Lives of the fellows

Eric Oates Halliwell

b.31 December 1903 d.9 January 1991
MRCS LRCP(1930) Leeds MRCP(1932) FRCP(1969)

Eric Halliwell was proud to be a Yorkshireman. He was born on the last day of 1903 in Dewsbury, where his father was in general medical practice but later became MOH when his own health declined. Eric was sent away to school, initially to Bedford School and then to Kendal Grammar School, but always regretted that neither gave him an adequate grounding in Latin. He started out to study law at Oxford but after a year or so abandoned it and returned to Yorkshire to read medicine at Leeds where he qualified with the Conjoint diplomas in 1930.

He did several house jobs at the General Infirmary in Leeds and achieved his membership of the College in 1932. He would have liked to have found a place on the staff of the Infirmary but in those days several years of financial support were necessary. Lack of funds made this impossible, particularly when in 1933 he married Frances Muriel, née Clark, the daughter of a surgeon. So he opted for general practice. Dr Readman’s practice in the village of Cottingham, near Hull, was for sale and he entered it that same year. Three years later he bought the large house in Hallgate which remained his home for the next 50 years.

Halliwell's career, like many others, was changed by the war. The medical staff of Hull Royal Infirmary was much depleted by physicians leaving for military service for which Halliwell was unfit, having only one eye because of a childhood injury, and he was asked to join the staff in 1939. He left his general practice in the hands of an assistant and took on hospital work in Driffield and at the then ‘Sutton Annexe’ of the Hull Royal Infirmary. His first consulting rooms in Prospect Street, opposite the Infirmary, were burned down in 1941 and he moved to Albion Street where he had rooms until his retirement. The war years were busy and he saw patients over a wide geographical area despite problems with travel, often going to Lincolnshire which was a long drive round the head of the Humber estuary.

Eric had always had an interest in skin diseases and as the years went by he increasingly specialized in dermatology, his last years being largely devoted to this discipline. He retired from practice m 1968 but continued to see occasional patients and do life insurance examinations almost to the end of his life. He was president of the Hull Medical Society in 1958.

Halliwell’s father had been a collector and Eric became so himself. He acquired a substantial collection of ancient coins, bought paintings, sculpture and furniture - he was especially found of chinoiserie - but his great love was silver. He began buying silver in wartime and had not only an enviable collection but also a substantial knowledge. After his retirement from medicine he derived satisfaction from his appointment as York Diocesan Valuer for Silver. This took him to parish churches all over the diocese, where he examined and valued the sometimes priceless and often beautiful sacred vessels. He often lectured about silver to lay and medical groups and was founder and past president of the Silver Collectors' Society. He was also an enthusiastic member of the Hull Classical Society. Apart from their artefacts, he liked the classical countries and in the ’50s, when travel was less speedy than it is now, he and his wife explored Greece, Italy, Turkey and Israel. He took many photographs which he subsequently used in lectures.

Eric Halliwell was undoubtedly ‘a character’. His bulky figure and his damaged eye gave him a striking appearance. His robust Yorkshire directness of speech was arresting; he was strong in his opinions, trenchant in his criticisms, but always an amusing conversationalist. Evening visitors would be welcomed by a large measure of sherry in a solid gold goblet, designed by himself, and entertained with discursive talk. In later years he worried about his health but surmounted several problems. During his hospital stays he was disposed to give other inpatients outrageous opinions and advice - with no lasting harm. He had two daughters from his marriage and both they and his wife survived him.

J R Bennett

(Volume IX, page 219)

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