Lives of the fellows

Thomas Grainger Stewart

b.2 December 1877 d.18 March 1957
MB ChB Edin(1900) MD Edin(1912) MRCPE(1902) MRCP(1904) FRCP(1913)

Thomas Grainger Stewart was born at 19 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, the third son of Sir Thomas Grainger Stewart, professor of the practice of physic and of clinical medicine in the University of Edinburgh, and author of An Introduction to the study of diseases of the nervous system (1884). His mother was Jessy Dingwall Fordyce, daughter of the Rev. Robert Macdonald. He was educated in Edinburgh at the Academy and the University.

After filling resident appointments at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary he spent a period of study in Munich. In 1902 he was elected house physician at the National Hospital, Queen Square, where he was later to become resident medical officer, assistant pathologist, and then honorary physician (1908-45). For forty years, filling one office or another, he gave loyal service to this hospital, and it was round it that his medical life centred.

For a short period he was appointed physician to the Metropolitan Hospital, before his election to the staff of the West London Hospital (1920-37). He was also on the staffs of the Central London Ophthalmic Hospital, Judd Street (1920-38), and Queen Mary’s Hospital, Roehampton. He saw neurological cases for the Ministry of Pensions over a long period of years until 1953.

His more important contributions to neurological literature were made in his early professional life and in association with others. As a clinician he was conscientious to a degree. On his ward-rounds he pursued his unhurried way, and in out-patient clinics seemed heedless of time. His house physicians and registrars probably learned most from him by observation of his methods, for he was not greatly gifted as a teacher. Shy, laconic and very cautious, he delivered his opinions quietly in short sentences, and it appeared at times as if the words were being forced from him.

To all those who worked under him he was a kind, considerate and most hospitable chief. In those who were in close contact with him he inspired feelings of affectionate regard. He differed from some of his contemporaries in being more interested in the treatment of neurological disease, but never built up a large private practice. Grainger Stewart had plentiful reddish hair and a fresh complexion. When he was reflecting on a problem his chin was sunk on his chest. He wore habitually a solemn expression, but he had a keen sense of humour and a winning smile.

In 1922 he married Frances Sophia Harvey, widow of Sir Patrick Playfair, C.I.E., a Scottish lady from Banffshire. This marriage altered his way of life. From a bachelor flat above his consulting rooms in Queen Anne Street he became host in a large house in Ennismore Gardens where much entertaining was done.

Shooting and deer-stalking were his favourite sports, although he occasionally fished and, in his younger days, played golf. He maintained his interest in Rugby all his life. He was an expert with the shot gun and did most of his shooting over the Wantage estates, near his home at Farnborough. He was much in demand by a wide circle of friends to join their shooting parties. He was an intrepid, tireless and skilful stalker, an art he learned as a young man in Glen Etive in Argyll where the mountains, though not very high, are often precipitous; he had tales to tell of being held by the legs while leaning over a precipice to shoot a stag below.

Between the Wars he and his wife rented Rothiemurchus in the Cairngorms. This forest includes Braeriach (4200ft.), and he was never happier than when after a stag on the high tops. A deer track across a steep scree where few ever ventured is called ‘The Doctor’s Walk’ after him. His keenness and sense of duty were such that it was not uncommon for him to stalk from early morning till mid-afternoon, then catch the night train to London to see his patients the next day, then travel back to Aviemore the following night and do a full day’s stalking the next day.

After his retirement he went less and less often to Scotland and more to his week-end cottage at Wantage, where he died at the age of seventy-nine.

Richard R Trail

[, 1957, 1, 765-6; Lancet, 1957, 1, 693-4 (p); Times, 20 Mar. 1957.]

(Volume V, page 398)

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