Lives of the fellows

Eric Hamilton Hudson

b.11 July 1902 d.19 June 1990
BA Cantab(1925) MRCS LRCP Lond(1927) MA Cantab(1931) MB Chir(1932) MRCP(1933) FRCP(1941)

Eric Hudson, the son of James Hudson a solicitor, was born near Rochdale in Lancashire. His mother, Edith née Hamilton, was the daughter of James Hamilton a tinsmith and wheelwright. He was educated at Radley College, Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and Guy's Hospital, London. At Radley, Eric coxed the School First VIII and it can be assumed that his schooldays were happy ones since he sent both his sons there. He went on to Emmanuel College, Cambridge, to study medicine and became an active member of the university boat club and athletics club. After qualifying at Guy’s he took house jobs at hospitals in Tunbridge Wells and in Bermondsey, and also at the two hospitals -the West London Hospital and the London Chest Hospital - where he subsequently became a consultant physician.

Hudson must have been an outstanding junior doctor since his testimonials for senior posts echo the same theme: ‘. . . one of the best residents’, ‘. . . we have never had a better’ and ‘... never a better one’. He had a deep attachment to the London Chest Hospital, which was situated in east London close to Victoria Park, on the boundaries of Bethnal Green and Hackney. He was there at a time when there was much poverty in the area and when tuberculosis was widespread and still a great killer. Bethnal Green had for many years the highest tuberculosis mortality in London. It was there that he developed his interest in chest medicine in general and tuberculosis in particular. After a registrarship at Charing Cross Hospital, which gave his medicine a very solid base, he was appointed physician to the London Chest Hospital in 1935, and to the West London Hospital in 1936. At both these hospitals, where he was affectionately known as ‘Huddy', he gained the deep respect of his colleagues and the nursing staff. His unfailing kindness, his devotion to his work and his tireless energy were an example to his juniors and indeed to his peers.

Hudson was very good with his hands and under the guidance of H V Morlock [Munk's Roll, Vol.VI, p.347] and F G Chandler [Munk’s Roll, Vol.IV, p.598] he soon became expert at rigid bronchoscopy, thoracoscopy and adhesion section. As far as treatment was concerned his feet were firmly on the ground and he was prepared to use older and well-tried remedies when more modern therapies proved disappointing. Some indication of the regard in which he was held by his colleagues can be found in the fact of his election to the fellowship of the College a mere eight years after obtaining his membership, a very uncommon occurrence in those days.

During the war years he served in the RAF, being promoted to the rank of wing commander. He became officer in charge of the medical division at Ely and it was there that he made many lasting friendships. After the war he returned to his two hospitals and accepted further commitments at King Edward VII Hospital at Midhurst, Papworth Hospital, and the Manor House Hospital at Hampstead. He also became senior medical officer at the Prudential Assurance Company.

Most of Eric Hudson's medical publications were produced after the war and their subject matter ranged widely, but the majority dealt with thoracic medicine - particularly pulmonary tuberculosis. His handwriting often made life tiresome for his secretaries; it was small, neat and regular, but frequently they found it quite indecipherable. Because they liked him so much, they would wait until he had left the hospital and then bring their notebooks to his junior staff for help.

He was a good teacher but not an outstanding one, perhaps because he was a shy man, too gentle, to kindly, and in his trusting manner too ready to assume that his students knew more than they did. He became an examiner for the membership of the College.

Eric Hudson was appointed to his hospitals about the same time as Norman Lloyd Rusby [Munk's Roll, Vol.VIII, p. 427] and Joseph Smart [Munk's Roll, Vol.VII, p.544] and the three became close friends. In the early 1960s the relationship between the Brompton Hospital and the London Chest was extremely cool and there was a time when the closure of the London Chest Hospital was a strong possibility; both Eric and his two colleagues fought it strenuously and as a result the London Chest Hospital remains today a thriving and expanding partner in the Royal Brompton National Heart and Lung Hospitals group. In later years Eric held an additional appointment as physician to the Brompton. His retirement from medicine was a gradual one and he kept up a limited Harley Street practice for several years; many of his patients were devoted to him.

Eric Hudson was slim and of spare build, not robust looking at all, and it often surprised one to learn that he had been quite athletic in his student days. He enjoyed telling amusing stories, often preceded by a characteristic clearing of his throat and with his hands held together at the bottom of his waistcoat. They were lengthy stories and the punch line was generally preceded by his widening smile and a repeated chuckle to warn the audience that the story was nearing its end.

Retirement gave him increased time for his many hobbies and interests. He had a great love of fishing and gardening, and he also kept a hive of bees and managed them expertly.

Soon after retiring he moved to Highclere, near Newbury, Berkshire, and there he acquired a pony and trap which became a familiar sight as he drove it round the village and local lanes. Village children would rush to the windows when they heard the sound of the pony and trap. For an essentially shy man it was an unusual choice of transport, but his shyness was also combined with a sense of humour and he could join in the fun and games with the rest of his friends. His Guy Fawkes parties, to which students and junior staff, ward sisters and other friends came, were a legend. Each year the fireworks became more lavish and gave him and his guests great pleasure.

Eric Hudson experienced tragedy in the premature death of his wife Jessie, who had been an anaesthetist. They married in 1940 and had three children, two sons and a daughter. His son Peter followed his father into medicine and was elected a Fellow of the College in 1987. Jessie died in 1968. In 1972 he married his former secretary, Nora, and they had eighteen extremely happy years together.

Eric Hudson made many friends and was dearly loved by all of them; one described him as ‘a verray parfit gentil knight’ - a fitting tribute.

M Caplin

[Brit.med.J., 1990,301,1211-2]

(Volume IX, page 248)

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