Lives of the fellows

John Stuart Harris

b.13 October 1900 d.2 May 1986
MB ChB Edin(1922) MD(1924) DPM(1924) MRCP(1929) FRCP(1953) FRCPsych (1971)

Stuart Harris, a Scot, was physician superintendent of Claybury Hospital, Woodford Green, Essex, from 1938 until his retirement in 1961. He was among the best of this country’s physician superintendents; his outstanding contribution to psychiatry being adminstrative rather than clinical. As a director he was patient and benign; a man who chose his staff carefully and supported them fully. As a man, he was extremely reticent and rarely talked about himself, but he was well known for his unflappability - a quality which contributed greatly to his outstanding administrative ability.

Stuart was educated at George Watson Academy and Edinburgh University where he obtained his MD and DPM in the same year. Before his appointment to Claybury he had served on the staff of the Maudsley Hospital, where he was a great admirer of his chief, Edward Mapother [Munk's Roll, Vol.V, p.266] and as deputy superintendent of West Park Hospital. After the introduction of the NHS, Stuart Harris and George Graham, the regional medical officer, contributed greatly to the development of psychiatry in the area covered by the NE Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board.

Claybury Hospital became well known in the 1950s and ‘60s for its development of the therapeutic community under the supervision of Stuart’s successor, Denis Martin, who had been carefully selected by Stuart. There is no doubt that Claybury would not have been ready for these developments but for the patient work Stuart had put in during his time as superintendent, particularly during the difficult war years, and his calm and accepting support and encouragement were essential ingredients in an exciting experiment, which is unlikely to be repeated because of the changing psychiatric scene. After his retirement from Claybury, Stuart became one of the Lord Chancellor’s Visitors and served for some four years in a post which had been formerly occupied by a distinguished predecessor at Claybury, the first physician superintendent, Sir Robert Armstrong-Jones [Munk's Roll, Vol.IV, p.480].

He met his wife, Kathleen, when he was on the staff at the Maudsley where she was a ward sister. They had two children; his son Robert is a senior probation officer in Newham, and his daughter Eileen, a consultant psychiatrist, married Graham Evans who was a psychiatric registrar at Claybury. They are now practising as consultant psychiatrists in New Zealand.

For many years they has a house at Sheringham, Norfolk. Stuart and his wife were both enthusiastic golfers; Kathleen being the better player. After his retirement they moved house several times; first to Effingham in Surrey and then to Chigwell, Essex, finally settling down in Sheringham. For many years they spent their holidays in New Zealand where Stuart would spend some time putting case notes in good order. He remained alert and interested in psychiatry to the end. Unfortunately, during the last three or four years his sight began to fail so that he was unable to play golf. He eventually died of carcinoma of the prostate.

JS Pippard

[Brit.med.J., 1987.294,64]

(Volume VIII, page 209)

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