Lives of the fellows

Alan Rigby Horler

b.1 December 1924 d.3 October 1994
MB BS Durh( 1947) MRCP(1952) MD(1955) FRCP(1968)

Alan Horler was a Geordie born and bred and proud of it. However far and wide his travels took him he was always happiest when his train crossed the bridge over the River Tyne and he was back ‘home’. He went to Durham University Medical School. After house jobs and a period at the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford, he returned to the North East in 1956, first as a senior medical registrar. In 1962 he was appointed a consultant physician at the Royal Victoria Infirmary and Gateshead Hospitals.

Whilst he had a fascination with many areas of medicine it was his interest in haematological disorders which remained paramount throughout his career. His memory for publications on haematological topics was striking.

He was first appointed to the council of the Medical Defence Union in January 1972. His broad clinical experience and wisdom was quickly recognized and he served for many years (from 1972 to 1994) on the cases committee and was its chairman for five years. He enjoyed his work for the MDU and brought energy, logic and clarity, as well as simple humanity, to the problems he encountered. He was president of the council from 1988 until 1993 and was the first chairman of the board of management after it was established in July 1991, until July 1993.

He loved teaching and pursued this activity from his days as a senior house officer. His courtesy and kindness to students, undergraduate and postgraduate, combined with a lucid and clear exposition of the clinical findings made him one of the most popular teachers. He would rarely be stumped by a question and never failed to interpret a Latin quotation or indeed cite one when appropriate.

He was much respected as a man of great integrity whose opinion was often sought on non-clinical matters. He was a ‘wise’ man long before the ‘three wise men’ or other mechanisms of dealing with doctors in difficulties were created. He was a man of great charm and had a sense of humour which would often explode into hearty laughter joined by his friends.

His obsessional attention to detail may sometimes have caused his junior staff some extra work, but they soon realized the immense benefit his patients derived from it and learned a way of caring and looking after patients which the rapid advance in technology has threatened to destroy. His meticulous clinical notes, carefully written in his distinctive and beautiful handwriting, were a model for all doctors in training.

Among his hobbies music played an important part - in particular he had a lifelong passion for singing going back to his time at Oxford as a junior hospital doctor when he became a member of the Bach Choir. His performances of whole passages from oratorios or Gilbert and Sullivan were a joy to hear and often developed into a small choral ensemble. He had fond memories of the exploits of the Royal Victoria Infirmary cricket team (the Victorians) and regularly attended the annual Headingley test match. He joined the Territorials following his National Service in the Royal Medical Corps and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel.

Alan Horler was a family man who never allowed his busy professional life to detract from his warm and loving home. He had one daughter and two sons and was a devoted father whose children were a source of both happiness and pride to him. The sudden and unexpected death of his son Steven was a loss which he continued to feel for the rest of his life, although he would often speak of him with great joy. His marriage to Gena, whom he met when he was a young doctor at Oxford and married in 1955, was one of those love affairs that continued throughout their lives and her death six months before his own was a bitter blow from which he never recovered. He died of disseminated thyroid carcinoma.

R A L Brewis

[Brit.med.J., 1995,3 10,658-9]

(Volume X, page 229)

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