduates, and for trainee anaesthetists. A very well organised programme and there was a diploma in anaesthetics of the University of Lagos.
I: It was a much broader experience than you’d been working in Edinburgh.
P: I had only been a neurosurgical anaesthetist, that’s all I did morning noon and night, gave neurosurgical anaesthetics.
I: So Nigeria was very different.
P: Nigeria was very different, I did everything once again.
I: So, when you went back to Edinburgh did you find going back to just doing neurosurgery restricting?
P: No, because I loved it and I hadn’t been back long when Aileen Adams telephoned me again and said that Ronnie Millar who’d been appointed to do the post in Cambridge was resigning because he was going to Northwick Park where they were going to set up a Medical Research Council unit. And he liked, very much liked, research and this sort of specialisation. And so the post was vacant so I applied for that.
I: And moved.
P: And moved, yes.
I: And how long did you spend in Cambridge after that?
P: Thirteen years.
I: What about teaching junior doctors?
P: Yes, we had always had a junior doctor attached to the neurosurgical department. There was at least … a rotation had started and so we had somebody attached to us. I can’t remember whether it was for three months or six months, it was always a registrar. Then we had weekly meetings and structured teaching had started, really with the arrival of Michael Lindop and together with John Farman. They started a rather more structured teaching.
I: Do you think that was an improvement on just gaining experience?
P: I think so. I think perhaps some sort of structured teaching so people have some guidance, know where they are. Otherwise we just picked it up.
I: You stressed, in what you’ve been saying so far very much, that you were interested in the practical side of anaesthesia.
P: I was far more interested in the practical side and this is what drew me into anaesthetics because I knew that, probably, surgery was out of the question. Although of course, having failed my exams so often I then found myself having to pass an exam which was much the same standard, but there we are.
I: You were talking about being a practical anaesthetist. Have you ever had an academic post as such?
P: In so far that I was a senior lecturer in Nigeria and then of course when I went to Hong Kong I was senior lecturer, so one could class that as an academic post.
I: Did you see it as an academic post rather than just an extension?
P: No, I saw it as a teaching post, that I would be teaching and I would be teaching the theory and practical anaesthesia. I saw all these posts as teaching practical anaesthesia.
I: In your outline of your book you talk about retiring in inverted commas in 1983 because that was when you went to Hong Kong. Is that correct?
P: I went to Hong Kong, yes, for six years.
I: And that was after you left the NHS.
P: Yes and retired from … I’d always wanted to go abroad before I retired and I had intended to retire when I was 65 and I thought that I would go abroad somewhere when I was about 63. My friend Andrew Thornton – again, very long standing friendship right back to his medical student days when his father was a priest in Leicester – Andrew was then in Sheffield as the professor and Andrew had been appointed as the foundation professor of anaesthetics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. So Andrew was talking at a study day that we had in Norwich and so I went over to see him and I said, ‘Andrew, remember me, just remember me, I’d like to come and work sometime in Hong Kong. And then we went to another meeting of the Yorkshire Society of Anaesthetists at Waterton Hall. Waterton Hall was the home of Charles Waterton the man who brought home the curare. There was a whole meeting about curare and so we were having lunch and Andrew said, ‘I’d like to come for a walk. Come outside for a walk.’ So we went for a walk in the garden and Andrew said, ‘Will you come now to Hong Kong?’ So I was 59 and women as you know could take their pension at 60 so the Cambridge … the Regional Board or the offices in the Regional Board were extremely helpful and I had already paid added years. So I had paid for my pension up the age of 65, I had paid enough national insurance, I had done all these things so I was able to retire from the health service which I did when I was 59, no I was 58 just going on 59, and went off to Hong Kong.
I: Where you spent many years.
P: I spent six years in Hong Kong, yes, until … I wanted to work until I was 65.
I: Tell us about your time in Hong Kong.
P: Well, Andrew was the professor, the first professor, and head of the department and first of all he employed – because there weren’t enough local anaesthetists trained – he employed as lecturers … the other senior lecturer was a Chinese lady, Cindy Aun and she had been a senior lecturer at the London Hospital. The lecturers were all very senior senior registrars from the United Kingdom, mostly who came out for a year at a time. All of them have now become, a lot of them, become very distinguished anaesthetists.
I: Can you mention any of them?
P: Yes, David Bogod was one. David Bogod,and the lady who … she was president of the Pain Society …
I: I’m not very good at names either.
P: Bit they’ve all done extremely well but David Bogod in particular. David Bogod came, actually, as a medical officer employed by the Hong Kong government. And so again the hospital that we were going to work in was the Prince of Wales hospital in a town called Shatin. And Shatin was just a new town, it had been built on reclaimed land and it was a completely new hospital, it was a completely new medical school, completely new medical school and so we were the first people to move into this hospital.
I: That must have been quite exciting.
P: It was very, very exciting actually, very exciting.
I: Because you could make it do what you wanted it to do.
P: We did, in fact Andrew particularly we organised how the theatres would work, to suit the anaesthetists. We organised how the theatres would work.
I: What do you think you gained out of your time in Hong Kong?
P: Oh, it was just a lovely period in my life.
I: You still go quite regularly, don’t you?
P: Yes, I went back … I haven’t’ been since 2002 but I did go nine times between the time of coming home, which was the back of 1989 and 2002. I am going again in May.
I: Is that just for a visit?
P: No, there’s a combined meeting of the Hong Kong College of Anaesthesiology and the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists, so it’s a combined meeting of the two colleges.
I: You must notice quite a lot of changes.
P: I think the changes will be absolutely fantastic. The last time I went there were young men who came and spoke to me that I had interviewed when they were school children for entrance to medical school. They were now consultant anaesthetists.
I: That’s quite daunting to see people … go through that.
P: Yes, it’s really quite daunting. So what did I gain? Well, we went into a completely new hospital, we started … we taught, we had to train operating department assistants, we had to train the nurses, we had to train undergraduates, we had to train the postgraduates. So we taught all these people and also we founded the hospital.
I: You must be quite proud of the time you spent there.
P: I’m very proud and not only that but we did found the Hong Kong College of Anaesthesiologists. And how we did this was that almost a short while after I went there, Doctor Jean Allison who is an Australian, who was working at one of the what they call subvented hospitals, a mixture between a charity hospital and a government run hospital. She was working at the Nethersole Hospital and she was chairman of the organising committee for the sixth Asian-Australasian meeting of anaesthetists, the World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiologists have regional groups and one of the groups is the Asian-Australasian group and the sixth Asian-Australasian meeting was to held in Hong Kong and she asked me whether I would organise the scientific programme.
And this I did with the help of Michael Moles who was a very maverick anaesthetist – he’s died now – who was at the dental hospital. And we organised this very successful meeting in Hong Kong and made a profit of course. At one time, this was when John Zorab was president of the WFSA, you were supposed to give a very large proportion of your profit to the WFSA and we said ‘No way are we giving …’ I think we gave a very small token to the WSFA, kept all the money and with it founded a Hong Kong College of Anaesthesiology.
I: How many students did they have?
P: How many students?
I: In the new college.
P: Ooh, you had to be a consultant anaesthetist or it’s equivalent, you had to have the Fellowship, you had to be an accredited specialist anaesthetist to be accredited as a member of the College. And the reason for forming a College of anaesthesiology was that after various committees they had decided that they would have an academy of medicine of Hong Kong and in order to become one of the member societies or groups or specialties of the Hong Kong Academy Of Medicine you had to have a College and so we founded the College.
I: Tell us a little bit more about you involvement with the Association because that was also why you were in Hong Kong.
P: No, the Association was while I was in Cambridge.
I: But you had some time with the Association while you were in Hong Kong as well?
P: Oh, well only that I was still a member of the Association. I was Honorary Secretary when I was still in Cambridge.
I: Right. I thought that you were also … had another post. Weren’t you Vice-President while you were …?
P: Oh, I was Vice-President in the Association while I was in Hong Kong. Yes.
I: So tell us about your time with the Association.
P: Oh, the Association. I had organised, I had been responsible for the scientific programme … not the scientific programme, for the basic organisation of a Junior Anaesthetist meeting. This is before it was called GAT, it was called the Junior Anaesthetists Group. They were coming to Cambridge and there was a meeting in Churchill College. I was responsible for the basic organisation, that is all the booking the College, the trade exhibition, everything. I wasn’t responsible for the scientific programme. That was a great success and I think if your name is known around or you name particularly amongst the juniors … So I applied for Council, I didn’t get appointed the first year because Margaret Heath was appointed instead but the second year I applied again and I was appointed. First of all I found Council meetings absolutely daunting, absolutely daunting.
I: Why was that?
P: Well, I didn’t think Cyril Scurr … It wasn’t a very welcoming … although Ann Muir was wonderful. Ann Muir who was the Executive Secretary, she was wonderful. But otherwise I didn’t think it was a particularly welcoming group.
I: Was there some particular reason?
P: I think probably, I don’t know, it was very dominated – again I have to be careful here – it was very dominated by Michael Vickers and John Zorab, very dominated. I did my three years because the appointment was for three years and I also got elected to the sort of inner cabinet, they called it Advisory, and mainly that was because you could vote for yourself. I hadn’t really … I thought, ‘I’m just not very good at this, I’m not succeeding here.’ So …
I: That must have been quite difficult for you, wasn’t it?
P: It was difficult, so on my last, almost my last, Council meeting I thought,‘I really must get there in good time.’ Because not only that in order to get away on Fridays one of my colleagues said he’d always do my work for me and so I came to this, what I thought would be my last Council meeting and Peter Baskett – dearly loved Peter Baskett; I dearly loved them all, Michael Vickers, Mike Rosen, all of them I loved them but the Council meetings were very much dominated by Michael Vickers and John Zorab.
And so Peter Baskett came up to me and said that the chap who’d been appointed Honorary Secretary had found that it was too much, it interfered with his private practice but he also … he died of heart failure and he did require heart surgery. So Peter said, ‘Will you be Honorary Secretary?’ and this was in the middle of the session, it was a sort of … So I was duly appointed as … well I’m not sure what they call it, is it Assistant Honorary Secretary or the incoming … what you do is that you act as Assistant Honorary Secretary for a year then you’re Honorary Secretary for two years and then you’re Past Honorary Secretary for a year. So I went back to Cambridge and I spoke to my colleague Michael Tolley and he said, ‘I will do your work for you every Friday when you need to go to a meeting.’
I: That was very good of him.
P: Yes, otherwise I couldn’t have accepted.
I: So have you got any other special memories about your time As Honorary Secretary?
P: It was very hard work. I don’t think I was, although Michael Rosen seems to think I was a good Secretary, I don’t think I was particularly good. It was very, very hard work, what I would do is you had to take the minutes, I believe now they have a professional secretary to take the minutes, I had to take the minutes and then unlike Peter Baskett who could dictate the minutes in the train going home, what I had to do was … I didn’t do anything for the weekend, I would write the minutes out in long hand and then dictate them onto a tape. I would then catch a train to London and put them through the door of the letterbox at BMA House which is where we were. If I didn’t do that and I hadn’t done it by Monday morning, because maybe I was on call, I would employ a motorcycle courier and they would take the minutes up to London because you had to get the minutes there by Monday.
I: That’s quite daunting.
P: It was daunting, yes. So, OK, what else do I remember about being Secretary? Well, Peter Baskett … the support I had was wonderful, particularly form Peter Baskett and then Bill MacRae when he was appointed Assistant Secretary, that support was wonderful.
I: And then after that you became Vice-President?
P: Well, after that I … it was while I was still immediate Past Honorary Secretary that I decided to go to Hong Kong.
I: And then having gone to Hong Kong you were made Vice-President.
P: I was made a Vice-President, yes.
I: Because I notice in one of your citations that they talk about you using British Airways like a number 27 bus.
P: That’s right, yes.
I: How many times were you coming backwards and forwards?
P: It was Cathay Pacific, I always used Cathay Pacific. How many times did I come backwards and forwards? The first year I decided that I wouldn’t come home at all, it’s rather like not being home sick, I decided that I would work solidly for a whole year before I came home. And then I thought it was always extremely important because I was not far off retirement and it’s extremely important to maintain your contacts. I maintained my flat, I didn’t let my flat and it’s very important that you keep up your friendships. And so I thought it’s no use going away for six years and then coming back and expecting life to be exactly the same. So I thought it was very important to come home. Also, my brother had a stroke in one of the years when I came home and so I came home a little bit more frequently.
I: Have you any particular memories about your time as Vice-President?
P: I couldn’t do very much as Vice-President because I was away so really I couldn’t function, it was really just an honorary post whereas now the Vice-President is a great support to the President. There was nothing that I could really do.
I: Obviously you’ve been quite heavily involved with the Association. Did you have any particular involvement with the College?
P: No, only insofar that because after I had been Honorary Secretary … normally people would apply to be a Council member of the College because you couldn’t do both at the same time but I had gone off to Hong Kong.
I: Didn’t have any particular …
P: So I didn’t’ have any particular relationship with the College, only insofar that I had passed the Fellowship.
I: When you came back from Hong Kong you officially retired.
I: And you’ve obviously been quite busy ever since.
P: I’ve been extremely busy ever since, yes.
I: One of your big involvements is with the History of Anaesthetics Society.
P: Yes, I have two big involvements. One was with my old school and this was actually a big part of my life and it still is. I went to a boarding school which was Queenswood School in Hertfordshire and the … we have a very active Old Queenswoodians’ Association and the headmistress had always been the chairman or the president and had always run the affairs. The current who was then the headmistress, Audrey Butler who was again a great friend of mine, decided that this was enough, it was time that the Old Queenswoodians’ ran themselves. And I knew this but I knew several other people that … who were far more able to do the job than myself but Audrey had been to stay with me several times and she knew my habits so at six o’clock one morning the telephone went and it was Audrey and would I be chairman of the Old Queenswoodians’ Association. So I said yes but I won’t be home until November 1989 and then I will take up the post. So I did.
I: And how long were you Chairman for?
P: I was Chairman for six years, I mean …
I: What did that involve?
P: That involved three … well, really, total involvement with the Old Queenswoodians’ Association, a meeting every term of the Executive Committee and then in 1994 it was the centenary of the school and therefore we had to organise a centenary event and one of the things that we did do was to organise a weekend for the Old Queenswoodians’. That was one thing, that was a great success. And then also I became very involved with a book of the history of the school and I actually looked out and did all the photographs for that.
I: And you published the book?
P: The book has been published, it wasn’t … I just get an acknowledgement from the publisher.
I: What about your time with The History of Anaesthesia Society?
P: Oh, the History of Anaesthesia Society, well, that was again founded by Tom Boulton, Ian McLellan and Adrian Padfield and it was founded in 1985 at one of … we had a preliminary meeting and I was actually fortunate enough to be home, at a meeting of The Association of Anaesthetists in Leicester. And we then decided that we should form a society to research the history of anaesthesia and this is when it was said, they said, ‘You’ll never keep it up. You’ll run out of things to say.’ Well, we haven’t.
I: 20 years later.
P: 20 years later we haven’t run out of things to say.
I: And you’ve been President of that?
P: I have been President, yes. I was made President in 1998, so I was President, which is a two year post.
I: Were there any particular things you were involved with in that time?
P: Yes, I’d always wanted …. Because they had set up some new medical museums in Paris I had a tremendous desire to go Paris for a meeting and one of our members, Marguerite Zimmer who’s actually a dentist in Strasbourg, is a great researcher into the history of anaesthesia and she was persuaded that we could have a meeting in Paris and she was extremely helpful and Tony Bennett of Bristol was the secretary at the time and all between us we organised a meeting in Paris.
I: And it went well.
P: And that was a great success too.
I: Any other big meetings that you organised?
P: Yes, the International Symposium on the History of Anaesthesia which is held every four years like the Olympic Games was held in Cambridge in 2005. Then this time Doctor Neil Adams was the Honorary Secretary and Neil asked me if I would help him. So I said, ‘Well Neil I will be 82.’ ‘Oh, that’s rubbish. That doesn’t matter.’ And so we organised a meeting at Queens College in Cambridge. That was a great success too.
I: Any other memorable moments with the Society?
P: Well, we had another meeting in Edinburgh when I helped Alistair McKenzie organise the meeting because Alistair doesn’t like arranging the tables, the table plan, so I did the table plan and I think I did the menu for the … I did help Alistair actually organise a meeting in Edinburgh because I also know Edinburgh very well.
I: I know that you’re very interested in languages. Tell us a bit about your …
P: I’d always enjoyed French at school, but I was getting a bit embarrassed about my ability to speak French and back in Cambridge I noticed that there was going to be a new class called Brush up your French. The community centre of the local church. So I applied and I went along and it was a new class and there were several other ladies, mostly ladies because it’s mostly ladies who go to evening classes. There was this lovely French lady, Francoise Goad, and Francoise was married to an Englishman and we had this wonderful class for seven years until Francoise gave it up. And the other advantage was prior to that nearly all my friends, naturally, had been anaesthetists or other doctors and I was starting to make new friends who were not doctors. Now they say you can’t make friends when you get older, this isn’t true; I have made lots and lots of new friends.
I: Outside medicine.
P: Outside medicine, yes. So I have a lot of new friends who are outside medicine. I thoroughly enjoyed this French class. Then we were going to go for our International Symposium in Anaesthesia, the venue was to be Santiago De Compostela in Spain. So I decided I would learn Spanish. I went to an evening class and started to learn Spanish and then that progressed on from various, various classes and so I went to Santiago De Compostela but I still enjoyed Spanish. Then there was a particular evening class that I wanted to go to but the tutor wouldn’t have you unless you had A-Level in Spanish. So then I joined a different class, he sent me to a different class, and in order to keep the class going you had to guarantee that you would do A-S level in Spanish. So I did. And then I thought, ‘Well, I’ve got to have A-Level, A-2, so I’ll have to do the second year.’ So I did that as well. It nearly killed me.
I: And you got your A-Level in Spanish.
P: I got my A-Level in Spanish, I got an A for speaking and an A for essay writing. Didn’t do so well in these awful listening to tapes. You see, the children nowadays they’re taught how to do it and it’s all tick boxes.
I: But, from the way you describe it, you’re almost of proud of that as you are of anything else.
P: I am more proud of passing the A-Level Spanish at the age of 79 than almost anything else. I thought, ‘How awful, what’ll I do supposing I fail? How awful. What’ll I do if I tell all my teachers I’ve failed.’ And I didn’t.
I: Before we finish, is there anything else that you think we ought to talk about that we haven’t mentioned?
P: No, I think I was very fortunate in my career. I was just very fortunate in the various jobs that I applied for. It was a wonderful experience to have been at East Grinstead a wonderful experience to have been at Great Ormond Street and then to have been in Edinburgh was another wonderful experience. I think I was just extremely fortunate.
The other thing I would say was that there was no real discrimination against a woman except when I had this ‘Not another bloody woman.’But that’s only because if you are a woman doctor, as I’m sure you well know, you have to work very hard and you have to prove that you are not always just going off to have your hair done or various other things. The men went off to take the children off to school just the same. So I think there was no discrimination. And the other thing I was very fortunate in going to University College London, where again there was no discrimination and we had a mixed union, medical students union. It was just very fortunate.
I: Thank you very much, that was really interesting, I’ve enjoyed it very much.