Lives of the fellows

Edward William Paynter Noall

b.18 January 1918 d.12 November 1982
MB BS Lond(1952) DPM(1958) MRCP(1963) MRCPsych(1973) FRCP(1976)

Edward William Paynter Noall, or simply ‘Bill’ Noall as we all knew him, was born at Strensall, Yorkshire. He was the eldest of three children born to WP Noall MS FRCS, a Cornishman who practised as a surgeon in York, and his wife Ethel, daughter of Canon WH Carr. His early upbringing and schooling (eventually at Kingston upon Thames Grammar School) was interrupted by the early death of his father, and by a series of moves from one home and one school to another which were consequently forced upon his mother in order to make both ends meet; and on the other hand by mastoid troubles. He was considered academically bright, but modest and self-effacing.

After leaving school, he worked for a time in a stockbroker’s office and in Jersey Airways. He was called up in World War II and served as captain in the Royal Marines from 1940-45 in Africa, India, Ceylon, in the Battle of Britain, and in France and Belgium. His younger brother was sadly reported missing, presumed dead, after being torpedoed in the Atlantic in December 1942.

His entry into medicine was therefore comparatively late. He trained at St Thomas’s Hospital, qualified in 1952, took two appointments as medical casualty officer and as house surgeon at St Thomas’s, and subsequently (after a brief spell in general practice) as a house physician in the department of psychological medicine at St Thomas’s. Thus at an early stage of his career he acquired an interest in psychiatry. Russell Pargeter, now a psychiatrist in Tasmania, was a close friend of his at St Thomas’s, and Bill himself worked for three years as senior house officer and, later, registrar in psychiatry at Runwell Hospital, where he met a Norwegian contemporary, Nil Retterstol (now professor of psychiatry in Oslo), who became his closest friend and was to have a profound influence on his life.

Bill decided, however, to return to general medicine and worked as registrar at St Andrew’s Hospital, Billericay, and senior registrar, and later was acting consultant physician, at Southend General Hospital. He obtained his MRCP in 1963 and was appointed consultant physician to Queen Mary’s Hospital for the East End, Stratford, and East Ham Memorial Hospital in 1966. He never, however, lost his interest in psychiatry. He took his DPM in 1958. He held a clinic in psychosomatic medicine at East Ham (and endeavoured to establish a psychosomatic section in the Royal Society of Medicine). He was elected MRCPsych in 1973. In his later years in Newham he undertook a regular session each week as visiting physician to Goodmayes Hospital. In his original application for his consultant post in Newham he stated ‘My previous experience in psychiatry I have found of the greatest help, as a very large proportion of the cases referred to the general medical clinics have a psychiatric background, and the early recognition of this saves considerable delay and facilitates treatment, especially in cases with an organic basis in addition.’

In addition to his work as consultant physician in Newham, he was for many years clinical tutor and he became closely associated with the formation, in 1972, of the postgraduate medical centre at East Ham and the Newham Medical Society of which he was the first secretary. He devoted a great deal of time and energy to this work, especially on behalf of his GP colleagues, who were eternally grateful for his help and encouragement.

In his spare time he was a keen sailor (for some time he had a boat at Burnham-on-Crouch), skier, walker, beagler and player of water polo. His great friend Nil Netterstol invited him to Norway, where he stayed once or twice every year and enjoyed skiing and walking in the mountains. He last went there in the summer of 1982. He was a member of the ski club of London and also of the Norwegian ski club. His interest in Norway was not however confined to these pursuits. He became an active member of the Norwegian community in South East London, at whose church, St Olav’s Kirche in Rotherhithe, he was a regular worshipper and participant in the social functions. He became a member of the Anglo-Norwegian Society. He even applied himself to mastering the Norwegian language, as well as learning French, and was considering taking up a hospital appointment in Norway after his retirement from Newham. All this was something of a surprise to colleagues in Newham, when they attended his funeral service at St Olave’s Kirche and found themselves singing hymns in Norwegian in his memory.

Few of his colleagues, indeed, knew him well. To his family, and a few close friends, he was a ‘very private person’ from his childhood onwards. At first sight he was socially inclined and generally affable, and he was undoubtedly possessed of a strong sense of humour. He missed few social occasions, but his appearances were brief and he appeared always anxious not to become too deeply involved. He had little small talk.

He seemed to be driven by a restless nervous energy, which he canalized into forthright and forcibly expressed views at committee meetings (which he attended with the same meticulous regularity as he did his clinical sessions). He had a need to dissipate some of his surplus energy in his sporting and open-air pursuits, and in his nocturnal perambulations around the streets of London. His habits and mode of dress appeared at times casual. He strode around Essex in knickerbockers, often tied up with string, high woollen stockings and walking boots.

He was intensely loyal and a constant support to his family. He devoted a great deal of energy to helping his younger sister (herself a trained nurse) in caring for his mother in her final illness. He was modest to a degree. Even his sister did not know of his distinctions, such as his election to the fellowship in 1976. The courage with which he faced his last illness, with its dreadful treatment, was remarkable and he preserved his sense of humour to the end. Only ten days before his final admission to hospital, and knowing the nature of his illness, he went off on a cycling holiday along the Dutch canals.

Bill remained single but he was by no means immune to feminine charms. There is an eye witness account which it would not be proper to relate, of a bout of fisticuffs with a rival for the hand of one particular lady.

R de Mowbray

(Volume VII, page 432)

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