Lives of the fellows

Alan Proctor Grant

b.27 July 1918 d.1 April 2004
CBE MB BCh BAO Belfast(1940) MD(1946) MRCP(1949) FRCP Ireland(1953) FRCP(1968)

Alan Grant will be remembered as the first Ulster president of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland. He was born in Dublin, but moved to Northern Ireland with the partition of the country. He qualified in medicine at Queen's University, Belfast, graduating with honours in 1940. He served with the Royal Army Medical Corps in North Africa with the 8th Army and joined the American First Army in the Anzio landings. He was twice mentioned in despatches. He was awarded an MD with commendation in 1946.

On discharge, Alan was appointed to the staff of Belfast City Hospital and the development of medical services in this institution became his life's work. Alan helped plan the new City Hospital, a building he described as literally having foundations on the graves of victims of famine, fever, cholera and other epidemics. As senior physician, he 'topped out' the hospital tower in 1979.

Alan developed a specialist interest in diabetes and was responsible for the development of services for this condition within the hospital. He remained very much a general physician and his astute clinical wisdom was often sought by a new generation of physicians for whom he was a colleague and mentor. Behind a somewhat intimidating exterior in his long white coat and heavy moustache, he was concerned for patients and looked after the welfare of his juniors. The good junior could pace the ward round, get him past the old soldiers (otherwise their recollections would delay progress) and, on summer evenings when the Glen class was racing at Whiterock on Strangford Lough, make certain everything was tidy so that the 'Big Man' could make a timely exit. His interest in sailing was lifelong, he had a masters ticket in navigation and for years he provided instruction to the junior members of Strangford Lough Yacht Club.

Alan had little interest in private practice, devoting his efforts to the hospital and to the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland. His commitment to the College meant frequent visits to Dublin at a time when driving the 100 miles was much more difficult than today - returning late at night across the border with security checkpoints and diversions provided a few hair-raising experiences. He was elected president in 1977, the first from Northern Ireland in the 300 year history of the College. He came to understand some of the nuances of Dublin medical politics where what was not said was often more important than what was said at council meetings. His presidency brought more involvement of northern physicians in the work of the College and he was a founder member of the Corrigan Club, one of whose aims was to bring together physicians from the north and south. The destruction and trauma of the troubles appalled him. One of his most difficult times was when as physician to the Maze prison he provided what care he could to those on hunger strike.

He met his wife Jane Pugh, a nursing sister, during his army service, and they were married in Naples in 1944. They had three children, David, Charles and Fiona.

Randal Hayes

[Brit.med.J., 2004,329,56]

(Volume XI, page 227)

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