Lives of the fellows

Frederick Lees

b.5 December 1920 d.1 May 1988
MPS Edin(1943) MRCS LRCP(1952) MB ChB Sheff(1952) DCH(1954) MRCP(1954) FRCP(1971) LLB(1976)

Frederick Lees was born in the town of Hemsworth in the South Yorkshire coalfield. His father was an electrician and his mother was the daughter of a farmer. He married Mary Constance Richardson in 1948, whose father was a colliery winder.

Frederick attended Hemsworth Grammar School and at the age of 16 became apprenticed to a pharmacist, becoming a member of the Pharmaceutical Society of Edinburgh in 1943. He served in the infantry in the Army between 1942-47, first in the United Kingdom and later in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. Subsequently he transferred to the education corps.

After demobilization he went to Sheffield University as a medical student and gained prizes in clinical medicine, paediatrics and psychiatry, with distinction in public health in the examination. After qualifying he became house physician to E J Payne at the Royal Infirmary, Sheffield, and house officer to R S Illingworth in the Sheffield Children’s Hospital. He took both the diploma m child health and his membership of the College two years after qualifying. He was then appointed senior house officer and registrar to H P Brody (q.v.) in Sheffield, where he spent the next three years. This period was interrupted by two visits abroad, one on a Ciba Foundation award in 1955 to Paris, and another to Copenhagen on a Winston Churchill scholarship when he visited Professor Meulengracht. He left Sheffield in 1957 to become senior registrar to Fergus Ferguson [Munk's Roll, Vol.VI, p.175] at Manchester Royal Infirmary. Three years later he transferred to London, becoming senior registrar to Aldren Turner [Munk's Roll, Vol.VII, p.582] until 1963 when he was appointed consultant neurologist of the north east Thames regional hospital board. This appointment covered visits to Colchester, Chelmsford, Billericay, Tilbury and Romford hospitals. After a few years he gave up Tilbury and Billericay and concentrated on the two major district hospitals at Chelmsford and Colchester.

As a registrar, Fred wrote many important neurological papers and also a chapter on the nervous system in Fundamentals of current medical treatment, ed. C W H Harvard, London, Staples Press, 1965 (now Current medical treatment). In 1970 he wrote a two-volume book The diagnosis and treatment of disorders affecting the nervous system, London, Staples Press ; American edition published New York, American Elsevier Publishing Co. This book did not get the full recognition it deserved.

Fred much enjoyed teaching, and a firm of medical students from the London Hospital used to attend his ward rounds at Chelmsford Hospital. He was an indefatigable teacher and his rounds would often go on until 7 p.m. He was clinical tutor at both Colchester and Chelmsford postgraduate centres, and president of the medical societies in both towns. He attended neurological meetings at the regional centre of neurology and neurosurgery at Oldchurch Hospital regularly, and his contributions at these combined meetings were very much appreciated because of his clear thinking, astute criticism and wide knowledge of neurology. With his thorough grounding in general medicine few diagnosticians could fault him. He investigated all his patients very thoroughly, and seemed to have a flair for finding operable lesions inside the cranium; many patients are grateful for Fred’s intervention on their behalf. He enjoyed doing locum appointments, which he did even during his working years, and after he reached 65 he continued to work at Chelmsford for two years until his successor was appointed.

Fred was elected a Fellow of the College in 1972. He had amazing energy and this, combined with high intelligence, enabled him to obtain a degree in law with honours in 1976 while still working full-time. He later read for the Bar and obtained a BA from the Open University in 1984; two years later he took an honours BA.

His wife Marie had been a close friend since childhood, when they both lived in Hemsworth. They had a son and a daughter; the daughter became a nurse at St Thomas’s Hospital and married an Australian doctor who practises near Sydney. Fred and Marie used to visit them each winter, for a period of six weeks, and it is sad that he did not see his daughter’s child who was born a few weeks before he died. His son has two children.

Fred lived a full life; he was very knowledgeable on art and literature and had an astounding number of hobbies. He enjoyed playing snooker in his own home and attended race meetings; with his great sense of humour he made an annual visit to Ascot a real treat. In later years he took up oil painting and his house is full of his pictures, which reveal great talent. In earlier years he had enjoyed tennis and golf. He also collected 18th century literature and antique furniture, and was a keen Freemason.

Fred was a great party man and extremely sociable; he gave up alcohol after hepatitis but this failed to impair his sociability. He was full of droll stories, and having little sense of time his parties would go on well into the night. When attending a friend’s house on a Friday evening he would often leave at 2 a.m. to drive up to Yorkshire where he had a house, and where he and his wife had to look after her mother. Looking back on Fred’s career and his many hobbies, one can confidently call him ‘A man for all seasons’.

KWG Heathfield

[Brit.med.J. ,1988,297,130]

(Volume VIII, page 271)

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