Lives of the fellows

Thomas Edward Dowrick Beavan

b.22 January 1908 d.6 August 1991
LDS(1932) MB ChB Birm(1937) MRCP(1941) DCH(1945) FRCP(1968)

Thomas Edward Dowrick Beavan was born in Shrewsbury. He was the son of the Rev Arthur Dowrick Beavan, curate at Holy Trinity Church, and Florence Ellen Beavan, née Hibbs. The family moved to Ludlow when he was a few weeks old. While there his sister died of diphtheria, so his mother decided to take him back to her home in New Zealand. They returned to England three years later, when his father was appointed Vicar of Clunbury in Shropshire. It was, according to A E Housman, one of ‘The four quietest places under the sun ... all in the Valley of the Clun’.

Tom went first to the village school and then to Harborne Hall, a now defunct preparatory school in Birmingham. Subsequently he attended the King s School in Worcester.

After leaving school he worked for a year as a schoolmaster in a preparatory school in Staffordshire and then became a dental student at Birmingham University. He qualified in 1932 and was appointed a dental house surgeon at the old Queen’s Hospital in Birmingham. He then decided to study medicine and worked part-time as a dentist while studying. He graduated with distinction, winning the Foxwell memorial prize and the senior medical prize and went on to obtain his membership of the College and his DCH. He was elected a Fellow of the College in 1968.

After early posts as a house physician at the General Hospital, Birmingham, and at Selly Oak Hospital, he was appointed junior assistant to the medical unit, Cardiff Royal Infirmary. He was acting paediatrician at Hillingdon Hospital from 1941-46, lecturer in child health at the University of Liverpool from 1946-7 and child health officer in the West Riding from 1947-48. During the war years he twice volunteered for active service but was turned down on each occasion. In 1948 he was appointed paediatrician to the Chester City Hospital and Royal Infirmary and worked there until his retirement in 1971.

On ward rounds only a little time was necessary to realize that Tom possessed an acute clinical sense, linked with a wide experience. His handling of children, parents, nursing staff and junior medical staff, was exemplary; even with the most formidable of ward sisters he was always on terms of mutual affection and respect. He had a quick ear for the non sequitur and a natural distaste for pretension; his response was always one of gentle but devastating irony and some of his senior colleagues were apt to be rather nervous in his presence. He published several valuable papers, including ‘Slide agglutination of B Coli...’ and ‘Devices for exchange transfusion.

It was while he was at Birmingham that he met Anne Dean, also a doctor, and they were married in 1939. Anne worked in family practice until the end of the war. They had three sons, Gareth, an historian, Hugh, a clergyman and Richard, a dental surgeon.

Tom’s personality was unforgettable. From childhood he had suffered from bilateral leg weakness associated with talipes and yet one of his favourite recreations was mountain walking. He also enjoyed the study of alpine flora, photography and woodcarving.

After his retirement, he and Anne moved to Hay on Wye in the middle of an area which had connections with generations of Beavans. Unfortunately, the later years of his life were clouded by severe disability and his last four years were spent as an inpatient at Talgarth Hospital.

K Rhys Llewellin

(Volume IX, page 35)

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