Lives of the fellows

Harold Parry Williams

b.25 April 1903 d.14 May 1978
MRCS LRCP(1926) MRCP(1945) FRCP(1955)

Harold Williams was born in Merthyr, Glamorgan, where his father, William Parry Williams, was a pharmaceutical chemist. At school in West Monmouth, Pontypool, he became head boy and played in the First XI. He went on to study medicine at King’s College Hospital, London. After obtaining the conjoint diploma in 1926, he joined the Royal Navy on a three year commission and, in 1932, entered general practice in Ansty, Leicestershire. His developing interest in paediatrics led him to spend most of his available spare time at the Leicester Royal Infirmary, in the company of Vernon Braithwaite. In 1938 he moved to general practice in Portsmouth, where he had heard that a paediatric appointment was a possibility. The following year he was called up to the Army. An operation for the relief of intestinal obstruction, the sequel to appendicitis in childhood, prevented his serving abroad and, until his discharge from the Army in 1946, he served in base hospitals. He then returned to Leicester and worked for Vernon Braithwaite as an ex-service registrar. In 1947 he was appointed to Coventry as its first paediatrician.

In Coventry' he established a children’s unit from scratch. As the sole paediatrician, his commitments were heavy, but matched by his energy and enthusiasm. Apart from his annual holiday, which was never longer than two weeks, and occasional visits to paediatric meetings outside Coventry, he worked a seven day week and was on call constantly. He was particularly interested in teaching. Any junior doctor who showed interest would be invited home for tuition. His remarking at a medical meeting that Coventry was in need of a postgraduate institute eventually led to the postgraduate centre, of which he was the first treasurer. He was senior clinical tutor and external examiner to the University of Birmingham.

He retained, until his retirement at the end of 1968, his enthusiasm, spare figure, dark auburn hair, sense of humour and characteristic laugh. The respect in which he was held by his hospital colleagues was matched by the general practitioners, who, at their own farewell dinner in his honour, presented him with an illuminated address. As one of them said, ‘He always gives the person he is talking to the feeling that they are the one person he was hoping to meet’. In 1970, he was presented with the Coventry award of merit and gold medal for his services to children.

Parry Williams moved to Oxford where for the next three and a half years, he was first locum paediatrician and then honorary associate paediatrician. He did outpatient work for three sessions a week, continued teaching, and interested himself particularly in a hearing assessment clinic. Another of his interests, spina bifida, resulted in the publication of his last paper. In 1972 he went to live in Minehead, from where he was able to visit Taunton. There he assisted the librarian in the postgraduate centre, and played an important part in establishing and running the audiology assessment clinic. In 1977 he moved to Lymington, and in the following year died of mesothelioma of the pleura.

Apart from paediatrics, which was his abiding interest, he was fond of gardening and he was an avid reader of biographies. His first wife died six months after marriage. He subsequently married Winifred Hurlstone of Brighton, by whom he had a son who died aged 14 years, and a daughter, who died in 1975.

AC Kendall
Sir Gordon Wolstenholme

[Brit.med.J., 1978, 1, 1630]

(Volume VII, page 605)

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