Lives of the fellows

Alan Bentley Monro

b.6 February 1910 d.30 May 1978
MB ChB Edin(1932) DPM(1937) MD(1949) MRCPE(1966) MRCP(1967) FRCPE(1969) FRCP(1973) Hon FRCPsych(1973)

Alan Bentley Monro was born in Calcutta, India, the son of Charles George Monro who was himself both a physician and a clerk in Holy Orders. His mother also came from a medical family, her father being Dr James Maxwell Rattray.

Monro was educated at a preparatory school in Aberdeen, then at Monkton Combe School. He read medicine at Edinburgh University and had his clinical training at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, graduating in 1932.

After qualifying, he held house appointments from 1932 to 1933 at St Luke’s Hospital, Bradford, followed by a period in general practice from 1933 to 1935.

In 1935 he decided on a career in psychiatry, and was appointed a clinical assistant at the Maudsley Hospital, London, where he worked from 1935 to 1936. Subsequently, he served on the staff of various mental hospitals. During the 1939-1945 war he was placed in joint charge of a psychiatric unit at Farnborough Hospital, Kent, which was at that time associated with the psychiatric department of Guy’s Hospital. This unit had been set up to deal specifically with civilian psychiatric casualties.

After the war, from 1949 to 1951, he served as physician deputy superintendent at Carlton Hayes Hospital, Narborough, Leicestershire. In 1951 he was appointed physician superintendent at Long Grove Hospital, Epsom, Surrey, which post he held until his retirement from the National Health Service in 1973.

It was during his superintendency at Long Grove that Monro really exhibited his outstanding clinical qualities. The ‘industrial therapy’ he established there created great interest, as did the day hospital. When the adolescent unit was transferred from St Ebba’s Hospital, Epsom, to Long Grove, Monro took charge, so leading to his involvement in adolescent psychiatry not only at Long Grove but also at Kingston Hospital in a new outpatient clinic.

He found time, too, during this period to act as consultant adviser in psychiatry to the Department of Health and Social Security, and as a member of the Advisory Committee on Drug Dependency.

After his retirement from Long Grove he was appointed Lord Chancellor’s Medical Visitor, a post he held until his death.

‘Ben’, as he was known to his friends, was a big man. He was big physically and, as his impressive tally of academic honours testifies, he was also intellectually big. He was a born committee man. There can be few committees to do with psychiatric matters at a local or national level on which he had not sat. He had remarkable gifts of verbal composition, and either orally or in writing he could simplify problems, particularly of a procedural or political variety, and point the way towards their resolution.

But he will best be remembered for his outstanding services to the Royal Medico-Psychological Association. He was appointed general secretary in 1957. He played a vital part in preparing the ground for and taking part in the prolonged and delicate negotiations with the Privy Council leading to the translation of the Association into a Royal College. He served as the College’s first registrar in 1971. In 1973 the College acknowledged their debt to him by electing him to the honorary fellowship.

In 1934 Monro married Elsie, daughter of Thomas Race Kidd, an engineer. They had four children, three sons and a daughter.

Monro had in his younger days been a keen and proficient oarsman and had rowed in the 1st VIII at school and the 1st IV at the University. He had been an enthusiastic mountaineer, but in later life golf, photography and gardening were his main hobbies.

In spite of his prestige and his manifold distinctions Ben was a shy and reserved man. In a social setting, however, he could be amusing and witty. Asked, for example, why it was that he had chosen to publish so little, relatively speaking, he replied: ‘One should think of the librarians.’

HR Rollin

[Times, 10 June 1978; Brit.med.J., 1, 1631; Lancet, 1978, 1, 1373]

(Volume VII, page 405)

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