Lives of the fellows

Alan Clowes Kirby

b.29 July 1916 d.29 November 1972
MB ChB Liverp(1941) DCH(1948) MRCP(1947) FRCP(1970)

Alan Kirby was born at Southport, Lancashire, where his father was a company director; his mother was Ethel Clowes, the daughter of a tyre and rubber factor. He was educated at King George V School, Southport, Wrekin College and Liverpool University. While at University his main hobby was swimming and he was chosen in 1936 to represent the English Universities at diving. He graduated with distinction in public health in 1941 and after a period of six months as house physician to Wallace Jones at the Liverpool Royal Infirmary, he joined the RAMC. He served with the rank of Captain from 1942 to 1946 in Belgium, Holland, Germany and India, as a regimental medical officer and a field ambulance company commander. After demobilisation he was house physician for six months and registrar for twelve months to E. Noble Chamberlain at Sefton General Hospital, Liverpool, and obtained the MRCP in April, 1947. He then turned to paediatrics as his chosen specialty and was appointed medical registrar and tutor in the University Department of Child Health at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital under Norman B. Capon. In June, 1948, he became a member of the external scientific staff of the Medical Research Council and studied the role of specific coliform organisms in infantile gastroenteritis (Lancet 1950. 2. 201). In 1950 he was one of three regional paediatricians appointed by the Liverpool Regional Hospital Board, and was responsible for the development of paediatric services in the Birkenhead area.

Starting from almost nothing, he built up a first-rate paediatric service for newborn and older children at St. Catherine’s Hospital; he fostered integration with the public health authority medical officers, and he formed a very close liaison with family doctors, who frequently sought his advice through domiciliary consultations.

He was a founder member of the Liverpool Paediatric Club; from its inception in 1949 until 1957 he was its Honorary Treasurer, and in 1962 was appointed Chairman. A member of the Liverpool Medical Institution from 1946, he served for three years on the Library Committee, was Honorary Treasurer from 1961 to 1963 and Vice-President in 1964 and 1965. He was Chairman of the Birkenhead Spastics Society from 1968. He served on the North Wirral Hospital Management Committee and on the Regional Hospital Board’s Technical Advisory Committee in Paediatrics. He had also been deeply involved in the detailed planning of the proposed new district general hospital at Arrowe Park.

If there is one word which sums up Alan Kirby’s outlook and philosophy it is the word intolerance. He was intolerant of anything which was second-rate or shoddy; the best and nothing less would suffice where children were concerned. He was intolerant of red tape, humbug, hypocrisy and laziness. He worked hard but he also enjoyed his leisure time, which he spent listening to classical music, in photography, playing golf and fishing for salmon at his father’s home at Pitlochry. He married Katherine Mary Todd, the daughter of a marine engineer, in 1942, and had one daughter and one son.

RM Todd

[Brit.med.J., 1972, 4, 556; Lancet, 1972, 2, 1155]

(Volume VI, page 270)

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