Lives of the fellows

James Nelson Montgomery

b.6 November 1922 d.1 May 2003
MB Ch BAO Belfast(1945) DCH(1948) MD(1950) MRCP(1950) FRCP(1970)

James Nelson Montgomery, known as ‘Monty’, was a consultant paediatrician in Plymouth. He was born in Belfast, the son of Hugh, a master mariner, and Ann née Nelson, and was educated at Stranraer Academy and Stranraer High, whose motto ‘dum tempus habemus operemur bonum’ (while we have the time, let us do good) he certainly fulfilled. He went on to Queen’s University, Belfast, and the Royal Victoria Hospital, where he obtained his MB BCh.

After house appointments in Belfast, he crossed the water to a post as house physician at Booth Hall, Manchester. This was followed by a job at New Cross Hospital, Wolverhampton. He then became a house physician at the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street, London.

National Service beckoned and he joined the Royal Air Force as a graded medical specialist for two years. He then returned to London as a registrar at the Belgrave Hospital (King’s) for a year. He went on to Great Ormond Street, where he became the longest-serving resident assistant physician. A senior registrar post at St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, followed. During this time he obtained a Fulbright travel award, which took him to the Childrens Medical Centre, Boston, where he became chief resident in the out-patients, and to Harvard as a teaching fellow. At St Mary’s he developed a community paediatric service with Tom Oppé [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XII, web]. He is remembered as having an “unpretentious and friendly personality, which endeared him to all”. There was never too much he could do, both for the sick child and the other carers.

In 1960 Monty married Bridget (née Tyrer), a Great Ormond Street nursing sister, who had spent a year at Mulago Hospital in Kampala. Over one weekend, they married, left London and arrived in Plymouth. Monty had been appointed to a single-handed paediatric consultant post at Freedom Fields Hospital, which had been vacated by Hugh Jolly [Munk’s Roll, VIII, p.246]. He boasted that he obtained his consultant post without a single publication to his name, but he did contribute to a paper on maple syrup urine disease (Brit.med.J 1964 May 16; 1[5393]:1293). It was a very busy job with only one registrar and one senior house officer to help him. The job included being an honorary paediatrician to Dame Hannah Rogers School for severely disabled children at Ivybridge, a post he shared with Freddie Brimblecome from Exeter. Monty was appointed a civilian consultant to the Royal Naval Hospital, Stonehouse, and was also a University of Bristol clinical tutor to the Plymouth area. He was no academic, but a practical clinical paediatrician. He was an excellent teacher of the young in the team, nursing and medical, and engendered a huge loyalty from his staff. Those who worked with him remember his Irish accent, often difficult to interpret on ward rounds, and the endless time and trouble he would take talking to anxious parents. He was joined by a second consultant colleague in 1966.

Monty was a family man with a strong Christian faith, and a teetotaller. Bridget and Monty had three children, Ruth, Hugh (now a doctor) and Rachel. Monty retired in 1983 and remained very busy. He went on a couple of medical trips to Mulago Hospital in difficult times, and he supported the local charity, Cancer and Leukaemia in Childhood. He enjoyed his garden and the local Probus Club. He chaired meetings of retired doctors at the Plymouth Medical Centre for several years. Monty died of multiple myeloma. St Andrews, the main church in Plymouth, was full for his Thanksgiving Service. When Freedom Fields Hospital was knocked down for a town house development, some granite bollards were erected by the City Council at the site, and one is inscribed ‘Montgomery’.

Michael Inman

[Brit.med.J.,2003 327 108]

(Volume XII, page web)

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