Lives of the fellows

Archibald Cabbourn Boyle

b.14 Mar 1918 d.17 June 1998
MRCS LRCP(1941) MB BS Lond(1946) DPhysMed(1947) MD(1949) MRCP(1949) FRCP(1959)

Archibald Cabbourn Boyle, or ‘Bill’, was a consultant rheumatologist at the Middlesex Hospital. He was born in London, the son of Arthur Hislop Boyle, a businessman, and Flora Ellen Boyle (née Sanders). Educated at Dulwich College, he was captain of fencing for three years. Bill always wanted to be a doctor but, when his father died suddenly in 1935, he thought he had better earn his living. He decided to join the Stock Exchange and invested in a bowler hat. His family apparently fell into fits of laughter when they saw him in it. Fortunately, a sympathetic bank manager helped him on his way to Bart’s, where he qualified in 1941.

Joining the RAMC immediately after he qualified, he was a command specialist in physical medicine by the end of the war. On being demobbed, he became registrar to Frank Howitt [Munk’s Roll, Vol.V, p.202] at the Middlesex. After a brief period as consultant to the Bromley Group of Hospitals, he was appointed to the consultant staff at the Middlesex in 1954.

Possibly the proudest day of Bill’s professional life was in 1965 when Her Majesty the Queen came to open Arthur Stanley House. The Middlesex, at the inception of the NHS in 1948, had battled to take over the Arthur Stanley Institute which had been founded by the British Red Cross in 1931 as one of the first centres dedicated to the care of rheumatic patients. Bill had the vision to see that a physical merger of his still quite small department, housed in prefabricated accommodation at the Middlesex, with the Arthur Stanley Institute would benefit all. He obtained the necessary funding from the Hospital and the Arthritis and Rheumatism Council to erect a six-floor purpose-built Arthur Stanley House dedicated to rheumatology, immunology, occupational therapy and physiotherapy.

Bill’s department started to grow rapidly. Young doctors attracted by the modern facilities, the research opportunities and Bill’s reputation, flocked to join him. By the time of his retirement he had had a hand in training one third of all the rheumatologists in the UK and many overseas rheumatologists, particularly in Australasia. Under his guidance combined clinics with the orthopaedic surgeons flourished to the advantage of patients, physicians and surgeons alike. His introduction of a regular weekly session with the radiologists also taught both specialties a great deal.

Bill was himself a very kind man, but also strikingly handsome and charming, with a lovely speaking voice. He was blessed with accomplished diplomatic skills and an innate flair for administration. Foremost though, he excelled in the art of clinical medicine. Extensive and expensive investigations were not his style. He would take a detailed history, perform a thorough examination, make the diagnosis and, with great compassion, would explain it and the options for management to the patient.

His students loved him for he was a gifted teacher and many registrars, housemen and medical students, nurses and physiotherapists have reason to be grateful to him. In the 1970s and 1980s he had great fun with the medical students and his woman colleague at the weekly teaching session. He would take on the role, tongue in cheek, of the male chauvinist pig, even going so far as to wear the appropriate tie. His colleague’s role was to defend the female sex and, if possible, to put him down, a situation which, if it worked, he would accept quite happily. Reasoning that medical students needed to learn to speak in public, he was instrumental in giving the medical students a regular slot to talk on a subject of their choice; the subjects they chose were rarely medical and ranged from the theory of relativity to an extremely well-researched paper on the best pubs in W1. Hardly very subtle, but all enjoyed it and even in those days when attendance was not compulsory, there was nearly always a full house.

Bill’s wise guidance, whether on problems with medical management, administrative matters or purely personal difficulties, was much sought after and freely given to colleagues, junior doctors or indeed to any member of the hospital staff.

As a holder of office Bill was a formidable ally or opponent, depending on which side of the fence one found oneself. As chairman of the medical committee at the Middlesex, he was well respected for his wide and at times fierce summing up of a situation or a policy. In the professional societies, he was equally acknowledged for his wisdom and clarity of forward planning. Not for nothing did he find himself elected to every single honorary office, including the presidency, of the British Association of Physical Medicine (between 1956 and 1958), a society later to become the British Association of Physical Medicine and Rheumatology (where he was also to become president from 1970 and 1972). At the Royal Society of Medicine, he presided over the section of physical medicine between 1956 and 1958. In addition, he served on numerous national and international committees.

Outside medicine, his passion was gardening and his garden was invariably perfect. Bill, however, was only 99.9 per cent perfect. Sadly for him, he was subject to occasional fits of depression, the first sign of which was that his normally bold handwriting suddenly became minuscule. There was sighs of relief all round when normal service and size were resumed.

His first wife Patricia was killed in a flying bomb incident in 1944, his second marriage to Evelyn was dissolved and, in 1983, he married June. He died from prostatic cancer.

Mary Corbett


(Volume XI, page 72)

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