Lives of the fellows

Charles Ernest Kellett

b.2 March 1903 d.10 August 1978
BA Cantab(1924) MB BChir(1927) MA(1928) MRCP(1928) MD(1931) FRCP(1949)

Charles Ernest Kellett was born at St Helen Auckland in Durham and died at Shotley Bridge, Durham. His father, Matthew Henry Kellett, a mining engineer who also owned several collieries, came from south Durham, where he was for many years colliery agent for the Peaces. His mother, Louise Jeanne Antoinette Montchal, was the daughter of Charles Abraham Montchal, a secondary schoolmaster in Geneva.

Kellett was educated at Bow Preparatory School in Durham, and from 1917 to 1920 at Rossall. In 1921 he was admitted to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, to begin the study of medicine. From there he entered University College Hospital medical school, where he qualified in 1927, gaining the degree of MD in 1931.

For family reasons he returned to Newcastle, where he did some fundamental research into immunological mechanisms and the role of complement. His interests were at first in paediatrics, and in 1930 he was awarded the Helen Hartley Jenkins Fellowship in paediatrics at the Johns Hopkins University. He had obtained, before this, a house appointment at the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street, and later worked with James Spence at the Fleming Hospital for Sick Children at Newcastle. But, strongly influenced by Sir William Hume, a distinguished physician at Newcastle, he turned his attention to general medicine, and was elected to the staff of the General Hospital at Newcastle, where he became senior physician before retiring in 1967.

He was also a senior consultant at Shotley Bridge Hospital, retiring in 1965. At the outbreak of war Shotley Bridge Hospital was made an emergency hospital, and Kellett was appointed medical director. He served on the staff of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital at Gateshead. He lectured, too, on the history of medicine, and was appointed to teach medicine to the dental students of Newcastle medical school, many of whom during the war came from Norway.

In 1932 he had married Elizabeth (Betty) Scott, the daughter of Frederick John Cleminson, FRCS, an ear, nose and throat surgeon at the Middlesex Hospital, and by her had a son and a daughter. Shortly after the end of the war, in 1947, he and his family moved into a delightful and interesting house at Shotley Bridge, where the large and productive garden was always a joy, and where he and his wife entertained a large circle of friends who could admire the magnificent views over the Durham hills. The death of his wife in 1975 was a blow from which he never really recovered, and Snow’s Green House was never the same again.

He was an intelligent man and a good doctor: he had a keen, well stocked and sceptical mind, and, as a bibliophile, owned a large and fine collection of early medical and scientific books. His knowledge of his local countryside and what it contained was vast, and he was also the proud possessor of a vintage Rolls Royce car, which it gave him great pleasure to drive and to cherish. He contributed a number of articles to the medical historical press, which show considerable knowledge and learning.

Kellett was a person of high principles, who maintained the standards among which he had been brought up, in a changing world. One of his former colleagues remarked that he was the most cultured man in the Newcastle Medical School. He was also a very good friend and a delightful companion.

Lord Amulree

[Brit. med. J., 1978, 2, 1234]

(Volume VII, page 313)

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