Lives of the fellows

Gerald Edward Honey

b.12 February 1924 d.12 September 1999
BM BCh Oxon(1947) MRCP(1948) DM(1957) FRCP(1970)

Note: the first obituary (below) was published in print form in Volume XI; the second was received after publication of the printed edition.

Gerald Edward Honey was a consultant physician at Broadgreen Hospital, Liverpool. He was born in Guernsey, the son of Percival John Honey and Edith May née Walden, the daughter of a quarrying engineer. He was educated at Elizabeth College in Guernsey, and then at Exeter College, Oxford University. Following house posts at the Radcliffe Infirmary, he became a junior medical registrar at the Churchill Hospital. From 1949 to 1951 he was a graded physician in the RAMC, as officer in charge of a medical division at a British military hospital on the Rhine.

p>Returning to England, he was appointed as a medical registrar at Radcliffe Hospital, and subsequently became a senior medical registrar at the United Oxford Hospitals. In 1961 he took up an appointment as physician to Walton Hospital, Liverpool, and a year later was made a consultant physician at Broadgreen Hospital in the city. From 1966 he was also a clinical lecturer in medicine at Liverpool University.

He married Ann Elizabeth Broll in 1951 and they had a son and a daughter. At the time of his election to the Fellowship of the College in 1970 he listed politics and golf as his interests.

RCP editor

Guernsey, Oxford, Liverpool is a route few, if any, physicians have ever followed. Gerald Honey was born in Guernsey and was evacuated to Buxton, Derbyshire, in June 1940 when the Germans invaded the Channel Islands after Dunkirk. He obtained a scholarship to read chemistry at Exeter College, Oxford, in 1942. He promptly converted to medicine and qualified in 1947. A dapper and trim 5ft 6ins, he was a cox in the Exeter College boat in the heads of the river race.

All his training was at the Radcliffe Infirmary. His senior counterparts were John Gleave, Harold Ellis, Gus Fraenkel and Sydney Truelove [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XI, p.582], and it was the latter who encouraged Gerald with his MD on the factors influencing the prognosis in myocardial infarction.

His National Service was spent in Germany as a graded specialist based in Wuppertal, where he was inspired by General Coad and with whom he was to commence his lifelong passion for golf.

In March 1961 Gerald was appointed to the Walton Hospital, Liverpool. All the post-war physician appointments to the Merseyside hospitals were local trainees and Sir Henry Cohen [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.106] sought to bring fresh talent to the city. Shortly after Gerald’s arrival, however, there was a staffing crisis at Broadgreen due to sickness and the premature retirement of senior physicians. At that stage, the university teaching of undergraduates was centred solely at the United Liverpool Hospitals in the city centre, but it had become clear with the increase in size of the medical school intake that further teaching facilities were needed. Planning was already underway for Broadgreen to become a teaching hospital, and to play its full part in undergraduate and postgraduate education. Because of the staffing crisis, Cyril Clarke [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XI, p.112], then reader in medicine, persuaded Walton to allow Gerald to do a few sessions as a locum at Broadgreen on a short term basis to tide over the crisis. It says much for Gerald’s many qualities that within days of his arrival at Broadgreen, his outstanding abilities were immediately recognised, and both the hospital and university departments were determined that he must be persuaded to stay at Broadgreen and a post was created for him.

He threw himself wholeheartedly into the job of preparing and planning for the student intake. He recognised that a good medical library on site was an essential nucleus for all teaching, and he fought to obtain the necessary funds to achieve this. As a result, Broadgreen still has one of the best medical libraries in a district general hospital.

He also obtained funds for other departments which he considered essential to a busy medical unit; in particular, he started a dietetics department for the first time on the site. He obtained the appropriate staffing and similarly built up and strengthened the ECG and physiological measurement department, as he did not wish the medical unit at Broadgreen to be dependent exclusively on the regional cardiac centre services also on the same site.

In parallel with these administrative tasks, he was at the same time building up an extensive and wide ranging practice, for above all Gerald Honey was a superb general physician. His fame soon spread, and he quickly developed a large practice, and indeed eventually and deservedly had the largest NHS and private practice in the region. His outstanding diagnostic abilities and profound wisdom in his approach to medical problems meant that he also had a burden of sick doctors and their relatives to deal with, but he was also in great demand by his physician colleagues to give an opinion on difficult cases. He always solved the problem, and delivered the answer with characteristic humility and good manners.

When teaching started at Broadgreen his great gifts in this area became apparent, and he was very popular both for undergraduate and postgraduate tuition. He could make the dullest subject interesting, and was always prepared to invest an immense amount of time in teaching and explaining things to his students. His ward rounds to final year students often went on late on a Friday evening when others were leaving early. All who recall his tutorials will remember his encouraging words: “yes, that’s right, that’s right”. He went down to the medical school to lecture and was a final MB examiner.

He carried a huge administrative load at Broadgreen and was such a popular and efficient chairman of the medical division that he was invariably re-elected, and filled that post for 15 years. He was involved in the planning of the new Alexandra wing for general medical and surgical services and contributed to many regional committees, one of which in particular required his tact in investigating the appropriateness of general practitioner referrals to hospital outpatients and emergency admissions. He was a keen supporter of the Liverpool Medical Institution and was its honorary librarian for several years. The fact that Broadgreen Hospital became an outstanding modern and efficient teaching hospital owes more to Gerald Honey than any other single individual.

Gerald married Ann, and they had two children. Their daughter is a general practitioner and their son is a financial adviser. Both work in London. In retirement, Gerald’s passion was golf, at Formby and West Lancashire. Holidays were to Europe, with brief return trips to Germany. He continued with private practice and advised the Swiss Life Insurance Company.

He came to see me with salty sputum and finger clubbing; an alveolar cell carcinoma of the lung was diagnosed, and we elected for masterly inactivity. Several pneumonic episodes were negotiated and golf sustained. He survived seven years until a cerebrovascular accident complicated a laparotomy for intestinal obstruction.

C C Evans

(Volume XI, page web)

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