Lives of the fellows

James Denis Hardy

b.12 July 1911 d.9 Oct 1989
MB BCh BAO(1933) DObst RCOG(1936) MD Belf(1937) MRCP(1938) FRCP(1965)

Denis Hardy was born into a prosperous middle class Belfast family, where his father was a pharmaceutical chemist and his mother, the daughter of a builder, was one of the first female graduates of Trinity College, Dublin. He was educated at Campbell College and Queens University, graduating at the age of 22. Like so many of his contemporaries in 1933, he came to England where - apart from the war years - he spent the rest of his life.

His first job as casualty officer at Royal Sussex County Hospital was followed, successively, by house surgeon, house physician and senior RMO at the same hospital. He continued his training as RMO at Sussex Maternity Hospital, followed by paediatrics at Paddington Green Childrens’ Hospital. His next appointment was as RMO at Fulham Hospital, during which time he obtained his membership of the College. This gave him the status and experience to get appointed senior RMO at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School, Hammersmith. He was also to marry Sylvia, the nursing sister who was to have a profound influence for the rest of his days.

In 1939, anticipating that war was imminent, this well trained young physician was uncertain what course to take since he was likely to join the armed forces. Tempted by the spirit of adventure he accepted the post of medical officer on a tea estate in India, and on the day that war was declared Denis and Sylvia arrived at a tea garden m the remote hills of Northern Assam, where they made their life and raised their first child. In 1941, Denis was commissioned as MO in the Indian Medical Service and posted immediately to Baghdad where he served for two years as a medical specialist with the rank of major. In a similar capacity he was posted to Lucknow until 1945. He was then promoted to lieutenant colonel as officer commanding the medical division at 129 Indian Base General Hospital, a post he held until demobilization in 1946.

On his return to England with his wife and two children, he took an appointment as medical registrar at Bristol Royal Infirmary until 1948 when he was appointed assistant physician at the Royal Cornwall Infirmary. Two years later he was promoted to consultant physician. At that time there were three other physicians covering the whole county of Cornwall; Denis was responsible for infectious diseases (of which he had great experience), rheumatology and paediatrics.

Denis was a tall, handsome man - who gave an initial impression of austerity. This was due to his reserved nature and gentle, quiet charm. He did not seek the limelight, but every task he undertook was well done - with thorough preparation and attention to detail. He was a good clinical teacher, stressing the importance of amanuensis and relying on physical examination rather than special investigations. He was clinical tutor for postgraduate education in Cornwall from 1963-66. Always reluctant to accept ‘change for change’s sake’, once convinced of its merit he would espouse a cause wholeheartedly.

His great interest was all forms of sport. He represented his university at tennis and swimming when a student and m middle-life he took up competitive sailing in his flying fifteen and, later, in his offshore cruiser. Golf was another sporting activity, which he played into his last year. For many years he was a spectator at the open championship whatever the weather.

Above all, Denis was a family man - his doctor son and two daughters (who followed their mother’s profession) gave him much pride. One of his daughters, Debbie, inherited his love of sailing and achieved international status. During the 50 years of their married life, his wife was a great source of strength to him, especially during his long illness.

B A Gwynne Jenkins


(Volume IX, page 224)

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