Lives of the fellows

John Prescott Hedley

b.20 January 1876 d.17 July 1957
MA Cantab(1902) MB ChB Cantab(1902) MCh Cantab(1920) MRCP(1907) FRCS(1920) FRCP(1921) FCOG(1929) Hon MMSA(1939)

John Prescott Hedley had the unique distinction of an unbroken connection with St. Thomas’s Hospital for close on sixty years, for he entered it in 1899 and within a few days of his death attended a meeting of the council of the Medical School of which he was a governor for his last twelve years.

He was the son of John Hedley, M.D., J.P., of Middlesborough, and May, daughter of Edward Williams; he went from Uppingham, where he won a sports’ cup, to King’s College, Cambridge, to win the freshmen’s quarter mile.

Following several residential posts, including one at Brompton Hospital, he was appointed obstetric tutor and registrar at St. Thomas’s in 1907, and obstetric physician in 1911, which post he held until 1936. His other appointments were physician to the General Lying-in Hospital, York Road, consulting gynaecologist to the National Hospital, Queen Square, and honorary gynaecologist to the Florence Nightingale, and Harrow Hospitals and to the Ministry of Pensions. He was examiner for the Universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh, and for the Conjoint Board, and at the College a Councillor from 1932 to 1934.

In the First World War he served as a captain, R.A.M.C., at the Duchess of Westminster’s Hospital, Le Touquet, and later as surgical specialist to the 5th London General Hospital at St. Thomas’s.

Hedley had a great affection for the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries. He joined it in 1915 and maintained an active association with it until his death in 1957, at the age of eighty-one. Elected to the Court of Assistants in 1938, he served as Master in 1944-5. From 1938 to 1952 he was the Society’s representative on the Central Midwives Board, becoming its vice-chairman for the last six, and from 1939 to the time of his death was its representative on the General Medical Council. In 1939 the Society made him an honorary master of midwifery.

‘Jock’ Hedley had a genius for friendship and no enemies. At committees he spoke only when he had something worth saying, and his rare word of disarming disapproval was never harsh, nor sarcastic, but presented as the result of careful consideration and a consistent desire to be strictly honest. If he inclined to the old ways and the golden mean, his conservatism smoothed the path for patients and colleagues alike, for Jock carried into practice and public life his intense love of family and of friends, to whom his hospitality was unbounded at his Poynters home in Surrey, especially after a game of cricket, of which he had been a devotee from his school days.

He married Kathleen, daughter of James Halliday, of Harrow, and had five sons and one daughter. His wife’s death in 1945 was a blow from which he never recovered, although he hid its effects from all but his most intimate friends.

Richard R Trail

[Brit.med.J., 1957, 2, 238-9 (p); J. Obstet. Gynaec. Brit. Emp., 1957, 64, 769-70; Lancet, 1957, 2, 197-8 (p); St. Thom. Hosp. Gaz., 1957, 55, 121-2 (p); Times, 18 July 1957.]

(Volume V, page 184)

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