Lives of the fellows

William Perrott Sweetnam

b.10 September 1915 d.27 May 1974
MB ChB Manch(1939) DPH(1946) DCH(1949) MRCP(1950) FRCP(1971)

William Perrott Sweetnam was born at Cork and educated at Rossall School and Manchester University, where he graduated MB, ChB in 1939. As a student he was interested in boxing and rugby football and was Captain of the University boxing team. After a period as house physician at the Manchester Royal Infirmary he served as a surgeon lieutenant RNVR in destroyers on convoy duty in the North Atlantic, and also saw a period of service in the Middle East. On demobilisation as a Surgeon Lieutenant Commander he returned to Manchester and took the DPH in 1946. However, after one year as an Assistant County Medical Officer to Lancashire, he decided to devote himself to paediatrics. In 1949, following a period at Hope Hospital, Salford and the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, he obtained his DCH examination and in the following year, 1950, his MRCP (London).

Sweetnam was responsible for helping with the organisation of the first examination in paediatrics at Manchester University, and he was always a very willing and enthusiastic teacher of the junior staff. After a period as senior registrar at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, in 1951, he became the consultant paediatrician at Huddersfield and Halifax. This was a very onerous job, but he applied himself to it with great enthusiasm, and established departments of paediatrics in both towns which flourished under his leadership. He also found time to help in the establishment of the Hollybank School for Spastic Children at Huddersfield, and the care of handicapped children remained one of the main interests throughout his professional career.

In 1972 he withdrew from Halifax and devoted himself exclusively to paediatrics at Huddersfield. He served with distinction on the Medical Advisory Committee and the Hospital Management Committee of the Huddersfield Group. He was also a regular attender at the British Paediatric Association meetings. He brought a high academic and professional standard to his speciality, and was a most esteemed colleague to general practitioners and his paediatric consultant colleagues.

He will probably be best remembered by his colleagues for his campaign for labelling drug containers. He saw the great dangers of pill boxes and medicine bottles not disclosing what they contained, and it is a great attribute to him that this is now common practice throughout the country, and generally accepted by the medical world.

However, it is as a man that "Bill" Sweetnam will be most missed. He was generous to a fault. His enthusiasm was catching and he was a paediatrician of the highest quality. Towards the end of his life he experienced some flagging of the spirits, but he always succeeded in continuing to discharge his clinical responsibilities with efficiency and kindness.

During his last year physical illness supervened and his reserves were overborne. His wife and two daughters survived him.

W Dickson

[Brit.med.J., 1974, 3, 416]

(Volume VI, page 429)

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