Lives of the fellows

William Ewart Mahon

b.14 October 1916 d.2 March 1996
MRCS LRCP(1941) MRCP(1945) FRCP(1970)

Bill Mahon was a consultant in general medicine at the Woolwich group of hospitals. While he loved teaching and did perhaps more than his fair share of committee work, it was as a clinical physician that Bills rare combination of personal qualities -particularly his thoroughness, intuition and empathy - found their truest and most effective expression. It was the business of caring for patients that was his chief concern and pleasure. He was glad to be part of the early NHS before the administrators, councillors and money moved in.

He was educated at Wellingborough School and, at fifteen, after passing his school exams, went to work as a wage clerk at the sports goods company where his father was top salesman. It wasn’t long however before a vocation in medicine pulled him from the demands of cat gut and willow and he joined his brother Denis as a student at the London Hospital. Admittedly sport, mostly track running, rugby and boxing, dominated his interest at this time and he took great pride in leading the London’s team to victory in the Inter-Hospital’s Cup.

After qualifying in 1941, Bill’s immediate ambition was to be a surgeon. He took house posts in London and Tunbridge Wells and then developed tuberculosis. The treatment at that time was drastic and prolonged, with artificial pneumothorax the main feature. It was nearly 1944 before he could work again and the after-effects put paid to his surgical career since the hot tense atmosphere of the theatre was deemed deleterious to his fragile health. After a sanatorium job he went to the Brompton Hospital as house physician and then registrar, doubling this with a similar post at the Postgraduate Medical School. Registrar jobs at that time were poorly paid (£4 a week was normal) and part-time, so doubling was necessary.

He then moved on to a post as medical registrar at Woolwich Memorial Hospital, combined with a similar post at the Royal Hospital, Richmond. Bill stayed with hospitals in the Woolwich district for the next thirty four years, eventually becoming a consultant, doing four clinics weekly in general medicine. His main in-patient hospital was the Brook where, with Bruce Pearson [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VI, p.373], he began the expansion of the hospital by taking over some empty fever wards for general medicine. With the influx of other specialties the hospital was an exciting place to be and became renowned for the all-embracing scope of its expertise and research. A substantial amount of original work came from its neurological, cardiological and respiratory departments and Bill was able to contribute with publications on respiratory disease and hypertension. In this he was particularly stimulated by his best friend, Paul Forgacs [Munk's Roll, Vol.IX, p. 175], a fertile investigator and writer.

He married Inger, a Dane, in 1953, a decision that was to bring him great pleasure and happiness over the years. They had three children and Inger also introduced him to the world of antiques, something that was to become a consuming interest until the end. He retired early when angina made work difficult. He and Inger moved to East Anglia where, despite increasing ill-health - coronary by-pass and aortic aneurysm operations were to follow in time - Bill continued, as he’d always done, to get the most of out his life, family and friends.

Graham Jackson

(Volume X, page 323)

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