Lives of the fellows

James Samuel Fleming

b.13 July 1931 d.28 February 1992
MB ChB Edin(1955) MRCP(1960) MD Edin(1967) FRCP(1974) FRCPE(1976)

James Fleming was born in Glasgow where his father, also James, worked for the railway company as a yardmaster at the Bishopriggs Shunting Yards. His mother Elizabeth, née Bannerman, taught modern languages at the local school. Jim was educated at Linlithgow School and Edinburgh University.

After graduation his first appointment was at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary but he was soon posted to Cyprus in the RAMC. On his return in 1959 he took up a house post at the Brompton Hospital working for John Scadding and other distinguished physicians -including Paul Wood [Munk's Roll, Vol.V, p.456]. One of his early patients, being investigated for a pulmonary complaint, was Beryl (Bobie) Hall who was to become a chief technician at the Brompton. In 1961 she became Jim’s wife and they had two children, Richard and Beth.

It was while Jim and Bobie were on their honeymoon that Paul Wood died and it was some measure of the high esteem in which Jim was held that when he returned there was some pressure on him to apply for the vacant post. At that time, Jim was only a registrar and he decided to move on - initially to St George’s and then to Bart’s Hospital. He soon established a reputation as an outstanding cardiologist and several units were keen to appoint him. Then, as now, the timing of interview appointments was crucial and Sheffield got in by a short head.

In 1969 Jim joined David Verel at the Northern General Hospital in Sheffield and between them they built the unit up into a thriving and busy department. Jim’s particular contribution was to clinical excellence and teaching. He was especially successful in bringing on the senior registrars, many of whom went on to obtain prestigious consultant posts at a time when the competition was fierce.

Jim Fleming was a cultured man with many and varied interests. He loved France and had a property there, from which he would return with the finest wines - typically purchased from the vignerons where he was considered a friend. He liked to portray himself as a canny Scot but no one was fooled; he was very generous and entertainment at the Flemings’ was legendary. He cared for music, especially Mozart, and would play through the operas on his piano.

Colleagues in Sheffield remember Jim Fleming as one of the most charming men one could meet. He had a wicked sense of humour and was an excellent raconteur, never missing an opportunity to tell a tale. He could extract humour from a bizarre situation and render his audience helpless with laughter. His ward rounds were a delight and his patients loved him.

About two years before he died, Jim fell ill with malignant disease but with considerable courage he continued to perform his duties in the clinic and catheter rooms as he had always done, until he could manage it no more. Following his death a fund was set up to establish a bursary for medical students going abroad on elective periods. The response from colleagues, patients and local practitioners was overwhelming and a testimony to how much his services were valued.

G D G Oakley

(Volume IX, page 172)

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