Lives of the fellows

Christopher Sydney Darke

b.9 February 1913 d.24 April 1991
MRCS LRCP(1936) MB BS Lond(1936) MRCP(1938) MD(1939) FRCP(1962)

Chris Darke, the son of a general practitioner in Hounslow, was a traditional physician in the best sense of the term. He distinguished himself at school in Mill Hill, where he was senior monitor and captain of both rugby and hockey. He followed his father to Guy’s Hospital medical school where he was successful both academically and as a member, later captain, of the rugby team. Within a few years of qualification he had gained membership of the College and the University gold medal for his MD.

At the beginning of the war he was medical registrar and clinical tutor at Guys and moved with the medical school to Pembury. In 1940 he married Margaret Wild, the daughter of a cotton spinner, who was employed as a secretary at Guy’s. From 1943-46 he served in the RAMC, mainly in East Africa where he was officer in charge of the medical division at Nyeri in Kenya, holding the rank of lieutenant colonel. From this experience he had a lifelong interest in Africa and made several subsequent visits, both professional and recreational.

On demobilization in 1946, Chris went as medical registrar to the Brompton Hospital, working under Sir Geoffrey Marshall [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.381]. In 1950 he was appointed consultant physician to the City General Hospital, Sheffield, then a non-teaching hospital. At that time northern industrial cities such as Sheffield provided a rich experience of tuberculosis, chronic obstructive lung disease and the pneumonias. He became physician to the thoracic unit, United Sheffield Hospitals, in 1953 and developed a first class service to cope with these problems.

With the passage of time the pattern of diseases changed but he retained a special interest in occupational medicine; he was principal worker in studies of workers exposed to high concentrations of vinyl chloride while cleaning retorts at a chemical plant, of respiratory diseases of farm workers harvesting grain and in hairdressers inhaling large amounts of hair sprays. These were the subjects of his later publications. He had a special concern for the problems of asthmatics and played a leading role in the local Asthma Society.

When the City General Hospital became the Northern General Hospital, the second teaching hospital of the Sheffield medical school, he was pleased to become more involved in the teaching of medical students.

On retirement from Sheffield he moved near Hawkhurst in Kent and was soon appointed the first full-time medical adviser to Private Patients Plan, which had its head office in Tunbridge Wells. He enjoyed this post for five years, although towards the end he was disappointed that his proposals for developing special services for the elderly were not adopted.

For most of his life Chris enjoyed active pursuits but later, having had both his hips replaced, he found these difficult. He gave up shooting and later also fly-fishing which he had so much enjoyed on the Derbyshire Derwent, but he remained a keen gardener and was often to be found in his greenhouse. He and his wife were able to spend more time painting, a hobby they especially enjoyed on holiday.

Chris Darke was a man of firmly held, sometimes rigid opinions, and he displayed strong loyalties, particularly to Mill Hill and Guy’s. His manner was generally quiet and unassuming unless he was strongly moved when he could show his feelings unequivocally. He was good company and a friend to be valued. He was devoted to his wife and family and had moved south on retirement largely to be near his two sons, his daughter, and his eight grandchildren. When Margaret died in 1987 he was greatly affected by her loss. He stayed on at Hawkhurst for a couple of years but became more incapacitated and moved near Guildford where his sister, a retired medical social worker, could keep an eye on him. He subsequently moved to a nursing home and died in Guildford Hospital.

J Knowelden

(Volume IX, page 112)

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