Lives of the fellows

Weldon (Sir) Dalrymple-Champneys

b.7 May 1892 d.14 December 1980
Bart CB(1957) MA Oxon(1921) BM BCh(1922) DPH(1923) MRCP(1925) DM(1929) FRCP(1935)

Weldon Champneys was born in London, the son of Sir Francis Champneys, first baronet, an eminent gynaecologist who played a large part in securing the regulation of the training of midwives and was the first, and longest serving, chairman of the Central Midwives Board and a Fellow of the College. His mother, Virginia Julian, was the only daughter of the late Sir John Warrander Dalrymple, seventh baronet of North Berwick. Weldon assumed the additional surname of Dalrymple by deed poll in 1924, and succeeded his father as second baronet in 1930.

He grew up in a medical household, attending Gresham’s School, Holt, and then went to Oriel College, Oxford, and later for his clinical training to St Bartholomew’s Hospital Medical College. Although he joined the Grenadier Guards as a combatant and served throughout the war, being wounded, earning the 1914-1915 Star and remaining on the reserve of officers till 1938, Weldon returned to complete his medical training. After house posts at the Brompton and Victoria Park Hospitals and the Neasden Fever Hospital, he joined the staff of the Willesden Public Health Department, serving with George Buchan, one of the most distinguished medical officers of health between the wars. Weldon obtained the Oxford DPH and was one of that considerable group of able men who after World War I deliberately chose preventive medicine as a career, possibly influenced by the new value accorded to that specialty by the Dawson Report of 1920. Sadly that kind of recruitment did not continue, perhaps because Dawson’s Advisory Council was disbanded, and later generations of leading hospital clinicians had not his insight into health care and health promotion.

Weldon was with Willesden only three years, and in 1927 he joined the medical staff of the Ministry of Health, He was promoted to one of five new, short-lived, senior posts designed for a peacetime regionalization of the medical staff. After less than a year, on the retirement of Thomas Carnwath, he became the third holder of the post of deputy chief medical officer. He remained in that grade till his retirement in 1956, and was then created Companion of the Bath, having previously served for three years as honorary physician to the King. He was Milroy lecturer in 1950, awarded the Neech prize of the Society of Medical Officers of Health in 1948 and was chairman of a joint committee of WHO and FAO on brucellosis. He was a member of Council of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and for a time its vice chairman. He was a vice president of the Royal Society of Health and president at various times of the sections of epidemiology, comparative medicine and history of medicine of the Royal Society of Medicine. His principal publications concerned undulant fever, of which he had made a special study in England.

Weldon’s career was almost entirely in the Ministry of Health, where he worked mainly on prevention and supplies, including drugs. He followed the usual path of a recruit of his time, making special enquiries and reporting within the Ministry on such subjects as sickbays in public schools, undulant fever, supervision of milk pasteurising plants, and production of sterilized catgut. He was active in the Royal Society of Health. As DCMO he was chairman of numerous working groups on supplies, notably one on artificial respirators, but apart from this he was little involved in the main preoccupation of the Ministry in the NHS. In 1940 shortly after Weldon’s promotion to deputy, Sir Wilson Jameson had been brought into the Ministry as chief medical office, and four years later a second DCMO, John Charles, MOH of Newcastle, was brought in to work on the NHS. Sir John Charles, as he became, succeeded Sir Wilson and Weldon was disappointed a second time. It says much for his loyalty that he never allowed any sign of resentment to appear.

Weldon was an elegant, able man with many interests outside medicine. He was a superb photographer; he travelled widely; he was a considerable expert on herpetology; he spoke four languages fluently; he had an exhaustive knowledge of brucellosis in Britain; he was an excellent chairman of international groups with his linguistic skill. He had a full social life, closely linked with the charitable work of his first wife. All this meant that the intense preoccupation with health care that engulfed his colleagues from the time of the 1944 White Paper on the NHS largely passed him by. He had qualities and capacity that were not fully used, and that was not wholly the fault of the Ministry. At the end of an official career of thirty years there had to be some disappointment. Weldon was a loyal colleague and charming friend to the few who were at all close to him. It should have been possible for him to make a larger mark, but he seemed not to have the drive.

Weldon married in 1924 Anne, daughter of Colonel Spencer Pratt, who died in 1968 without children. In 1974 he married Norma, widow of AS Russell and daughter of Colonel R Hull Lewis. In retirement he lived latterly in Oxford, but still attended College functions.

Sir George Godber

[Brit.med.J., 1981, 282, 159; Times, 16 Dec 1980]

(Volume VII, page 133)

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