Lives of the fellows

Gordon Barrett Mitchell-Heggs

b.10 June 1904 d.15 December 1975
OBE(1944) TD MRCS LRCP(1927) MB BS Lond(1929) MD(1932) MRCP(1933) FRCP(1944)

Gordon Mitchell-Heggs was born at West Bromwich, Staffordshire, the son of a general practitioner, F.R. Mitchell-Heggs, and Maud Ethel (née Sansome) whose father was also a doctor. He was educated at Nottingham High School and went on to St. Mary’s Hospital, London W2, when he was awarded a Kitchener Scholarship. He qualified with the Conjoint Diploma in 1927 and graduated MB BS (London) in 1929. After acting as house surgeon at St. Mary’s and RMO at Queen Charolotte’s Hospital, he became medical superintendent and later (1931-32) medical registrar at St. Mary’s. In 1933 he obtained his MRCP, having received his MD the year before. Later he studied at Vienna and Strasbourg and was awarded an Honorary Medal at the University of Louvain. He took up dermatology under the guidance of Sir Ernest Graham-Little and was appointed Physician in Charge of the Skin Department at his old hospital, also becoming Physician to St. John’s Skin Hospital and Dermatologist to the Royal Masonic Hospital and the Royal Berkshire Hospital, Reading.

Mitchell-Heggs was an enthusiastic Territorial and in 1939 went at once to France with the British Expeditionary Force. He subsequently served as Lt.-Colonel in charge of the Medical Division of General Hospitals in the Middle East, later taking part in the Normandy and Belgian campaigns, when he was mentioned in despatches. After the war he continued his keen interest in the Territorial Army and was Colonel Commanding the 13th General Hospital (TA) for five years. He received the TD decoration and the OBE.

Mitchell-Heggs became a well known authority in his subject and represented Great Britain on the International Committee of Dermatology. He was President of the Section of Dermatology of the Royal Society of Medicine and was an honorary member of a number of foreign dermatological societies.

He contributed to Modern Practice in Dermatology (1950) and wrote chapters in Fleming’s Penicillin, vols. 1 and 2, as well as articles in medical journals.

In 1960 he was elected Dean of St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School and devoted himself fully to this responsible appointment for five years. Though himself a shy and gentle man for whom public life, and particularly public speaking, was painful, he made himself into an acceptable after-dinner speaker, his efforts being recognized and warmly appreciated by all who knew him.

He derived great pleasure from being elected Master of the London Society of Apothecaries and it was sad that his year of office was clouded by the effects of a small stroke which he suffered whilst on holiday abroad. This was followed two years later by a major cerebral thrombosis from which he died in St. Mary’s Hospital. A Memorial Service which was attended by many friends as well as the Master, Wardens and Court of Assistants of the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries, was held on February 4th, 1976, at the church of St. Andrew-by-the-Wardobe.

Mitchell-Heggs was at heart a countryman, fond of gardening and fishing, and he found lasting pleasure in the comradeship of soldiering. He was always ready to give help to others and his modest, cheerful manner made him a most popular figure. He was totally without bitterness and looked always for the good and not the evil in those around him.

He married Nora Margaret Finch in 1937, daughter of the Rector of Abbotts Langley, and they had one son. His country home at Henley-on-Thames was a source of continual comfort and enjoyment to him whenever he was able to leave his London flat in Gower Street.

TC Hunt

[Times, 17 Dec 1975; Brit.med.J., 1976, 1, 229; Lancet, 1, 49; Brit.J.Derm., 1976, 94, 588]

(Volume VI, page 341)

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