Lives of the fellows

Clifford Mawdsley

b.31 October 1929 d.9 March 1983
MRCS LRCP(1923) MB ChB Manch(1953) MRCP(1958) MRCPE(1968) FRCPE(1969) MD(1972) FRCP(1972)

At the time of his sudden and unexpected death Clifford Mawdsley was secretary of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, consultant neurologist to the Royal Infirmary and Northern Hospital, and senior lecturer in charge of the University department of medical neurology in Edinburgh.

He was born in Bolton and lived there for a large part of his life. He was proud of his Lancastrian origin and retained a forthright manner. His father, Gilbert Mawdsley, was a pharmacist, and his mother, Betty (née Ainsworth) was the daughter of an engineer. Clifford was educated at St James, Bolton, and Canon Slade, and graduated in medicine at the University of Manchester, being awarded the Turner medical prize.

He was a quick thinker and an articulate speaker; in no doubt as to where he stood on many issues. Once he had made his mind up about anything his opinion was unshakable. He hated compromise and this sometimes disconcerted his coexaminers in the clinical section of the MRCP examination in the Royal Infirmary. He gave either very good or very bad marks, and this could lead to conflict and fierce argument: on one occasion he asked if it was to be swords or pistols! At other times his disagreement was concealed by an uncharacteristic silence.

His dogmatic manner did not always endear him to his colleagues, and he was formidable in dispute. He was, however, always stimulating to be with, for he had a very quick and retentive brain and had a wide range of interests. He was remarkably good company and an excellent teacher, popular with students and postgraduates, and on the whole a tolerant man and loyal colleague.

His first medical appointment was house physician to the late Fergus Ferguson and George Smyth. Fergus became his mentor and his course was set on a career in neurology. After a period of national service in Cyprus he returned to the department of neurology at Manchester for further training. He then spent a year with the late Denny-Brown in Boston, returning to become a lecturer and consultant in Manchester, where he emerged as a highly successful teacher. It was at that time that he developed an interest in television epilepsy, and in the neurological effects of boxing.

In 1965 he was appointed senior lecturer in medical neurology at Edinburgh University, and succeeded JA Simpson. In addition to clinical work and teaching, he became increasingly involved in overseas travel, the membership examination, and other interests. After a period at Baroda, India, as WHO visiting professor, he made frequent visits to Basrah as teacher and examiner, and latterly to Libya. He was deeply involved with the three Royal Colleges, in the membership examination and arrangements both at home and overseas. His writing was notable for its clarity and coherence, and he contributed chapters to several textbooks.

In 1955 he married Eve Muriel Roper, a fellow graduate and daughter of a shipping manager. They had a daughter and two sons. Clifford was a devoted family man and said that he relived his youth in the company of his sons. He derived great pleasure from their achievements.

Clifford Mawdsley was a good conversationalist, sometimes exhausting but never boring. He was quick to establish friendly relations with strangers, whether colleagues or casual acquaintances. Open and extremely extrovert, he professed no religious belief but lived in accordance with the Christian ethic. An eternal optimist, his impulsive, dynamic style will not be forgotten, and he showed a strong urge to win whether in conversation, playing squash, golf or chess.

He was well informed about cricket which was a life-long interest, and also on many other subjects from Persian carpets to puzzles. An early interest in English literature gave way later to an enthusiasm for pictures and he became a member of the Scottish Arts Club. He also became increasingly involved in committee work, where he was quick to conduct business and able to reach decisions with dazzling speed. His energy seemed to be boundless and he participated with vigour in everything he undertook.

B Ashworth
Sir Gordon Wolstenholme
Valérie Luniewska

[Brit.med.J., 1983, 286, 1069, 1156, 1361; Lancet, 1983, 1, 719]

(Volume VII, page 388)

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