Lives of the fellows

Alan Morton Gill

b.11 January 1909 d.25 May 1985
CBE(1970) MRCS LRCP(1932) MB BS Lond(1932) MD(1934) MRCP(1936) FRCP(1946)

Alan Morton Gill was born in Gibralter. His father, a Gibralterian, was a doctor and his mother was a Scot. Alan was bilingual in English and Spanish. He was educated at Epsom College and subsequently entered the Middlesex Hospital medical school with an entrance scholarship. After a period as research assistant in the department of physiology, he was appointed house physician and later medical registrar. In 1939 he was appointed physician to the West London Hospital.

At the beginning of the second world war he attempted unsuccessfully to join the Royal Navy, being rejected on account of a family history of tuberculosis; indeed he himself had been infected as a child. Instead, he joined the Emergency Medical Service and was posted to the Old Windsor and Stoke Mandeville Hospitals. Later, he opened the EMS gastric unit at the White Lodge Hospital, Newmarket. In the meanwhile, in 1940, he had married Mary Hammond, a qualified dispenser and also a nurse, and a member of a remarkable family of four generations of churchmen. There were three children of their marriage, two sons and a daughter.

After the war he returned to the West London Hospital, where he built up a department of gastroenterology. He taught general medicine in the medical school and played a prominent part in its eventual fusion with the Charing Cross Hospital medical school. He was a pioneer in the field of gastroscopy; today his personal gastroscope is on display in the London Science Museum. He published some 50 papers, mainly on gastroenterology. He was elected a Fellow of the College in 1946, was an examiner from 1966-74, and an appointee to the DHSS Medical Appeal Tribunal in 1976 from which he was forced to retire three years later after suffering his first coronary infarct.

Alan was a quiet, shy man who dedicated himself to the care of others, indeed only a few knew of his many and varied achievements. A keen horseman, he rode very well and had played polo in his younger days in Spain. He played rugby for the Middlesex Hospital, was a good swimmer and enjoyed skiing. He and his wife travelled widely in Europe, North Africa and through the Americas. They were both invited to attend the Independence Celebrations in Barbados at the personal wish of the prime minister. In 1970 he was created CBE for his services to the Barbados and Guyana High Commission in the United Kingdom. For 35 years he also served as senior medical consultant to the Canada Life Insurance Company and was later elected president of the Assurance Medical Society.

For six years after his retirement he enjoyed his newfound leisure in the country with his family and his dogs; gardening, bird watching, and assisting his daughter with her stallions and the stud. His son, Robin, a priest and lecturer in the divinity faculty of Edinburgh University, wrote eight books on religion. Alan read all the proofs and made useful amendments to sentence structure, vocabulary, and sometimes to logic. An inveterate pipe smoker, Alan developed another extraordinary addiction: he not only enjoyed but became an authority on all the Western cowboy films broadcast on television. He never missed one, and during each showing no one was allowed to talk or in any way to disturb his concentration. He died at his country home in Charlwood, Sussex.

BG Parsons-Smith

[, l985,291,62; Lancet, 1985,2,227; The Times, 6 June 1985]

(Volume VIII, page 185)

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