Lives of the fellows

Dermot Henry Graham MacQuaide

b.16 March 1913 d.5 February 2000
MRCS LRCP(1936) MB BS Lond(1936) MD(1939) MRCP(1940) FRCP(1954)

Dermot MacQuaide, or ‘Derry’ to his family and intimate friends, was a distinguished physician and medical educator. He was born in the Forest of Dean into a family with established medical connections. His father, Thomas Bennett Wilson MacQuaide, qualified at Trinty College, Dublin, and served in the Colonial Medical Service in British Guiana, where Derry spent part of his childhood. Tragically, his father died prematurely, leaving behind him his widow and their three young children. His older brother, Henry Church McQuaide, a GP in Kenilworth, was himself childless, and undertook the education of the children.

Derry was sent to Cheltenham College, where he met with academic success, except in Greek, a subject which, despite the best endeavours of his teachers, defied him. Greek, as Derry related with his characteristic whimsy, remained to the end, Greek to him. Fortunately, St Thomas’s Hospital medical school did not demand proficiency in the classics as a prerequisite for entry, a wise policy as Derry was to prove; he was an excellent student. Between 1936 and 1940 he gained the conjoint qualification, together with his MB BS and MD degrees and his membership of the College.

Armed with his clutch of academic trophies, he began the traditional, long and arduous climb up the consultant ladder. Between 1937 and 1939 he completed a series of house jobs at St Thomas’s and then became a house physician at the prestigious Radcliffe Infirmary at Oxford, to L J Witts [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.618].

In keeping with legions of young doctors the Second World War upset Derry’s planned progress. But in his case the upset was to pay rich dividends: the war inevitably brings casualties and casualties bring blood loss. At the outbreak of war in early September 1939 Britain had a hopelessly inadequate transfusion service. Belatedly, in December 1939, the MRC set up the blood transfusion research committee, which decided that the most pressing problems were improving the preservation of red cells and the development of better techniques for processing plasma. The committee also decided that three young MOs attached to the Sutton, Surrey, depot, directed by that most imaginative and public-spirited layman, Percy Lane Olliver, should make observations on their response to transfusion. The three young men were A C Darnhorst, P L Mollison (later director of the MRC Blood Transfusion Research Unit) and our own D H G MacQuaide.

They made a great leap forward: their eventual modification produced acid-citrate-dextrose (ACD) which enabled red cells to be stored for up to three weeks. ACD became the standard anticoagulant in world-wide use until it was superseded in 1957 by citrate-phosphate-dextrose.

In 1940 Derry volunteered for war service. He was commissioned into the RAF and served as a physician in various RAF hospitals in the UK and latterly in Iceland. This last posting proved particularly momentous: he was promoted to the rank of wing commander and was mentioned in despatches. Most importantly by far, however, was the meeting with another recipient of this honour, a certain sister, Sarah (Sally) Hamilton, whom he subsequently married in 1946. It turned out to be a blissfully happy marriage.

After demobilization in 1946, Derry was appointed medical registrar at the Royal Victoria and West Hants Hospital, Bournemouth, before moving as consultant physician to Northampton General Hospital, where he served with great distinction until he retired as senior consultant physician in 1976. He continued in private practice and, such was his reputation, that his opinion was sought throughout the county and beyond until 1983 when, tragically, first his physical and then his mental health irreversibly deteriorated.

Derry was a brilliant and dedicated teacher, as witnessed by the long list of now eminent ex-housemen and registrars, including at least three professors, who have sat at his feet. But he also did more than his fair share of committee and political work. In his time he served as president of the Northampton Medical Society and of the local BMA. He was also a member of the Oxford regional hospital board and of the regional medical establishment committee.

Despite all this, Derry was much more than the prototypical consultant physician. He loved a party and, if he could be persuaded, he would regale his audience with monologues of the Stanley Holloway variety, or would accompany himself at the piano (he was a self-taught pianist) with a selection from his repertoire, some of the pieces of varying shades of blue. At times, particularly if children were present, he would cap his entertainment with an exhibition of conjuring tricks, the paraphernalia of which he would magically produce from the recesses of his pockets.

He died in hospital after a long struggle against Alzheimer’s disease. The funeral service was held at St Luke’s Church, Kislingbury, Northamptonshire, in the beloved parish in which Derry and Sally had spent their retirement. The ancient church was packed with mourners, reflecting all the aspects of Derry’s fruitful life - family, friends, fellow parishioners, patients, nurses, colleagues and ex-students.

Henry R Rollin

(Volume XI, page 369)

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