Lives of the fellows

Austin Braybrooke Kettle

b.18 June 1905 d.1 August 1999
MRCS LRCP(1927) MB BS Lond(1928) DPH(1931) MD(1931) MRCP(1931) FRCP(1968)

Austin Kettle was a consultant physician in Weston-super-Mare from 1937 until 1966. Born in Carlisle, where his father Frank, a staunch Methodist, sold furniture, he was educated at Carlisle Grammar School and then at St Bees School. From there he went to Guy’s Hospital, initially to study dentistry, but quickly transferring to medicine.

After qualification and house jobs he joined a practice in Newnham-on-Severn, but soon decided that he could achieve a greater good in public health and worked in this field in Brighton, Surrey and Lancashire until he felt the need to break away from red tape. This period was marred by the death under anaesthesia of his first wife Margaret.

In 1937 he joined a practice in Weston-super-Mare following the early death of John Drew, a post which also involved being an honorary consultant physician. In 1939 he married Drew’s daughter Molly and joined up. He saw service in North Africa, where his only brother was killed, and Italy, developing a rather dangerous habit of being torpedoed. He was mentioned in despatches, the citation referring to his calming influence on those around him, a quality which shone throughout his life.

After the war, with the inception of the NHS, he became a full time physician, working in the Weston-super-Mare group of hospitals. He inspired devotion in his housemen and nursing staff. He worked effectively for the hospital management committee and for the BMA, being particularly noted for his chairmanship and his infectious humour.

After retirement he continued to work part-time in his old practice, by now in the care of John Drew’s son, Colin, until the latter retired.

Throughout his life he was a committed if sometimes sceptical Anglican, serving St Paul’s Church, Weston-super-Mare, for 60 years in almost every capacity, including lay reader. He was an active member of the Deanery, Diocesan and General Synods. No sportsman, he was never happier than when almost lost on the wild fells, particularly around his beloved Grasmere where his life-long friend Reggie Tate was rector.

He and Molly had a large family. Colin, the eldest, died of renal failure at five and Ann, the second, of breast cancer at 36, but not before leaving him four grandchildren. Molly died in 1988. Although he left Weston and lived with his son for the last three years of his life, his funeral in Weston was a joyous occasion, the church as full as his life had been. Despite more than his share of personal tragedy, he continued to show a mixture of joy, selflessness and determination which was an inspiration to those who came into contact with him.

Paul Kettle

(Volume XI, page 316)

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