Lives of the fellows

John Clifford Sawle Thomas

b.21 January 1907 d.20 January 1994
MRCS LRCP(1932) DPM(1937) MRCP(1943) FRCP(1966) FRCPsych(1971)

John Clifford Sawle Thomas was born in London, the son of John Thomas, master draper, and his wife Lilian (née Sawle). He was educated at Colet Court, St Paul’s School and St Bartholomew’s Hospital Medical School. After qualification his first house posts were at Bradford Royal Infirmary and Wellhouse Hospital, Barnet. He married Marian Elliot in 1931 and they had two children, Carol and Mark.

For three years he worked as a general practitioner in Streatham and then decided to specialize in psychiatry. In 1936 he was appointed medical officer to Bucks County Mental Hospital where he worked until 1939, during which time he obtained his DPM. In 1939 he moved to Littlemore Hospital, Oxford, and, in 1940, he was appointed deputy medical superintendent to Berrywood Hospital (St Crispin’s). In 1943 he joined the RAF as a neuropsychiatrist, with the rank of squadron leader, being promoted to acting wing commander in 1945. His marriage to Marian was dissolved and after the war he moved to Newcastle upon Tyne where he was physician superintendent at St Nicholas Hospital until his appointment as regional psychiatrist to the North East Thames Regional Board, with consultant sessions at several hospitals in the region, including St Margaret’s Hospital, Epping. In 1953 he married Eva Waller, also a psychiatrist, and, with the opening of the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow, where he was involved in the planning of the Churchill clinic, he concentrated on these hospitals. He was awarded the freedom of the City of London in 1955.

John Thomas was the first consultant psychiatrist at the Princess Alexandra, chairman of the medical committee in 1965, and a member of the Harlow group management committee in 1966. He was also a member of the parole board. John was an eclectic psychiatrist whose reports were always concise and to the point. He brought to the practice of psychiatry a refreshing practical and commonsense approach and a dry humour. He was also a sound physician who made good use of his ophthalmoscope, which he considered was an essential part of any examination.

On retirement he found time to enjoy his many leisure interests, including music, golf, gardening, 18th century literature and croquet, first in Cornwall and subsequently in Winchester. In his later years, golf was replaced by bridge. Finally he went to live with his daughter Carol who cared for him during the final year of his life.

H Kopleman

[Brit.med.J., 1994,309,267]

(Volume X, page 487)

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