Lives of the fellows

Peter Stuart Tweedy

b.24 January 1920 d.5 July 2002
MB BS Lond(1942) MRCP(1949) MD(1952) FRCP(1973)

Peter Tweedy was one of the first generation of geriatricians who followed in the footsteps of Marjorie Warren, taking on workhouse infirmaries, chronic sick wards in municipal hospitals, and other places where old people were becoming 'warehoused' and transforming them into dynamic geriatric services.

He was the son of Ivan Marshall Tweedy and Irene Barbara Ethel Gantner. His father was a marine engineer at Swan Hunter shipyard in Newcastle upon Tyne and his mother was a ballet dancer who had had to give up her profession because of hip problems.

Peter was educated at Tynemouth Grammar School and started his medical training at St Bartholomew's Hospital in 1937, graduating in 1942. He undertook fire-watching during the London Blitz - on occasion being stationed at a great height on the top of the Duke of York's monument in Pall Mall.

Following his house surgeon appointment in orthopaedics at Luton and Dunstable Hospital he joined the Royal Army Medical Corps in September 1942. He served for about four years, mainly in the 88th anti-aircraft regiment, 160 field ambulance and 8th (British) field ambulance. He landed in Normandy on 9th June 1944, the third day after D-Day, and made his way through Europe, visiting Nijmegen in Holland in 1945.

In Nijmegen he had a fateful meeting with a young Dutch girl, Anna Maria Johanna Schoon whose father was a veterinary surgeon. Anna Maria was a student teacher of physical education at time of great deprivation and suffering in Holland. Peter and Anna Maria met at a dance organised by the British Army and maintained a relationship until his unit was posted to Egypt. They corresponded for two years and in 1947 met up again when they both went on a sailing holiday in Holland. Anna Maria was a devoted Roman Catholic who felt that her life partner must be someone who shared her faith. Peter was an agnostic from an Anglican background. Back home in London Peter was persuaded by a mutual friend to find out more about Roman Catholicism. He went on to embrace the faith so wholeheartedly that it governed the rest of his life. Peter and Anna Maria married in 1949.

Peter's career developed: he was a registrar in medicine and neurosurgery at the Newcastle General Hospital and a senior registrar in medicine at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead. He was then a senior demonstrator in pathology for two years at Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle upon Tyne, and spent a further three years there as senior registrar in medicine. During this time he obtained his MD and his membership of the College.

His MD thesis on the pathogenesis of valvular thickening in rheumatic heart disease was published in 1956 in the British Heart Journal. It involved a study of 26 hearts from patients with rheumatic carditis. This work challenged the then theory that valvular changes in acute rheumatic fever were altered fibrin or degenerative collagen, suggesting that organising thrombotic deposits were the cause.

Another publication (with D W Ashby) reported on Freidreich's ataxia combined with diabetes mellitus in two sisters. They were only the seventh family reported in the literature at that time, though the combination is now well recognised.

In 1959 Peter was appointed consultant physician in geriatric medicine to Stockport and Buxton Hospital- an appointment which he held for 26 years. Geriatrics was emerging as a new specialty at that time and as was the custom he was given charge of (in his case) nearly 600 beds in four different hospitals - Saint Thomas's, Stepping Hill, Cherry Tree Hospitals in Stockport and Cavendish Hospital in Buxton. The largest number of beds was in St Thomas's Hospital, the former Stockport workhouse.

He set about organising a dynamic geriatric unit, providing acute care and assessment, rehabilitation, a day hospital and a specialist stroke unit. He started as a single-handed consultant with some junior medical support. When he retired in 1985 there was a team of three consultants. At the time of writing there are six consultants. His appointment also involved teaching medical students of Manchester University, where he became an honorary lecturer.

In 1975 grumbling pain in his left hip flared up and he used a wheelchair until he was given a new hip. The condition proved to be inherited through his mother and was unknowingly passed on to some of his children and grandchildren. Some years later he developed lumbar spondylolysis that became so severe that he had a spinal fusion. This was not a success and in 1980 he spent the best part of a year lying on his back. Towards the end of that time he returned to hospital duty, at first doing ward rounds on a trolley and thereafter returning to the wheelchair for the rest of his life.

Despite these disabilities his post-retirement life was active and productive. He chaired a group which raised over £1 million to build a rehabilitation centre in Stockport called Oakwood, primarily for head injury patients. He welcomed her Majesty Queen Elizabeth from his wheelchair for its opening. He also became active in palliative care as part-time honorary medical officer to St Ann's Hospice in Cheadle.

Apart from medicine his other activities included starting a Stockport branch of the Catholic Advisory Marriage Council. He was an enthusiastic member, with five other friends, of the 'Pickwick Club' - meeting for lunch on Thursdays and dedicated to eating in all the pubs within five miles of Stockport. They achieved about 300. Peter was also a talented pianist, spending hours at a time at the piano in his early life, and in the last 30 years playing sonatas with colleagues who were amateur violinists and with an ensemble of recorder and mandolin players.

His last year or two were marred by increasing ischaemic heart disease and small cerebral infarcts. He was faithfully cared for by his wife Anna Maria, who survives him, and supported by his four children.

John Brocklehurst

[Brit.med.J., 2002,325,602]

(Volume XI, page 588)

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