Lives of the fellows

Alan Worsley Holmes à Court

b.19 June 1887 d.16 April 1957
MB Sydney(1910) MD Sydney(1920) MRCP(1919) FRCP(1930) FRACP(1938)

Alan Holmes à Court was born in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, his father being Charles Holmes à Court, the fourth son of Lord Heytesbury, and clerk of the State Parliament of Queensland. His mother was Mary Howe; her father, William Howe, was a land holder living at Glen Lee, Camden, New South Wales. He was educated at the Brisbane Grammar School and proceeded to the Medical School in Sydney in 1906. He entered Sydney Hospital as a junior resident medical officer in 1911 and so began a devoted association with that institution which was to last some thirty-six years. He was appointed registrar in 1912 and honorary assistant physician in 1914, just one year after completing his house appointments. He became honorary physician in 1923 and honorary consultant physician in 1947.

He joined the Australian Army Medical Corps early in 1916 and was posted to the hospital ship, Karoola; later he saw service in France in 1918 and was mentioned in dispatches and awarded the Médaille des Epidémies (en argent). As a result of his experiences and observations he was able to write a thesis entitled ‘Intravenous injections in the treatment of haemorrhage and shock’; because of its high standard he was awarded the degree of doctor of medicine.

In 1925 he was elected to the council of the New South Wales branch of the British Medical Association and served until 1935, being president in 1933. He also took an active part in the Association of Physicians of Australia, the group of teachers of clinical medicine out of which came the Royal Australasian College of Physicians.

When the College was formed in 1938 he was elected a foundation fellow; he became a member of the first council and executive committee and was still serving on these bodies at the time of his death. He was a member of the Australasian Board of Censors, 1938-45, and censor-in-chief, 1945-50, and president of the College in 1952-4. He was also chairman of the editorial committee of the Australasian Annals of Medicine from the time of its foundation until his death.

He was an excellent clinical teacher, for his enthusiasm, clarity of thinking and exactness of expression made him most acceptable to undergraduates and post-graduates alike. He built a very large consulting practice and was one of the most sought-after consultants, not only in Sydney, but throughout Australia. A quiet, rather retiring personality, he held the highest ideals not only of medical practice, but of life in general.

He was always friendly and courteous in manner, determined to assist his fellow-men of all ages, and particularly anxious to help the young men of the profession. His chief recreations were yachting and fly-fishing. He owned and occasionally raced his yacht, but after the death of his elder son on active service he became less enthusiastic and devoted all his time to fishing. In 1913 he married Eileen Rouse, whose father was a landowner in Mudgee, New South Wales. They had two sons, Brian and Peter, and one daughter, Pamela.

Richard R Trail

[Med.J.Aust., 1957, 2, 145-7 (p), 220.]

(Volume V, page 197)

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