Lives of the fellows

Richard George Vine

b.26 September 1917 d.7 September 1997
OBE MB BCh BAO Belf(1941) MD(1948) MRCP(1949) FRCP(1972)

Richard Vine (‘Dickie’ to his friends) was a consultant physician for the Londonderry group of hospitals, a physician who honoured his profession by the very highest standards he set himself. He was born in Ashington, Northumberland. Very early in his life his family moved to Belfast. His father was a talented organist, a teacher of piano music and was for many years conductor of the Harlandic Choir, the choir of the great Harland and Wolff shipbuilders, at a time when the company employed thousands of men and had vocal talent in profusion. Living in this atmosphere it was not surprising that Richard developed a love of music. He was himself a very able piano and organ player, but his passion for perfection in all things made him reluctant to perform publicly, except very occasionally for his friends and family.

He was educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution and began his medical studies at Queens University, qualifying in 1941. In August 1941 he was appointed as a house officer at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast. Like so many of his medical colleagues at that time, he was anxious to play his part in the services and early in 1942 he joined the RAF as a medical officer. He served at home and in India and was demobilized in 1946.

Having decided on a future career in general medicine, he was appointed to a trainee post at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, in 1947, to two wards under the care of Robert Marshall [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VI, p.330]. His enthusiasm for work and relaxation was tremendous. His clinical skill was obvious and having obtained his MD in 1948, he quickly passed the MRCP examination in 1949. In 1952 he spent a year at the Brompton Hospital for Chest Diseases in London after being upgraded to senior registrar in Belfast.

Many new consultant posts were created in Northern Ireland during the ten years after the Second World War. Vine’s appointment as consultant physician to the Londonderry Group of Hospitals in 1953 may be regarded as one of the most important of these. In a time of great development and ongoing change in the Northern Ireland hospital services, his thoroughness and enthusiasm were opportune. The Londonderry area acquired a large new hospital (Altnagelvin), which was opened after much planning and hard work in 1960. This was a new era in health care at Londonderry and there is no doubt that Richard and his colleagues must have proved a valuable support to the Northern Ireland Hospitals Authority, as the board was known at that time.

Small in stature, with a benign facial expression, one would soon meet Richards penetrating gaze, which matched the incisiveness of his observations and ready wit. In our trainee days, a tense and difficult ward round with the chief could be suddenly transformed by one of Richard’s delightfully relevant and sometimes irreverent sallies. There and elsewhere his witticisms were often so sudden and surprising that they frequently gave rise to laughter from himself as well as his audience. One looked forward to the coffee sessions for, from time to time, his ability as court jester could cheer his surroundings and calm ruffled nerves when necessary. His was a bright spirit, much admired and indeed loved by his staff. He gave confidence to patients by making very definite statements and was friendly to them. He avoided any idea of being sentimental and was thorough and intolerant of the shoddy and second rate.

He was a keen golfer and was for a time captain of a local golf course. To visit his garden was a pleasure and his interest in good wines embellished the warm hospitality he and his charming wife Evelyn so generously gave. He retired early in 1977 and moved to Dorset. His friends were pleased to learn of his appointment in 1979 to the medical care of the Chelsea pensioners, where he was active to the end of February 1984. He was fortunate to be at home during his last illness, prostatic cancer, and to have the loving care and devotion of his wife to the end. He had three children.

Arnold Lyons

(Volume X, page 503)

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