Lives of the fellows

James Charles Shee

b.31 July 1912 d.4 October 1995
MB BCh NUI(1934) MRCP(1938) MD(1946) DTM&H(1947) FRCP(1966)

James Charles Shee spent the greater part of his professional life working as a consultant physician in Bulawayo, Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. He was born in Enniscorthy, County Wexford, in Ireland the son of Peter Paul Shee, a bank manager, and was educated at a private preparatory school before attending St Ignatius’ College, a public school in Galway. He went on to study medicine a University College, Galway, the National University of Ireland, and at Richmond Hospital, Dublin graduating in 1934 with first class honours.

He held various junior appointments between 1935 and 1937, working in general practice in the north of England, at Southend General Hospital and at the Royal Chest Hospital as a house physician. The next two years, between 1938 and 1939, were spent working as a research fellow for the Medical Research Council of Ireland, at Montefiore Hospital, New York, at McGill University, Montreal, in the department of bio-chemistry and at University College, Cork, Ireland, in the department of chemistry. On his return to Ireland he conducted clinical and biochemical research into endemic goitre in County Tipperary.

When war broke out he volunteered his services to the Royal Army Medical Corps and served six years, of which nearly four years were on the Burma front. He was invalided out in April 1946 following a spinal injury and was awarded the honorary rank of lieutenant colonel. It was while on active service in the Far East that he met his future wife, Catherine Mary Hartnett, ‘Kitty’, a lieutenant in the Army Nursing Service. After the war he acquired the additional qualifications of the DTM&H and his MD.

In January 1948 he emigrated with his family to what was then Rhodesia. Jimmy set up in consultant practice in Bulawayo, where he was to remain for 28 years. The family readily identified with their new life as ‘colonials’, Jimmy becoming a valuable and highly esteemed member of the medical fraternity.

In July 1960 the sudden collapse of law and order in the Belgian Congo gave rise to mass panic flights of the white community, some 200 refugees arriving by air and road in Bulawayo, carrying few belongings. An emergency refugee centre was set up in a hall within the complex of the Catholic cathedral, under the direction of Jimmy and Kitty and a band of volunteer workers and hosts. Although this event occurred over a public holiday weekend when businesses were closed and many people away, it was handled with marked efficiency.

One of Shee’s passions was the history of Zimbabwe. He was an ardent member of the Rhodesiana Society which organized regular outings to local historical sites around Bulawayo. He took part in some of the archaeological digs organized by the Rhodesian Historical Monuments Commission of which he was a commissioner. He also accompanied many of the annual expeditions of the Schoolboy’s Exploration Society. He was a collector of note and had an excellent library of books and collections of maps and manuscripts.

In 1977, having passed his practice over to Eric Cohen, Shee retired and emigrated to South Africa. He went to work as a sessional consultant physician at the Tygerberg Hospital in the Cape, with a private practice in Paarl, finally retiring in 1986.

James Shee was a man of considerable erudition. His six children - Camilla, Deborah, Charles, Simon, Laurence and Martine were all schooled in Bulawayo. The first three now live in the UK, the fourth in Melbourne and the last two in South Africa. Their son, Charles, has followed Jimmy and is a Fellow of the College. Another son has a PhD in geochemistry.

Jimmy ‘retired’ yet one more time, in 1988, when he and Kitty moved to Helderberg Retirement Village in Somerset West, a talented and friendly community where they experienced great happiness for another seven years.

Leslie Jacobson
Louis Bolze

(Volume X, page 443)

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