Lives of the fellows

William Swanson Whimster

b.12 May 1902 d.30 May 1969
MRCS LRCP(1925) MB BS Lond(1926) MD(1928) MRCP(1929) FRCP(1960)

William Swanson Whimster was born at Wood Green in Middlesex, the elder son of William Swanson Whimster, an emigré Scot and hardware merchant, and of Catherine Whimster (née Cameron).

He was educated at the City of London School and entered Guy’s Hospital in October 1919, qualifying MRCS, LRCP in 1925 and MB, BS in 1926. He enjoyed his time at Guy’s, taking part in the athletics and rugby, and often recalled the teaching of Sir Arthur Hurst and John Ryle. After resident appointments at the Warneford Hospital, Leamington Spa, and the United Hospitals in Bath, he took the post of medical officer on the cargo ship TSS Calchas of the Blue Funnel Line and sailed from Liverpool in August 1927 to China ahd Japan. In the Indian Ocean he experienced his first attack of atrial fibrillation which lasted for four days and troubled him intermittently until 1955 when it became continuous. He was always eloquent on the treatment of cardiac arrhythmias.

In February 1928 he was appointed resident medical officer at Ancoats Hospital, Manchester. During this appointment he proceeded MD, took the MRCP, and met his future wife.

In May 1930 he took over a single-handed general practice in Nottingham to which he was attracted because it was a university town, and offered opportunities for what he called a ‘centre of town’ physician and honorary hospital appointments. By 1931 he was clinical assistant at the Nottingham General Hospital and medical officer to the University College and to Raleigh Industries. He also became clinical assistant to Sir (then Dr.) Charles Symonds at the National Hospitals for Nervous Diseases, Queen Square, London, where he attended weekly until the outbreak of war.

He was medically unfit for military service and so continued his practice with the help of assistants when his partner, Kenneth Minto, was called up. He became medical officer to No. 1 Ordnance Field Park, Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps, which was stationed in Nottingham. In 1941 he was appointed honorary physician to Mansfield General Hospital and became senior physician and chairman of the Medical Committee there, before resigning in 1952. In 1944 he was made assistant physician to the Nottingham General Hospital and physician in 1946. From the inception of the National Health Service he held appointments as consultant to the General, City, Highbury, and Mapperley Hospitals in Nottingham, and to Saxondale Hospital, Radcliffe-on-Trent. He combined general medical practice with neurology, of which he remained the only local practitioner up to his retirement.

He was a founder member of, and for years honorary treasurer and finally president of, the East Midlands Society of Physicians. He served on the Council, and in 1958-59 was president of the Nottingham Medico-Chirurgical Society. He was a member of the Nottingham No. 4 Hospital Management Committee, chairman of the Highbury Hospital Medical Committee, and honorary secretary of the General Hospital Medical Committee. From 1961 to 1966 he was a member of the Sheffield Regional Board. For the last 15 months before his retirement he was senior physician at the Nottingham General Hospital, and the last physician to have come to hospital consultantship through general practice in the town.

Will Whimster was a thoughtful, energetic man whose sympathetic and encouraging manner was well suited to the long-term problems of neurological patients. He developed a most satisfactory relationship with the psychiatrists (and was consultant to the local mental hospitals) and with the neurosurgeons in Derby. He did not often publish but was sought after as a speaker and committee man with a strong sense of public duty. He was particularly aware of the need for hospital administration to be tempered by medical humanity.

He had a deep knowledge and love of the English countryside and its history, and in later years was able to travel abroad to visit his doctor son in Fiji and Jamaica, and also visited the continent and Egypt. He was an enthusiastic photographer whose colour slides enhanced his travel talks, which were in demand after his retirement. His accomplished public speaking and many titbits of information came from his wide reading and long membership of the Rotary Club and the local Magdala Debating Society. His junior staff and his sons greatly appreciated the byways of learning, both medical and lay, into which he led them.

In 1930 he married Madge Elizabeth Edwards, MB, ChB (Mane), youngest child of Frederick Fountain Edwards of Manchester. He was fortunate to live to see his three sons married and qualified as a pathologist, a veterinary surgeon, and a consulting engineer.

WF Whimster

[Brit.med.J., 1969, 2, 699]

(Volume VI, page 456)

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