Lives of the fellows

Albert Gordon Hesling

b.31 May 1920 d.6 January 1989
MRCS LRCP(1943) MB BS Lond(1946) MRCP(1948) DCH(1949) FRCP(1973)

Born in Nottingham, but of wholly and strongly Yorkshire parentage, Gordon Hesling’s early years were spent in Cornwall as a consequence of his father’s ill-health; his youth in Plymouth. It was this southern upbringing - St Erbyn’s preparatory school and Plymouth College - which shaped his development. Sailing, swimming, fly-fishing, photography - and books: text books. Even as a teenager he had acquired the capacity of running to earth the ultimate expert sources for his information. He had a facility for picking out the particular and the peculiar, and his retentive memory brought out such items on apposite occasions throughout his life, often with devastating humour. A mischevious sense of fun and chortling ridicule were both very close to the surface. His fastidious judgement was reflected in his dress, always appropriate to the occasion, and in his tools and other equipment.

He was the first Hesling to enter medicine but two others have followed, with similar career successes. Gordon Hesling chose to study at St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington. His initial career was conditioned by the 1939-45 war and included the almost immediate and obligatory call-up; he chose the RAFVR, in which he served from 1944-47, and from which a short paper on supernumerary nipples emerged as a result of the numerous recruits he examined. He also had an opportunity to consort with W F Gaisford [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VIII, p.173] who was working at a local hospital near to his station. This, together with his former house job at Luton Children’s Hospital, may have influenced his choice of paediatrics as his specialty on his return to St Mary’s in 1947, where he became senior registrar in paediatrics.

In 1950, at the age of 30, he was appointed to the newly created post of consultant paeaiatrican to the Preston, Chorley, Blackpool and Fylde regions. A vast geographical domain with a population of 0.5 million and the onus of having to introduce to his older and well established senior colleagues a new specialty. It was tackled with enthusiasm and diplomacy and the problems of size were eventually eased by area redistribution and additional consultants. During this time his teaching abilities were - in company with his wife’s generous hospitality - willingly and freely expended on local general practitioners, nursing members of his team and, not least, on junior medical staff, several of whom have gone on to distinguish themselves in farflung corners of the world.

Squash, skiing, competitive dinghy sailing and building in brick and stone - with tools and advice from his old uncle William - were added to his previous activities - and always more and more informative and erudite books. As retirement approached he became the able and pragmatic chairman of the medical executive committee involved in the detailed commissioning of the new Royal Preston Hospital where his memorial is in the postgraduate centre.

He married twice, first in 1944 to Gisele Denduyts by whom he had two children, and then in 1978 to Rosalind Turnbull. It was a cruel irony that despite an active and healthy life, and much happiness in his retirement, his Yorkshire genes caught up with him and he died of cardiovascular disease, terminally hastened by influenza. The large church of St John’s in Preston was packed to the doors for his funeral service.

C M Hesling

[Brit.med.J., 1989,298,667]

(Volume IX, page 231)

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