Lives of the fellows

David Morris

b.18 June 1915 d.27 March 1989
MRCS LRCP(1938) DCH(1941) MRCP(1949) FRCP(1971)

David Morris was born in London. His father, Philip Morris was a company director and his mother, Fanny née Asher, was the daughter of a hotelier. His father intended him for business and wished to send him to a secretarial college, but David had other ideas and went to the Middlesex Hospital medical school in 1934. This meant that he was just qualified when war broke out in 1939. His first house appointment was at the Royal Waterloo Hospital under Horace Evans, later Lord Evans, [Munk's Roll, Vol. V., p.123]. Soon afterwards he joined the Royal Navy where his knowledge of French brought him an assignment to the Free French Naval Forces. While a naval surgeon on the ship which brought home prisoners of war from the Graf Spee he took the opportunity to learn German. He had a flair for languages which served him well throughout his life; he later did much teaching abroad. He ended the war as director of a hospital in Lubeck where he met displaced children from the concentration camps.

On demobilization he began his specialist training in paediatrics. He worked at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Hackney and at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Tottenham In 1951 he succeeded Harold Waller as paediatrician to the Woolwich group of hospitals and later developed a paediatric department at the Brook Green General Hospital. He was an excellent clinician and had an excellent rapport both with his child patients and their parents.

David Morris made no original scientific contributions in the field of paediatrics; his great interest lay in behavioural and emotional aspects of child care and he worked tirelessly to see that emotional development was understood by paediatricians. He was one of the first to insist that mothers should stay with their children while they were in hospital. He was concerned too that hospitals should have adequate play facilities and staff would care for the children as well as dealing with their medical problems. He joined one of the Balint groups in psychoanalysis early on; had analysis himself, and often worked with a children’s analyst alongside him at the clinic. He was one of the founders of a group of paediatricians who met with the late Anna Freud for regular discussions about individual cases. Very soon many paediatricians became more concerned with the behavioural aspects of paediatrics.

David was also particularly interested in childhood disability and did much work with disabled children, both the mentally and physically handicapped. One of his outstanding contributions was the formation of the Uphill Ski Club, which encouraged disabled children to ski. David himself was regularly on the slopes with the children.

After reading a letter in The Guardian from a distressed mother, he also set up one of the first bereavement clinics for mothers who had suffered a stillbirth. Once again he was to the fore in seeing that paediatricians had the requisite skills to cope with the problems of families whose child had died. After retirement he was active in private practice. He was one of the few paediatricians to be elected as chairman of the Association of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and was busily active in the affairs of the Association until shortly before his death.

David was short of stature, only 5ft tall, but he was an extrovert par excellence. He always wore a rose in his buttonhole and was very gregarious, forming friendships with many people. He had married Netta Garland in 1947 and they had two children. He was a family man, very proud of his children and grandchildren. At his Memorial Celebration, which took place in the College on 20 July 1989, Franny Rabkin - his grand-daughter, aged 13 - paid him the following tribute: ‘Suey asked me to speak on behalf of children but I did not think I could do that being that I was his grand-daughter and so had a different relationship with him than other children. Littleday was a very kind man; I think he was loved by so many children because he was honest and straightforward and did not confuse kids. Although he could be a little bad-tempered at times you could always see the kindness (like the sun peeping from behind a cloud) shine through. I want to add that he was mostly bad-tempered with grown-ups rather than children. He seemed to live in our world and found the other a pain (just like I do), In short, what made my grandfather a wonderful doctor was that he understood children and we understood him.’

M Bax

[The Times, 29 Mar 1989; The Independent, 30 Mar 1989; The Guardian, 29 Mar 1989]

(Volume IX, page 379)

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