Lives of the fellows

George Ernest Frederick Sutton

b.7 February 1895 d.7 February 1972
MC(1916) MRCS LRCP(1924) MB BS Lond(1927) MD(1931) MRCP(1927) FRCP(1948)

Frederick Sutton was born in London. His father, Joseph Sutton, was Irish but ran away from home at an early age to London and made and lost a considerable fortune as a hay and straw merchant. His mother, Emily (née Law), came from a north country family whose menfolk had nearly always been Regular Army Officers. When Sutton was six, his father having lost most of his money, the family of nine boys and three girls moved to Saskatoon, Canada. They had a grant of land but no accommodation and at first lived in tents. They built a house themselves and Sutton wrote of the voyage to Canada and of their hard times there in a series of articles published in the May & Baker Journal ‘A Medical Bulletin’.

During Fred Sutton’s early years his education took place almost entirely at home, but later the family circumstances improved very considerably and he was able to receive more formal schooling. He did well, and by the age of eighteen he had enrolled as a medical student at McGill University. On the outbreak of war he and all his brothers at once volunteered for service in the Army. He was commissioned as a Bombing Officer but transferred in 1915 to the RFC. He served with great distinction. During the first battle of the Somme he carried out a reconnaissance at very low level of the enemy positions and his aircraft was repeatedly hit by bullets, but he managed to return with vital information. He was awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He remained as a pilot for the rest of the war, being wounded on two further occasions.

After demobilisation he decided to study medicine in England and became a student at King’s College, London. He was dependent on his gratuity and on work obtained in the vacations for financial support as, being a Canadian, apparently he did not qualify for a grant. Successful academically, he also distinguished himself in athletics, playing hockey for King’s College and reaching the finals of the Hospitals’ Boxing Championship.

After qualification he spent some years doing house officer posts at King’s College Hospital and the Prince of Wales General Hospital. In the late 1920’s he became a partner in a general practice in Bristol. However, his main interest and ambition lay in the field of consultant practice, and in 1929 he was appointed medical registrar to the Bristol Royal Infirmary and tutor in medicine at the University. In 1930 he became physician to Out-Patients at Bristol Children’s Hospital, and in 1934 he was appointed assistant physician at the Royal Infirmary, becoming full physician in 1939. In 1948 with the advent of the National Health Service he was appointed consulting physician to the South West Regional Hospital Board. He retired in 1960.

Immaculately dressed, and unfailingly courteous, Freddy Sutton was a quiet rather withdrawn man, with a reserve which colleagues found difficult to penetrate. His manner with juniors could sometimes be brusque, but he was always intensely loyal to those who served him and young house officers and registrars seeking his help found him a kindly, thoughtful and generous adviser.

Sutton was a general physician of the old school but his especial interest was cardiology, and he was consulting cardiologist to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance. A keen and conscientious teacher, his ward rounds and out-patient teaching sessions were popular with many generations of Bristol students. He was a man of wide interests. He wrote quite prolifically not only on medical subjects but general essays, and a not inconsiderable amount of poetry. The apt quotation was always at hand both on a teaching round and in the social milieu. In later years he travelled extensively and particularly enjoyed France, where he spoke the language with considerable competence.

He married in 1929 Cathlin Byrne, and they had one son.

MS Dunhill

[Brit.med.J., 1973, 3, 298; Bristol Evening Post, 8 Feb 1972]

(Volume VI, page 428)

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