Lives of the fellows

Richard Robertson Trail

b.25 May 1894 d.15 June 1971
CBE(1953) MC MB ChB Aberd(1923) MA MD(1925) MRCP(1928) FRCP(1933)

‘Dick’ Trail, as he was affectionately known to his many friends and colleagues, was born in Aberdeen. His father, Richard Robertson Trail was an antique dealer. His mother was the daughter of John Masson, a sailing master. Dick Trail was educated at Robert Gordon’s College, Aberdeen, King’s College and Marishal College, University of Aberdeen.

He entered the University as an honours arts student in 1911 before taking up medicine. At the outbreak of the first world war in 1914 he joined the Army, and served with distinction as a gunner officer, being mentioned in despatches and gaining the Military Cross.

On resuming his studies after the war he completed the MA course with honours and passed the final MB, ChB with honours in 1923. He was a medallist in medicine and received the Shepherd Gold Medal in surgery.

He proceeded to the MD degree in 1925. On the advice of one of his teachers, Sir A.G. Anderson, he applied for the post of house physician at the Brompton Hospital for Diseases of the Chest. He became resident medical officer at the Hospital. In 1928 he took the MRCP London. He was then appointed medical superintendent at the King Edward VII sanatorium at Midhurst. On the advice of Lord Dawson of Penn, the King’s Physician, he ventured into private consulting practice in London. He was next appointed to the staff of the Royal Chest Hospital and became medical director of the Papworth Village Settlement, later to be called the Alamein Settlement. In 1933 he was elected FRCP London.

On the outbreak of the second world war in 1939 he joined the RAF and was soon granted the acting rank of Air Commodore. He gave notable service to the RAF as a chest consultant.

At the Royal College of Physicians Trail was one of the key members of the committee which produced the Prophit Report on Tuberculosis in Young Adults’ in the 1930s; he was Mitchell lecturer in 1936 and FitzPatrick lecturer in 1964. He edited the Fifth volume of Munk’s Roll of deceased Fellows.

He was a devoted member of the Society of Apothecaries, being elected Master in 1959. He delivered the Sydenham and Gideon de Laune lectures of that society. He was a great student of history and a delightful and gifted after dinner speaker.

In 1953 he was appointed a CBE for his work on behalf of the Ministry of Labour. He was also appointed a Commander of the most Venerable Order of St. John. He was a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour and also received the Order of Merit of Belgium and Czechoslovakia.

Dick’s proudest moment was when he was invited to deliver the annual foundation oration at his old school, Robert Gordon’s College, in the West Kirk at Aberdeen. Professionally he had an international reputation as an expert on pulmonary tuberculosis. He took a special interest in the development of mass radiography in the investigation of chest disease, and established a special unit for this purpose in the RAF. He published numerous articles on pulmonary tuberculosis in leading medical journals.

In 1924 he married Marion Dawson Macafee. They had one son.

Dick Trail died after a short illness at the age of 77.

AMA Moore

[, 1971, 3, 119; Lancet, 1971, 1, 1360]

(Volume VI, page 437)

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