Lives of the fellows

John Charles McEntee

b.10 March 1900 d.11 August 1969
MB BCh BAO(1922) MA MD Dubl(1926) LM Rotunda(1921) MRCP(1933) DPH(1936) FRCP(1960)

Charles McEntee was born in Sligo town, Eire, the second of seven children of a District Inspector in the Royal Irish Constabulary. He was educated at Clongowes Wood College and Trinity College Dublin, from which he graduated in 1922. He went to England and joined a practice in a Derbyshire coal district. After some hectic years of going his rounds on a motorcycle, he started hospital work in London. By 1928 he was assistant medical officer at the North Western Hospital in Hampstead and had published "Observations on the Dick Test" (B.J. Childr. Dis., 1927) and (jointly) "Stability of the Schick toxin" (J. Hyg., 1928). He moved to the Northern Hospital, Winchmore Hill, as senior assistant medical officer and became deputy medical superintendent there in 1933. By this time he was a member of the Royal College of Physicians and held additional posts as chief clinical assistant and medical assistant at the West End Hospital for Nervous Diseases, at the Metropolitan Hospital, and at St. John’s Hospital for Skin Diseases. In 1938 he became a Divisional Medical Officer of the Central Administrative Staff at County Hall and a fellow of the Society of Medical Officers of Health.

There then started his long association with the Grove Fever Hospital, Tooting, where he moved in 1938 as deputy medical superintendent; he was to be based there for the next 27 years. Throughout the war he acted as medical superintendent of the 600 bedded hospital - the number was apparently usually swollen to 900 during these years. Despite the many bomb attacks which razed 6 wards to the ground, and the bomb which missed his flat by fifteen feet one night and failed to explode, Charles McEntee sometimes seemed to imply that the worst war-time experience of all for him had been escorting Général de Gaulle’s autocratic and commanding figure around the hospital on a recruiting drive. It is perhaps just as well that the Général was not there when Dr. McEntee, a private in the home guard, would occasionally turn up for the hospital company parade and be excused drill by the sergeant, his head-porter. During this time he was for a while examiner in fevers for the General Nursing Council.

Further publications were "Diphtheria Today" (Medical Press, 1947) and "Pertussis and Measles" (ibid, 1949). In 1962, when the Grove was taken over by St. George’s Hospital, he was made physician in charge of the infectious diseases unit. "Acute laryngotracheo-bronchitis" was published in the Medical Press in 1955, and "Diarrhoea in Childhood" in 1959 (Brit. J. Clin. Pract.). By 1959 he was lecturer in infectious diseases at St. Thomas’s Hospital and physician in charge of the infectious diseases at the South Western Hospital. In 1960 he became a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and physician to the Victoria Hospital for Children, Tite Street. In 1962 he was appointed consultant in smallpox to the Ministry of Health and lecturer in infectious diseases to St. George’s. At the end of 1965 he retired from most of his appointments, retaining only the consultancy in smallpox and an honorary consultancy to St. George’s and became a part-time school medical officer.

As a physician, Charles was outstanding for his clinical judgement, based as it was on a combination of vast experience and careful study. In his younger days, acquisition of the London MRCP by a fever hospital medical officer was a rare event, and Charles was one of the few who achieved it. His skills were, however, never flaunted, and his disciples learned to watch him at work and to listen for his quietly delivered opinion. The development of the Grove Fever Hospital into St. George’s Hospital, Tooting, owed a great deal to the way in which this modest and erudite physician welcomed the transition, and St. George’s gained for its staff a first class physician and teacher, and a delightful and valued colleague.

Throughout his life Charles McEntee maintained a wide variety of interests. He had been, for instance, a member of the British Institute for Philosophical Studies, a member of the English Ceramic Circle, a fellow of the Hunterian Society, and a member of the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple - this last from his intention, put paid to by the war, of being called to the Bar and then serving as a coroner. Apart from his lifelong interest in antiques, particularly Georgian furniture and porcelain in which he was most ably aided by his wife, his judgement of wines and whiskies was highly regarded, and his interest in and knowledge of literature very broad. In youth and early middle age he had been a keen sportsman, moving on from the hockey and cricket he had played so well at school (he was once selected as reserve for an Irish international team) to golf and tennis. For many years he was a country member of the Stephen’s Green Club, Dublin, and was often seen at the Garrick.

In 1938 he met Nora Ruth Walding Prag, a Norwegian whose father had been at Lloyds and who consequently had been educated and spent most of her life here. They married on 11th October 1941 and had two daughters and a son.

HP Lambert

[Brit.med.J., 1969, 4, 55]

(Volume VI, page 308)

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