Lives of the fellows

Anthony Chester Cranmer Hughes

b.18 September 1914 d.13 May 1992
BA Cantab(1936) MRCS LRCP(1939) MB BChir(1940) MRCP(1942) MD(1953) FRCP(1967)

Tony Hughes died after a long illness, lovingly nursed until the end by his wife, Chris, in their delightful old country cottage set in a beautiful garden that together they had created and cared for. Tony Hughes had benefited from a highly privileged upbringing; not privileged in any sense of mere affluence but privileged in a family atmosphere of integrity and high intellectual purpose. His grandfather trained at Guy’s and became a general practitioner surgeon in Plymouth. His father was the senior consultant surgeon at Guy’s, a loved and revered man of whose kindness and understanding tales are still told.

Tony went to Wychwood preparatory school and then to Marlborough, where he gained not only academic distinction but also a reputation as a cricketer. He scored two centuries for the school and his average for the last year was more than 50. He subsequently went up to Clare College, Cambridge, with a classical scholarship but turned immediately to medicine, taking first class honours in the natural sciences tripos. After qualifying at Guy’s and doing various house jobs, he entered the Royal Navy m 1940 where he had an adventurous career as a doctor and eventually as a medical specialist in Mid and Far East theatres. He was promoted to surgeon lieutenant commander in 1944 and served until 1946.

On return to civilian life he first took up a medical registrarship at Guy’s and then began his life’s work in chest medicine. Posts at St Thomas’ Hospital and the Brompton followed. From 1948-49 he was on the clinical staff of the tuberculosis research unit of the MRC. His reports on the clinical trials of the use of streptomycin in tracheobronchial disease and in patients undergoing lung resection for pulmonary tuberculosis ensured that in the UK we avoided the indiscriminate use of anti-tuberculosis drugs which was elsewhere to produce the dreadful harvest of drug resistant organisms. Surgeons of that time will remember his firm but tactful insistence that they keep to the rules of the trial.

His appointment as consultant physician to the West Cheshire group of hospitals was a little surprising. A top London appointment was within his grasp but his own innate modesty and diffidence may have played a part in his choice. It is also likely that he welcomed the challenge that this particular appointment offered. The hospitals were emerging from their prewar status, with new consultant staff and closer association with the teaching hospital in Liverpool. Three sanatoria had been run on conventional fresh air and bedrest lines but were ready to embrace modern therapy. They were all actively involved with the regional thoracic surgical unit with whom Tony had already established a fruitful relationship whilst working with the MRC. Undemonstratively, he changed thinking in the sanatoria and the hospitals. His influence on his surgical colleagues was profound and he aroused respect and devotion in his juniors and in the nursing staff. Amongst patients he was renowned not only for his skill in diagnosis and treatment but also for his kindness and sympathy.

Outside his work, he was a family man. He took delight in his two sons and their considerable achievements, and never forgot the lessons of his own upbringing. His eldest son carries on the family connection at Guy’s as professor of neurology to the United Medical and Dental Schools, whilst his younger son is a general practitioner in Ringwood, in the New Forest. A grand-daughter is a medical student.

Tony’s closeness to Chris made an invitation to dinner a much sought after, but fortunately not infrequent, privilege. On those evenings, good food and wine accompanied brilliant conversation, stimulated by a host with the happy knack of bringing together people certain to strike sparks off each other. On equally happy occasions one was liable to meet Tony at the summit of a Welsh mountain.

If he had a fault, it was a degree of innocence that made it difficult for him to understand any lowering of moral standards in his profession. Never normally aggressive or given to confrontation, he was unequivocal in his condemnation of mercenary motives in medicine and this did not always make for universal popularity.

A good athlete in his youth, he maintained his interest in fell walking. Later, after retirement, he was active in the restoration of footpaths in the surrounding countryside. With Chris he created two superb gardens, enjoyed growing his own vegetables, and made wine with the harvest from the hedgerows.

If Tony was rigid in his integrity, he was so in nothing else. As his surname suggests, there was an element of Celtic romanticism about him, a combination of controlled emotion and a modicum of poetry. Try as he would to conceal this delightful aspect of his personality it would from time to time manifest itself.

Tony Hughes was a man who deliberately set his sights lower on the scale of personal achievement than his gifts should have permitted. He was rewarded by an enviable degree of success in personal relations and in clinical achievement, by which he will be remembered.

L J Temple

[Brit.med.J., 1992,305,307]

(Volume IX, page 251)

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