Lives of the fellows

Percival Thomas Bray

b.17 July 1912 d.13 June 1988
BSc Wales(1933) MB BCh(1936) MRCP(1945) DCH(1946) FRCP(1968)

Percy Bray was born in Newport, when it was in Monmouthshire, and died at Cardiff where he had spent most of his professional life. He was the son of Arthur Ward Bray, a commercial traveller, and his wife Florence Isobel Edwards.

Percy Bray went to Cardiff to read medicine and soon showed his true academic colours. A man of great intellect, it was no surprise to those who knew him that he graduated with first class honours and obtained the gold medals in surgery, medicine and pathology. He spent two years at the Cardiff Royal Infirmary before joining the RAMC for the duration of the war.

After demobilization he obtained his membership of the College, followed a few months later by the DCH, and later becoming a Fellow. On obtaining a Nuffield fellowship in child health, he joined the staff of the Hospital for Sick Children in Great Ormond Street to prepare himself for a career in paediatrics. Many of the staff there were to become his lifelong friends.

On his return to Cardiff, as assistant paediatrician, he was founder member of the newly formed department of child health. He was a staunch supporter of the academic department, and his appointment took him to many hospitals in the former county of Glamorgan. He took a great interest in cystic fibrosis, lecturing about it both at home and abroad and travelling to Israel, the Philippines, and East Germany; becoming a well known and loved leader in a multidisciplinary research and service group in Cardiff.

Percy was a man of great charm; not only did he have an acute puckish wit but also a dry sense of humour which came through his many anecdotes; he would be in a room only a few minutes before generating outbursts of laughter. One was always left wondering how much was fact and how much was poetic licence; but the story stuck. He was also a man of scholarship and would read the latest journals while others were taking their lunch. It was little wonder that he had the edge on them in any departmental grand round in the later afternoon. He was by nature a man of logic - and blossomed after taking a university course on the subject; he confounded all, and left his sparring partners speechless.

Before specializing in paediatrics, he had had an interesting life as a general practitioner in Port Talbot. On one occasion, when he was delivering a lady of a child, in her farmhouse, he found it was necessary to use forceps and became aware of an interested observer, who was sympathetic to the mother’s expressed distress and was grunting in unison. He could not distract his attention from the mother, and assumed that the observer was the grandmother. He was somewhat startled to find that it was the domestic goat which had joined them to ensure fair play.

Bray was one of the last paediatricians to deal with an outbreak of smallpox in Great Britain. He also took charge of any paediatric work which was required after the Aberfan disaster.

His interests, outside medicine and his family, were ornithology and cricket. He married Betty Wyn Hughes, the daughter of a clerk in holy orders, in 1937, and was inseparable from her. They had two children, a son and a daughter. He was survived by his wife, children and three grandchildren.

OP Gray

[Brit.med.J., 1988,297,612; Lancet, 1988,2,407-8]

(Volume VIII, page 39)

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