Lives of the fellows

Sydney Maudsley Vine

b.25 May 1919 d.6 April 2008
BA Cantab(1940) MRCS LRCP(1943) MB BChir(1947) MRCP(1952) FRCP(1974)

Sydney Maudsley Vine, known as ‘Sam’, was physician in charge of the department of geriatric medicine for the Reading area hospitals. He was born in Duke Street, Settle, Yorkshire, above the old post office, the son of the local veterinary, Sydney Bramley Vine, and a farmer’s daughter, Ann Armistead née Maudsley. His father hoped that Sam would become a vet, but for generations his mother’s family had been prominent in the medical profession, and Sam decided to follow in the footsteps of his great uncle, Henry Maudsley [Munk’s Roll, Vol.IV, p.172], who had founded the Maudsley Hospital in 1907.

In 1928, at the age of nine, Sam became the youngest ever pupil at Giggleswick School, Settle, where he remained until 1932, when he attended Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, after the family moved to Wakefield. He finally ended his school career in Maidstone Grammar School, Kent. He studied medicine at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and then went to Guy’s Hospital for his clinical training.

During 1943 and 1944, Sam worked in Bedford, West Suffolk and Southend general hospitals. He always loved the sun and, while working at Southend, was caught by the matron sunbathing nude on a flat roof during a break time.

In 1944, he joined the Royal Army Medical Corps. He was posted to Maryhill Barracks in Glasgow and was then sent to the Far East, on one of the ships that formed the first convoy to sail through the Mediterranean since the outbreak of the Second World War. When Sam disembarked at Bombay, India, he was posted to Dhaka where, in his capacity as medical officer, he did some original work on scrub typhus. It was in the late spring of 1945 when Lady Louis Mountbatten and her entourage were dining at the exclusive Dhaka Club that Sam was dared to ask her to dance. They danced and Sam then proceeded to alleviate her boredom by taking her back to his mess in a hired horse-drawn cab. Their cosy tête-á-tête was interrupted by an exasperated colonel, several distinguished officers and the military police. As a result, Sam was posted back to Calcutta.

He was then a medical officer on a hospital ship sent as part of an invading force led by HMS Sussex to Singapore. Once he arrived he was attached to the 69th Indian General Hospital which took up residence in the Queen Alexandra Hospital. As much of the fresh water on Singapore island had been poisoned by the Japanese and the island had been booby trapped, great care had to be taken by everybody.

In 1946, Sam was invalided back to England for several months. On his return to Singapore, he was attached to Changi Jail and was immediately assigned to witness the execution of prisoners and then certify their deaths. It was in Singapore that he met and married his first wife, Denise née Walden. However, he was called from his engagement party to attend a Japanese prisoner who had slit his own throat. Instead of pronouncing him dead, as was expected, Sam promptly operated and saved his life. As a bonus, the man was later spared execution.

When he returned from the Far East in 1947, he became a registrar at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge. He then went to work at Fulham Hospital and in 1952 passed his MRCP. In 1953 Sam decided to specialise in geriatrics and moved to Brighton. Four years later, he moved to Reading, Berkshire, where he became a consultant in geriatric medicine at Battle Hospital.

He published a number of articles during his career, including ‘Clinical pitfalls in the elderly’ (The Lancet 1955 Jul 16;269[6881]), which resulted in worldwide interest and correspondence, ‘Common diagnostic hazards in the elderly’ (J Am Geriatr Soc 1956 Sep;49[9]:859-65), ‘Parkinsonism’ (Br J Clin Pract 1956 Dec;10[12]:821-9) and ‘The community hospital. A pilot trial.’ Lancet 1971 Aug 7; 2[7719]:308-10).

In 1984 Sam retired from his Reading appointment. He quickly became bored with retirement and happily accepted a locum position in Poole Hospital, which he enjoyed so much that he also undertook locums in Swindon and Dorchester hospitals. It was during this time that he met and later married his second wife, Pat. By now he had three children – Rosemary, Christopher and Deborah, two granddaughters (Jo and Sam) and three great grandchildren (Lucy, Katy and Harry). Sam was very fond of his family and was avidly interested in all their activities, as well the many leisure pursuits he enjoyed with his wife – swimming, dancing, theatre-going, holidays and, of course, The Daily Telegraph crossword puzzle.

Although Sam’s health started to fail in his final years, it did not stop him living life to the full. He never complained and made light of any disquieting symptoms – refusing all medication, chemo- and radiotherapy in favour of quality of life. His last week was truly enjoyable: he and Pat danced at two tea dances, dined out on three occasions with friends and walked by the sea.

Sam is greatly missed by all his friends and family. He was a true gentleman in every sense of the word, quiet, unassuming and polite. As one of his old school reports from Maidstone Grammar stated in 1935: “Has always given of his best”.

Rosemary Critchley

(Volume XII, page web)

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