Lives of the fellows

Harold Stanley Symons

b.10 January 1934 d.9 September 1997
MB BS Melb(1957) MRCP(1963) MRACP(1964) FRACP(1972) FCCP(1977) FRCP( 1996)

As a chest physician Harold Symons played an important role in both the general medical service and the department of thoracic medicine of the Royal Melbourne Hospital. He was born and grew up in Essendon, Melbourne, where he attended the local High School before moving on to Scotch College. His father was an ardent supporter of the Essendon Football team and the walls of Harry’s consulting rooms exhibited evidence of his keen support of the same team. He graduated in medicine from Melbourne University in 1957 and worked for three years at the Royal Melbourne Hospital before travelling to London for postgraduate study. After attending the postgraduate medical course at Hammersmith Hospital he secured an internship at Hammersmith Hospital where he extended his interest in and knowledge of thoracic medicine. Over the next two years he worked at several chest clinics in London, including those at Paddington General, Marylebone and Hampstead. He became a member of the Royal College of Physicians in 1963 and a Fellow in 1996.

On his return to Australia in 1964 he obtained the membership and, in 1972, the fellowship of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians. He was appointed assistant physician then physician to the out-patients at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and for a few years was out-patient physician at the Queen Victoria Hospital and visiting physician to the repatriation department. He also set up a private consulting practice. In 1966 Harry was appointed the inaugural director of the Asthma Foundation of Victoria and had a major role in its early development. He continued on its medical and scientific advisory committee until 1985.

He was a keen and able teacher and in addition to this activity at the Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH) and its clinical school he was, in 1968, appointed lecturer in medicine to the then dental faculty of Melbourne University In the latter part of his time with the RMH he developed an out-patient service at the Essendon Hospital. This seemed particularly appropriate given his lifelong interest in the area.

Harry had many other interests, the main one being music. He began piano lessons at an early age and during secondary schooling began organ tuition. He also sang in various choirs including the Melbourne Chorale. He became an accomplished organist and his appointment as organist at Holy Trinity Church, Kensington in the 1950s helped him finance his medical studies. In 1972 he formed the Melbourne Consort, a group of singers who practised on Thursday nights at his home and who presented three concerts a year for the next thirteen years. A wide variety of choral music was performed. He built a harpsichord for his own use and for occasional use with the Consort. Harry was a regular attender of orchestral, chamber music and operatic performances in Melbourne, Sydney and overseas and was a mine of musical information.

Harry had a great interest in cricket as well as football and was a keen sportsman himself. He played competitive tennis from his teen years and continued regular tennis throughout his life. He took up skiing and enjoyed many holidays, both winter and summer, at Falls Creek, in the Victorian Alps, where he was part owner of a lodge. He very generously offered this to his friends and colleagues.

As a medical registrar at RMH he met Katherine Lancaster, then a charge nurse. They became partners and complemented each other very well. Her death only eight months before his own was a tremendous blow to him. Despite this and his own failing health he maintained his quiet dignity and droll sense of humour, this often being directed against himself.

Richard Lovell

(Volume X, page 485)

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