Lives of the fellows

Christopher Grahame Fagg

b.9 March 1916 d.29 November 2002
MRCS LRCP(1938) MB BS Lond(1938) MD(1947) DCH(1947) MRCP(1947) FRCP(1970) FRCPCH(1997)

Grahame Fagg, one of the first generation of consultant paediatricians, had an extraordinarily active brain. It gained him access to Bart’s at 16 and remained vibrant until his sudden death at the age of 86.

He was born in Penge, South London, into a large family with meagre resources. Educated at Whitgift School, Croyden, rumour has it that he wanted to study physics, but there was no money for A levels. A second, though less appealing option, was to get a scholarship to a London medical school. Bart’s was the only school still offering the exam, and that was the next day!

Grahame won a scholarship and qualified at 21, having to wait, so I am told, until he was 22 to register. House jobs out of the way, he joined the RAF, married his wife Christine and was posted to India. He told me years later that he had been short-listed to go to Burma – not being picked probably saved his life. After India he returned to East Anglia, working as a medical officer in air force hospitals. His decision to specialise in the new discipline of paediatrics suited his pioneering spirit. He returned to London, working at Great Ormond Street and elsewhere.

He settled in Hitchin, gaining the post of paediatrician at Luton Children’s Hospital, and later at the Lister Hospital in Hitchin and then Stevenage. He had a passion for his work: he was a superb clinician and teacher. His nursing staff loved him and remained loyal for years. He always had time for his junior staff. He developed a great interest in the relationship between posture and disease, drawing on and contributing to the Alexander School. He had a way with children and was never happier than when immersed in outpatients.

He had another interest which developed into a passion, an interest that gradually grew and became so strong that it caused his retirement, albeit at 64. His passion for sailing was kindled in India, but blossomed in his late thirties, when he bought a sailing dinghy. Next he bought a 21ft fibreglass hull and, after two years of ingenious boat building, his first cruising boat was launched. For this boat, back in 1959, he designed and installed a totally new type of reefing foresail. Unknown to him, he had invented the roller reefing jib, now used by most cruising yachts in the world. If only he had patented it - but that was not his style.

He retired at 64 to sail the Atlantic on his 30ft sloop. He sold his last boat finally at 80, but borrowed it from the new owners for a couple of summer cruises and was still sailing to the Channel Islands and France two months before he died. He was a magnet, indeed a mentor, for sailing friends and was never short of crew.

Music, computing and travel became more important in later life. Above all, Grahame was his own man, doing his own thing. He had no airs or graces. He leaves a wife, four children and six grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Christopher Guy Fagg

[Brit.med.J.,2003,326,340]

(Volume XI, page 183)

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