Lives of the fellows

Robert Phillipson Warin

b.19 December 1915 d.1 July 1992
MB ChB Leeds(1939) MD(1941) MRCP(1946) FRCP(1961)

British dermatology and the Bristol medical community suffered a severe grievous loss when Bob Warin and his wife Anne were both killed in a car crash while they were travelling to the Bournemouth meeting of the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD). Bob was a past president of the Association and he and Anne had been such central figures for so many years that it was difficult to believe the meeting could continue in their absence. The pall which the tragic news cast over that meeting testifies to the tremendous affection and respect which British dermatologists had for them.

Bob Warin was born in Tadcaster, the son of Phillipson Warin, a chemistry teacher. He was educated at St Peter’s School, York, and went on to Leeds University medical school where he was student president of the Medical Society in 1937-39. After obtaining his MD in 1941 he was commissioned in the RAMC (167 Field Ambulance). From 1941-46 he served as RMO to the 7th Battalion Oxfordshire and Bucks Light Infantry, in North Africa and the Middle East, and rose to the rank of major. During this time he worked as a general physician in hospitals in Cairo, Beirut and Geniefa, sitting for the MRCP examination in Cairo under special war time regulations.

After the war he returned to Leeds General Infirmary and worked as registrar in medicine for a short time before training in dermatology under John Ingram [Munk's Roll, Vol.VI, p.252]. In 1949 he was appointed a consultant dermatologist at Bristol Royal Infirmary.

Bob’s clinical skills, his enthusiasm for his work and his outstanding personal qualities of wisdom, kindliness and cheerfulness, ensured that he was greatly in demand as an NHS consultant until his retirement in 1981. He also built up an extensive private practice which continued until the day of his death. Patients were referred to him from all over the country, particularly for advice about the management of angio-oedema and urticaria, in which he was an authority. His patients loved him and many wept when they were told of his death.

Despite his heavy clinical workload Bob was always active in research, particularly in the field of urticaria, and was greatly in demand as a speaker at international meetings. With R H Champion as co-author, he published Urticaria, London, Philadelphia, Saunders, 1974 - a monograph which became the standard work on the subject - and also contributed a chapter to a large multi-author textbook on immunology. He continued his work on urticaria after his retirement with a weekly research clinic at Bristol Royal Infirmary. At the time of his death he was working on a paper on the significance of a transient deficiency of Cl esterase inhibitor. He also published many excellent case reports over the years and younger members of the Infirmary dermatology department searching the literature on some arcane topic - such as plasma cell granuloma of the lip, or reticulohistiocytosis as a marker of malignancy - were often surprised to find that the landmark paper was written by Bob in the 1950s.

Bob also played an important role in teaching, administration and medical politics. He was a founder member of the South-west of England and Wales Dermatological Society which he organized single handed for many years and which still flourishes. He was a successful president of the Bristol Med-Chi Society and president of the British Association of Dermatologists in 1976. Many BAD members recall the Bristol meeting as one of the most enjoyable ever held, largely because of Bob’s personality and the tremendous support he received from Anne. The BRI dermatology department blossomed under his benevolent leadership. He had a wonderful knack of getting peole to give of their best and in return he was always extremely supportive of his colleagues and junior staff.

Although his contribution to dermatology was enormous, Bob had many other interests. As a young man he played hockey for the Combined Universities and for Yorkshire and Gloucestershire. He remained a keen cricketer throughout his life; long after retirement he played for a Dowling Club team against trainee dermatologists and was highest run scorer of the match. At a BAD meeting in Cambridge, he and Anne won the punt race by several lengths despite strong competition from Oxbridge graduates more than 30 years his junior. He was also a considerable gymnast and on one occasion, at an overseas conference, he came out of a restaurant around midnight in a jovial frame of mind and - for a bet - turned a series of elegant cartwheels on the pavement. It would have been a good performance from anyone - but he was over 70 at the time. He missed only one day’s work through illness from 1944-92.

But it was gardening which was his chief passion; he had an encyclopaedic knowledge of horticulture which he loved to share with his friends and his large garden in Clifton, which he occasionally opened to the public, was always a delight. He was on the council of Bristol Zoo for over 25 years and gave valuable advice on the Zoo’s wonderful gardens; a tribute to his advice was that many people visited the Zoo to see the gardens rather than the animals. Of course he also provided dermatological expertise for ailments such as warts in white tigers and fungal disease in rhinos, and he would help out with more general problems such as difficult deliveries in giraffes.

Bob was a governor of Clifton High School for Girls and he and Anne were very prominent in Clifton social life, including Church and Clifton College activities. They both had great charm, with a fund of anecdotes and a gift of putting people at their ease, and since they knew almost everyone in Bristol their presence at a cocktail party would ensure its success.

Bob derived great strength and support from Anne and their five children all received a university education. Once the fifth child had left home, Anne took a first class honours degree from the Open University and then started her own career as a writer of historical novels and childrens’ stories. She also collaborated with Bob on a history of Bristol Zoo, which was very popular, and their recent joint publication on the story of Litfield House, a Georgian Bristol mansion which is now a private medical centre, was also well received.

J L Burton

[Brit.med.J., 1992,305,642; The Times, 3 July 1992;Brit.J.Derm., l993,128,223-24]

(Volume IX, page 555)

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