Lives of the fellows

Douglas Gordon Freshwater

b.9 January 1913 d.18 February 1994
BA Cantab(1934) MB BChir(1937) MRCS LRCP(1937) MRCP(1938) MA(1939) FRCP(1968)

A true chip of the old block, was how Douglas Gordon Freshwater was considered by his contemporaries. But just as Burke said of the Younger Pitt, he was "Not merely a chip of the old block, but the old block itself". His father before him, Douglas Hope Freshwater, had been consultant dermatologist at the Westminster Hospital. The younger Douglas was born in London and educated at Sherwood House Prep School and University College School. He went on to study medicine at Cambridge and the Westminster Hospital. Douglas will always be remembered as a man of excellent physique; tall, dark and handsome with it to boot. He represented Cambridge at tennis, played international tennis for Great Britain and was even good enough to enter Wimbledon. His strength of character was every bit the equal of his physique. He would look everyone directly in the eye and his words would invariably be accompanied by a smile, a chuckle or a laugh.

He had an excellent training in dermatology. Bright young graduates were targeted and enjoyed the facilities of the RSM and St John’s, with the result that Douglas’ ability to diagnose even the most uncommon condition was out of the top drawer. He became honorary dermatologist at the Royal Northern Hospital, London, in 1939, and then followed a distinguished career during the war, serving in North Africa and finishing with the rank of lieutenant colonel as adviser in dermatology, British Army of the Rhine. He spent the next two years between 1946 and 1948 as consultant dermatologist and venereologist in Nigeria. This gave him immense experience, not only in tropical skin diseases, but also in diagnosing black skin conditions.

Merseyside provided the bulk of his life’s work. In 1948 he became consultant dermatologist to United Liverpool Hospitals - the former voluntary teaching hospitals - and lecturer in charge of the department of dermatology at the University of Liverpool. When he arrived there was a feeling of thinly-veiled unease between those who were university and those who were not. He immediately sensed it and worked hard to overcome it. He also became consultant dermatologist to the Regional Board which gave him a base in the Wirral, then virgin territory. Having already demonstrated his academic skills he proceeded to demonstrate equal skills in leadership and administration. He built up and developed a self-contained skin unit at Clatterbridge Hospital.

Douglas was particularly interested in the prevention and treatment of industrial dermatitis and wrote several papers on the subject. He became consultant to many of the manufacturing firms on Merseyside. His life was so highly organized that he was able to see prodigious numbers of out-patients and visit several factories on a regular basis.

He also found time for golf. He lived at the top of Bidston Hill in the Wirral in a lovely house which contained his antiques, which he so loved to collect. One of his great joys was his large, beautifully laid out garden, which he loved to tend. It was just as spectacular as each and every one of his other undertakings in life.

C McGibbon

[Brit.med.J., 1994,309,123]

(Volume X, page 155)

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