Lives of the fellows

Peter Cecil Thorpe

b.5 June 1937 d.20 June 1990
MB BS Sydney(1961) MRCP(1966) MRACP(1971)FRACP(1978) FRCP(1981)

Peter Thorpe was born in Sydney, the son of Cecil Richard Thorpe, a soft goods manufacturer, and educated at Sydney Church of England Grammar School. He went on to the University of Sydney where he graduated in medicine. After an intern post at the Sydney Hospital, and posts as senior resident and registrar at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, he came to England in 1966 where he worked as senior registrar at the Worcester Royal Infirmary. He obtained his membership of the College that year. On his return to Sydney he obtained his MRACP and began his career as a consultant rheumatologist, being appointed to the Royal Prince Alfred, the Rachel Forster, and the War Memorial hospitals.

Peter soon acquired a busy consulting practice. For several years he was also employed as a consultant to a major pharmaceutical company. His capacity for work was legendary and a constant source of wonder to those around him. At a time when he seemed to be far busier than any of his colleagues, he purchased an orchard some 50 miles from Sydney and, to the astonishment of those who had suspected that his farming interest was no more than the passing fancy of a dilettante, he set about this new task with vigour and skill. The undoubted success of his rural enterprise was due in no small measure to the efforts of his wife Ellenor and their children, James, Sionen and Jonathon, but when these efforts involved pre-dawn excursions to the country during the fruit picking season it came as no real surprise to Peter that their enthusiasm did not always match his own.

Peter was an excellent teacher and his students responded to his enthusiasm. But his commitment to medicine did not preclude a wide interest in the good and civilizing things of life: good food, good wine, music, art, fine furniture, literature and history. He was wonderful company and a gifted raconteur; although often the central figure of his own stories he was seldom the hero, and was at his best when the joke was on himself. He had a keen sense of the ridiculous and laughed uproariously when amused. He also sang well and was a member of the Sydney University Graduate Choir.

Sometimes his enthusiasm could be exasperating, especially when his fondness for the big picture left others to cope with matters of detail. There was a measure of chutzpah in his breezy confidence and his disdain for the dreary and the pedestrian. But he had flare and panache and any feelings of irritation which were aroused were soon dispelled by his charm and stylishness. His style remains the most vivid of the impressions he left with us. There was style in his demeanour and in his dress - and there was style also in the manner in which he faced his death. He never mentioned his failing health and continued to see his patients, to charm and reassure them, until a few weeks before he died.

J E Hassell

(Volume IX, page 516)

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