Lives of the fellows

Robert Charles Stewart Dick

b.26 July 1913 d.10 May 2004
BA Cantab(1935) MB BChir(1937) MRCP(1946) MRACP(1949) FRACP(1958) FRCP(1974)

Charles Dick was the first medical superintendent of the Princess Margaret Hospital, Christchurch, New Zealand. He was born in Stevenoaks, Kent, the elder son of a doctor, Robert James Dick, and his wife Hilda née Groom. He was educated at New Beacon Preparatory School and won a scholarship to Sherborne School, Dorset, where he learnt the rugby skills of position, possession and pace. He proceeded to Clare College, Cambridge, where he won a rugby blue, before moving to Guy's Hospital. His reputation as a centre three quarter flourished and, from being a man to be watched and possessor of a beautiful swerve, he became, according to The Times, "one of the finest centres in his day". He was capped 13 times for Scotland between 1935 and 1938, and scored a try against the All Blacks in 1936.

Dick graduated in medicine in 1937 and held resident appointments at Guy's, where he was strongly influenced by Sir Arthur Hurst [Munk's Roll, Vol.IV, p.509], with whom he later published a paper in the Quarterly Journal of Medicine. In 1939 he was a medical officer with the Royal Artillery in France, before being posted to the Military Hospital for Head Injuries in Oxford. In 1942 he served in India with a mobile neurosurgery unit in the South East Asia Command, reaching the rank of major. Ten years later, in New Zealand, he became colonel in command of the 3rd General Hospital of the Royal New Zealand Army Medical Corps. In 1958, he was appointed honorary physician to the Queen, a post he held for 10 years.

In 1940, Charles Dick married Ann Fell, whose father was headmaster of St George's Preparatory School in Wanganui, New Zealand. After the war years, he was not in good health and thought he was rather distant from the mainstream of British medicine. He therefore chose to emigrate to New Zealand, taking over the practice of a physician in Christchurch. He became assistant physician at Christchurch Hospital in 1947 and played an important part in treating poliomyelitis during a serious epidemic in 1956. His committee activities included being chairman of the medical staff association, chairman of the Blood Transfusion Service, and a long-serving executive member of the Canterbury Medical Research Foundation. In 1954 he co-authored a paper on the treatment of gastro-duodenal haemorrhage published in the British Medical Journal.

His final career move was in 1959, to take on a completely new challenge, as the first medical superintendent of the Princess Margaret Hospital, Christchurch, New Zealand. It was a surprise appointment as Dick had little administrative experience, but he adapted well and during his 19-year tenure the hospital grew from strength to strength, and gained a worthy international reputation. It was a place where the professional staff enjoyed working, standards of care were high, and research and teaching flourished. Dick continued to work in the wards, setting the highest clinical and ethical standards, and being greatly respected by his patients.

Charles was primarily a family man, devoted to his wife and children and they to him. His daughters, Jenny and Sue, were highly accomplished skiers, while his son Peter climbed mountains in the Southern Alps. His other son, Ian, commanded the RAF Red Arrows aerobatic team. Charles loved his adopted country, but perhaps was less enthusiastic about the style of modern professional rugby. The family owned a beautiful holiday home on the shores of Lake Tekapo, close to the Southern Alps, where he pursued his interests of walking, bird watching, restoring clocks, gardening, reading and even writing doggerel verse. Ann died in 2000 after 60 years of married happiness and contentment. At the age of 90 years he attended a reunion of Princess Margaret Hospital staff; his handsome features were still present.

Charles Dick was buried in the peaceful Burke's Pass Cemetery, near Tekapo and the mountains which meant so much to him. The family motto is At spes infracta - Yet hope is undaunted: Charles was true to his faith.

Sir David Hay

(Volume XI, page 154)

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