Lives of the fellows

Jack Westgarth Lacey

b.19 April 1911 d.15 August 2000
BA Cantab(1933) MRCS LRCP(1935) MB BChir Lond(1939) MA MD(1946) MRCP(1946) FRCPath(1963) FRCP(1970)

Jack Lacey was a consultant pathologist to the Chelmsford group of hospitals. The eldest son of an inspector of taxes, he was educated at Perse school and went on to Selwyn College, Cambridge University. However his adolescence was not easy, the separation of his parents putting an enormous burden on him to nurture his two younger brothers. The fact that both Brian and Dennis became successful and eminent doctors was a tribute to Jack's vitality and effort.

After two years at the London Hospital, Jack qualified, initially with the conjoint. He also met and married Sybil, a staff nurse. Two years of house appointments included that of resident pathologist. For the next three years Jack was a highly regarded and successful GP at Erith, on the Kent/London border.

In late 1940, both Jack and his new-born eldest son, Richard, had a remarkable escape when a bomb demolished the house. Sybil and Richard went to Peebles and Jack into the army, first in the Middle East and then in India, where he returned to his interest in laboratory work.

In 1946 he gained his MD for a thesis on malaria as a cause of non-specific reaction in serological tests for syphilis.

After the war, Jack pursued his career in pathology at the London Hospital, gaining the then mandatory MRCP in 1946. He was appointed consultant to several hospitals in the Chelmsford group in 1948.

He was at that time the only general pathologist, and over the years supported the appointment of many specialist colleagues, whilst retaining and developing his expertise in histopathology. This involved travelling to many hospitals. He also worked for the coroner on some well publicised murders.

Throughout his career Jack maintained the highest ethical and compassionate standards. He was immensely kind, dynamic and determined and obtained the best from his staff and colleagues by leadership and understanding.

For more than 20 years Jack and Sybil lived in a picturesque house at Little Bardfield in Essex that found its way to the front of chocolate boxes and calendars.

On one occasion Jack organised a cricket match between his laboratory staff and the local village team, and he himself batted at number eight. Although not a large man, he was for most of his life very fit, having rowed for Selwyn College.

However, outside his work and family his greatest passion was horticulture. The manure from the free range chickens and geese would be used to fertilise the vegetables and flowers. Frequently he would work on the land in the half dark, and his rewards from this hobby were prodigious, being a major winner at the local show for over 15 years. He was dubbed as 'the green fingered pathologist' by the local newspaper. He was also a dedicated family man, adored his cats, and appreciated antiques.

If he had any regrets it was over the disputes (mainly about beds) with his colleagues, and I suspect that his efforts as mediator may not have benefited his progression up the awards.

R W Lacey

(Volume XI, page 325)

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