Lives of the fellows

Hugh Reginald Jolly

b.5 May 1918 d.4 March 1986
MRCS LRCP(1942) MA MB BChir Cantab(1942) MRCP(1948) DCH(1949) FRCP(1965)

Hugh Jolly was probably better known to the general public than any other living doctor.

He was born in the Isle of Man, where his father was a Reverend Canon and reputedly an excellent speaker, an ability that Hugh inherited and utilized to the full. Hugh was educated at Marlborough College and Sydney Sussex College,Cambridge, where he was in the water polo team, before proceeding to the London Hospital. He used to recall that even as a student he was fascinated by paediatrics, so much so that he would run the two miles from his teaching hospital to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital for Children, Hackney, in order to arrive for the rounds on time - chewing sandwiches on the way.

He qualified with the Conjoint and MB BChir in 1942. This was during the 1939-45 war and post-qualification jobs had to be few before joining the Services. Hugh’s were at the London, and included that of children’s house physician to Maitland Jones [Munk’s Roll, Vol.V,p.263] and Doyne Bell [Munk's Roll, Vol.VI,p.37]. He then joined the RAMC, serving in the United Kingdom, Normandy and North West Europe; ending his service with the rank of captain and dermatologist to the Allied Forces in the Netherland East Indies, a specialty he quoted as being invaluable in his subsequent career.

After the war he renewed his acquaintance with paediatrics as house physician to Wilfrid Sheldon, later Sir Wilfrid, [Munk's Roll,Vol.VII, p.531], the first Royal paediatrician, at the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street. There was immediate empathy between them and they shared an enthusiasm for a clearer understanding of children’s illnesses, as well as a sense of humour and a lifelong love of gardening.

Hugh Jolly realized that to be a ‘whole’ paediatrician he needed a knowledge of paediatric surgery, and at considerable personal and financial sacrifice (he was poor in those days) he opted to postpone promotion and become a house surgeon at the same hospital before climbing the usual medical ladder to senior registrar. In November 1951 he was appointed consultant in Plymouth; the first full-time paediatrician in an area which included large parts of Devon and Somerset as well as the whole of Cornwall. There were only part-time paediatricians in Taunton and Truro, between Bristol and Land’s End. For the first three months he elected to become a ‘resident’ again, at the Children’s Hospital, Cincinatti. Back in Plymouth, only a man of his enormous energy could have achieved so much. His new ‘cubicalized’ ward attracted innumerable admiring visitors, even from abroad. He broke the isolation of children in hospital by encouraging parents to live in with their children, as well as by daily visiting. He also established combined clinics, then a novel concept, with orthopaedic and ear, nose and throat colleagues, which were of mutual benefit and helped his adult specialist colleagues to a better understanding of children.

Hugh made over 400 domiciliary visits annually, always with the general practitioner (the limit for payment was 200 visits), and he found time to visit prisoners in Princetown gaol to talk to the pre-release groups about the problems they would have to face on return to family life, and also to understand better the criminal mind.

During his first 10 years as a consultant he attended a vast number of medical meetings, where he always made penetrating and usually apposite remarks. In later years they were often more controversial. At this time he also managedi to be honorary secretary of the paediatric section of the Royal Society of Medicine. There were no motorways to London then, so he travelled by car in the small hours. He infuriated his junior staff by doing a full ward round at about 4 a.m, with only the frightened night sister, before leaving for London. When the juniors came on duty at the normal time they had to sort out the myriad instructions left by ‘the boss’. They got their own back: Jolly crept in for his usual morning round, but this time he found his whole staff standing strictly to attention in starched white coats, or nurse’s uniforms.

Small wonder that in 1960 he was invited to join Doyne Bell at Charing Cross Hospital, London. In 1965 he became paediatrician in charge at Charing Cross, a post he retained until he retired in 1983. He turned his energies to the handicapped, and the child development centre at Charing Cross is a fitting memorial. He was also medical adviser to the Chailey Heritage Hospital. Generations of medical students flocked to his ward rounds and outpatients, as indeed did swarms of visitors - including many from overseas.

From 1961-62 he was seconded as professor of child health to University College, Ibadan, Nigeria. This fired his interest in the child health problems of the developing world, which continued until his death.

Jolly was probably the most widely travelled paediatrician. He would often suggest alterations to the running of a service which were clearly common sense, but sometimes his enthusiasm to improve a situation blinded him to local difficulties so that his efforts were counterproductive. Not surprisingly, his ideas would either be so welcome that he was invited to return or the reaction would be ‘Never again!’

Hugh was particularly welcome in Australia where he was a member of the Panel of Assessors, National Health and Medical Research Council, as well as adviser to ‘Parents’ Centres’ and the Nursing Mothers’ Association. His views on bereavement were movingly set out in a broadcast in Sydney in 1977 and later published: ‘Loss of a baby’, Aust.Paediatr.J. March 1978.

He examined abroad at the Universities of Benin and Nsukka, Nigeria; at Singapore and Riyadh, and at home for the Universities of Glasgow, Liverpool and London, as well as for the MRCP and DCH. As always, he demanded high standards which earned him a hawkish reputation, Other appointments included the Tropical Medicine Research Board, Medical Research Council, the advisory council of the British Society of Music Therapy, the editorial board of Excerpta Medica, the Bureau of Overseas Medical Service, the Down’s Children Association, the National Association for Hospital Play Staff, Nuclear Weapons FREEZE, Family Planning Association, Exploring Parenthood, and the Institute for Social Inventions - all examples of his catholic interest in wide areas of child care which was reflected in his departments both in Plymouth and at Charing Cross. Psychiatrists, psychologists and play therapists (Hugh was one of the first to introduce the latter) cooperated with him to establish a free and happy atmosphere where previously the rigidity of departments geared to adults had been the rule.

His first book, Sexual precocity, Springfield,111.,Thomas, 1955, gave the clearest understanding of the problem at that time and was a culmination of his thesis for MD Cantab, which won him the coveted Raymond Horton Smith prize. There followed a succession of books and articles, nearly all written in the small hours - sleep hardly seemed necessary. His student textbook Diseases of children, Oxford, Blackwell, first appeared in 1964; the fifth edition, in collaboration with M Levene, appeared in 1985 only shortly before his death. Its universal popularity speaks for its clarity and explains why it was translated into other languages. Even more widely successful was his Book of child care, London, Allen and Unwin, 1975, which ran to four editions and appeared in six other languages. His regular column in The Times during the 1970s culminated in collected articles (c.1973) entitled Common sense about babies and children, London, Unwin Paperbacks, 1983 and More common sense about babies, London, Pelham (also Sphere), 1978. Two new books appeared the year before he died: The First five years and The Grandparents' handbook, London, Pagoda Books, 1985. In his later years he concentrated on bereavement and greatly influenced obstetricians, paediaticians and general practitioners to react more sympathetically to parents of stillbirths and miscarriages. He also drew attention to the problem of the dying child. It was not surprising that the British Paediatric Association elected him an honorary member in 1985. He was also an honorary member of the section of paediatrics of the Royal Society of Medicine.

Through his numerous writings in medical and lay journals, and in newpapers, and by his appearances on television and his talks on radio, Hugh sought to establish a wider understanding of his patients: of their health, their behaviour, their illnesses and anxieties. This naturally involved parents and he was never happier than when talking through their difficulties. As a parent, it is unpleasant to hear oneself upbraided, but Jolly never spared the feelings of others if he believed he was acting in the best interests of his patient, whether the latter be newly born or a tyrannical teenager. He recognized that this upset parents, even to anger, but he would argue passionately in defence of his stance.

Hugh Jolly was tall, with a slightly stooping, lolloping gait, a shock of hair and usually a large bow tie. He drove himself hard and fast, and all who worked with him; this included his cars. He was indomitable and indefatigable. Even when ill, and in a wheelchair, he flew to Berlin to fulfil lectures he had promised. He was equally energetic in his leisure pursuits whether gardening, breeding budgerigars and peacocks, or water skiing and, later, gliding. Even when on holiday his thirst for knowledge continued, especially in regard to historic buildings and their treasures, which just had to be visited no matter how long the drive. Passengers were allowed no ‘stops’, not for food or even calls of nature - at least, not until pleas were desperate.

Professor Sir Peter Tizard allows me to quote from his address at the Service of Thanksgiving at All Souls, Langham Place, London on 14 May 1986: ‘And what of Hugh as a person? First, he was a man of high principles, but he did not wear his conscience on his sleeve. Next, he was a man of boundless energy and boundless vitality. In his dealings with children and their parents he was a model of patience and the unhurried approach. As a friend he was always good company and always good humoured, and he never took offence even when deliberately baited. I generally attacked him on the elegance of his clothes - large bow ties, white dinner jackets and so on - or on the successful opening on TV, or in the Press, of his spring or autumn advertising campaign. All this needling Hugh accepted with amusement and good-humoured tolerance.’

In everything he did his wife Geraldine supported him devotedly. Equally, he was devoted to her, his three children and latterly, while he was so sadly ill, his grand-daughter.

BM Laurance

[Brit.med.J., 1986,292,835; Lancet, 1986,1,629; The Times, 5 Mar 1986; London Standard, 5 Mar 1986; Guardian,5 June 1978; Charing X Hosp.Gaz., Feb 1961,59,(1),p.4]

(Volume VIII, page 246)

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