Lives of the fellows

Trevor William Guyse Kinnear

b.21 August 1921 d.28 January 1997
MBE MB ChB Edin(1944) MRCP Edin(1948) MRCP(1952) FRCP Edin(1961) FRCP(1974) BA Open University

Trevor Kinnear was originally South African and spent his most professionally productive decade in Nigeria, but the strong influence of his Edinburgh training ensured that he was clearly British in attitude and speech.

He grew up in Johannesburg as an only child, his bank manager father dying when he was thirteen. He early developed a love of poetry and literature which he might have pursued professionally had he not entered medicine; a choice which seems to have been almost impulsive when he left South Africa for Edinburgh with a life long school friend. He pursued medical studies successfully but also became president of the union where he honed his natural articulateness and clarity of thought to become an effective debater.

After qualifying in 1944 he joined the RNVR, transferred to the South African Navy, serving as surgeon-lieutenant in the Far East. His involvement with the liberation of a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp and his treatment of its victims led to the award of his MBE.

He worked in South Africa for a year after demobilization, but the growing inequalities and indignities of apartheid were too much for his fair-mindedness, so he returned to Edinburgh where he married Sheila McCallum, a journalist, in 1948. He was made welcome by Sir Derrick Dunlop [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.170] and worked with him as registrar, senior registrar and then lecturer at the Royal Infirmary. Dunlop was a powerful influence on Kinnear (as on many others) and in 1956 encouraged him to accept a post in Nigeria at University College, Ibadan. He enjoyed his decade there, partly because his real enthusiasm was for clinical medicine, for which Africa had boundless opportunities. He pursued clinical research in metabolic disease and published papers on diabetes mellitus, particularly when associated with pancreatic lithiasis in young Nigerians. He rose to become professor of medicine.

Once again national politics forced a change and, as life in independent Nigeria became more dangerous, he reluctantly decided to return to Britain in 1966. Although a keen teacher and occasional researcher, he sought, and was appointed, to a post in a large NHS district general hospital, Hull Royal Infirmary. He may have been influenced by the impending opening (in 1967) of a large new hospital building, and the possibility of an undergraduate medical school at the University of Hull. The latter did not transpire, but Kinnear was never heard to repine. He formed a successful clinical partnership with Charles Groves (also an Edinburgh graduate), senior physician and a caring clinician. Between them they carried a busy general medical firm and developed the diabetic service for Hull’s half a million population catchment. He did his clinical work efficiently and unostentatiously. He carried out some postgraduate teaching and attended necessary committees (at which he sometimes demonstrated an acerbic impatience at verbosity or special pleading), but avoided office, either as tutor or chairman. He had a self-imposed curfew, quietly leaving meetings at 6.00pm whatever stage business had reached.

He never conducted private practice, partly from a principled belief in the National Health Service, partly to avoid the fuss and trouble which go with private patients. He detested the British Medical Association, but always subscribed to the British Medical Journal. Although it was often pointed out that he could have the Journal more economically by joining the Association, he characteristically stuck by his principles.

After retirement in 1986 he was keen to follow his literary enthusiasms more systematically and enrolled for a BA course with the Open University. This proved more irksome than he had expected. His literary odyssey had led him to many treasures including Montaigne’s essays (with whose values he had enduring sympathy) and Jane Austen (from whose epigrams he obtained endless pleasure). The degree course, though, took him into alien twentieth century writing and unappealing aspects of literary analysis. Nevertheless he went on with characteristic steadfastness to obtain his BA. Then he returned to reading for pleasure, bridge and his life-long enthusiasm for golf.

He had an apartment in Edinburgh for many years, and in 1993 he and Sheila left East Yorkshire to live there permanently. He particularly enjoyed the regular meetings of the old boys club’ of the Edinburgh College. By then his habitual cigarette smoking had taken its bronchial toll and he had increasingly frequent episodes of asthma and bronchitis. The medical care afforded him was not always as assiduous as he might have wished from fellow physicians at his alma mater. Eventually he died of obstructive airways disease and bronchopneumonia.

Trevor Kinnear was an honest, well fashioned and effective clinician with clear principles from which he would not waver and opinions which he expressed forthrightly and clearly. He was impatient, sometimes irascible, with the misguided and delinquent, but kind and thoughtful towards the needy and unfortunate.

John R Bennett

[Brit.med.J., 1997,314,1419-20]

(Volume X, page 280)

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