Lives of the fellows

William Clark Walker

b.29 July 1927 d.27 September 2007
MB ChB Edin(1950) MRCP Edin(1956) MRCP(1963) MD(1966) FRCP Edin(1971) FRCP(1976)

William Walker was a consultant physician at Pinderfields Hospital, Wakefield. He was a gifted and enormously committed physician who inspired many junior colleagues with his enthusiasm for medicine.

He was born in Annan, Scotland, the second son of John Walker, a highly respected, though rather stern, local general practitioner. William had decided that he would be a doctor as early as the age of five and never wavered in his determination to pursue this career. He aspired to go to Oxford, but his father, as a true Scot, refused to support any university placement other than Edinburgh, whose medical school William duly entered in 1945.

After graduation, William did his house jobs at Northampton General Hospital, and then moved on to do his National Service in the Royal Navy as a surgeon-lieutenant at HMS Dolphin, Gosport.

He did further house jobs at North Middlesex Hospital, London, and in the respiratory diseases unit at the Northern General Hospital, Edinburgh, before becoming a registrar in the department of respiratory diseases, Edinburgh University. He then worked at the Central Middlesex Hospital, London, before moving to Yorkshire in 1960 as a senior registrar in general medicine at the General Infirmary, Leeds. He remained in Yorkshire for the rest of his working life.

In May 1966, William was appointed as a consultant physician in general medicine at Pinderfields General and Clayton hospitals, Wakefield. William had a great breadth of knowledge in general medicine, but after appointment he further developed his expertise in cardiology, and established the coronary care unit at Pinderfields Hospital. He was modest and unassuming about his clinical skills, but his wisdom and expertise were greatly respected and frequently sought by his fellow consultants, junior colleagues, and local general practitioners.

Second only to patient care, William had a passion for medical education and was instrumental in setting up the postgraduate centre at Pinderfields Hospital, where he served for several years as clinical tutor. William was a dedicated supporter of the NHS, and of the hospitals in which he worked. He spent many hours planning the development of the medical unit and how new consultant appointments might be achieved.

William’s dry wit and tremendous enthusiasm for medicine inspired students, junior colleagues and other hospital professionals. His lectures to nurses, combined with the care and compassion evident in his clinical work accounted for the popularity of nursing posts on his ward and the coronary care unit. He took great interest in the careers of his juniors, and was proud when they achieved success in the MRCP and moved on to specialist posts.

William was highly regarded by his medical colleagues in Yorkshire, and in 1981 he was proud to be elected as the deputy RCP regional adviser for Yorkshire, and subsequently as regional adviser from 1984 to 1986.

Apart from his clinical skills, William will be remembered by his colleagues for his sense of humour and ability as a raconteur. He was always ready with an appropriate anecdote, delivered in a gruff Scottish accent, with the pipe used for dramatic emphasis, and always with a twinkle in the eye.

Outside work and especially in retirement, William was able to indulge his love of golf. He was proud to be elected captain of Alwoodley Golf Club. In the later stages of his final illness his friends took him there for a wonderful but emotional afternoon, on what he and others realised (though unspoken) was ‘a final look’. He was a keen sports fan, having been a mean spin bowler in his youth, and supported Scotland at rugby and soccer with great loyalty and fortitude. He was a keen and very knowledgeable jazz fan.

William married Patricia (née Beal) in 1953 during his National Service. They had three daughters (the youngest now a consultant in palliative medicine), and six grandchildren. After his close family, medicine was the most important thing in William’s life – he felt privileged and fulfilled to be part of this profession. His final illness due to malignant disease was relatively short and borne with dignity. The large congregation at his funeral at the church of All Saints, Ripley, was fitting tribute to the affection and high esteem with which he was regarded by his colleagues and many friends.

Bill Burr

(Volume XII, page web)

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