Lives of the fellows

Thomas Parkinson

b.29 September 1914 d.15 March 1989
MRCS LRCP(1938) MB BS Lond(1938) MD(1941) MRCP(1941) FRCP(1960)

Tom Parkinson was proud to have been born in Lancashire, and on his mother’s side from farming stock. He kept in close touch with his family during their lifetime. He was educated at Lancaster Royal Grammar School and at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in the University of London, from which he graduated with honours.

An early indication of his ability was shown by his appointments at Bart’s, first as house physician and then in 1940 as medical registrar. That same year he married Priscilla (Pat) Bushby, who outlived him only a short time. There were three sons of this very happy partnership which was a source of great strength to him in his career.

From 1942-46 he served in the medical branch of the Royal Air Force, both at home and in the Near and Far East, being promoted to squadron leader.

After the war he returned to Bart’s to continue his interrupted registrarship and, while working for Neville Oswald, published papers on diseases of the lung. He also served as chief assistant and, later, medical tutor to the medical professorial unit. With two colleagues, Tom Parkinson was short-listed for the post of assistant physician at Bart’s which he was somewhat unlucky not to obtain. But this loss was turned into Luton’s gain - and probably his - when he was appointed consultant in medicine to the Luton and Dunstable Hospital in 1950.

This hospital, which had opened just before the 1939-45 war, had not had a consultant physician of its own, being staffed by senior local general practitioners and visiting consultants from Bart’s. Into this comparative void Tom entered with enthusiasm and, by dint of very hard work, a winning manner and sheer ability, he quickly built the medical wards, outpatients clinics (of which he had many) and domiciliary work into one of the most admired units in non-teaching hospitals in the country.

For 15 years this was achieved almost single-handed and, if during later years his work was perhaps over-shadowed by the advent of specialization in district general hospitals, when he retired he was still considered an excellent general opinion and highly regarded both by his colleagues and by his grateful patients. In addition to clinical work he played an important, indeed a pivotal, role in the management of the hospital, especially in its key developmental stages. He was appointed an examiner for the membership of the College and took a keen interest in College affairs.

Outside his work Tom did some sailing, was a dedicated fisherman and a gregarious, as well as a very competent, golfer. He was a sociable man and had a wide circle of friends. His numerous junior staff, over nearly 30 years, were - and remained after leaving - unanimously enthusiastic about ‘TP’ and his ‘Firm’. There was of course the occasional dissent from the general approval for Tom could hold strong views but no one doubted his position in the medical life of the Luton area.

Unfortunately Tom’s last years, and those of his wife, were marred by illness. With his death Luton lost its great man of medicine whose career is unlikely to be repeated.

J F Hale

[Brit.med.J..1989,298,1514]

(Volume IX, page 407)

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