Lives of the fellows

William Horace Wolfenden

b.25 September 1926 d.24 November 2008
MB BS Sydney(1951) FRCP Edin(1955) FRACP(1966) FRCP(1975)

William (Bill) Horace Wolfenden was born in Sydney. His mother was Bertha Emily (née Thomas) and his father was Edgar Sydney Wolfenden. Edgar was an accountant and actuary who was prominent in business circles with multiple directorships, including a seat on the Sydney Hospital Board. Bill’s brother Peter died of a heart attack at the age of 43 years. He had no other siblings.

Bill was educated at Edgecliff Preparatory School and Sydney Grammar School where he excelled academically and rowed in the First Four. He was President of the school’s very active Music Club and a member of the Cadet Corps. The Senior Year Book of the Faculty of Medicine stated ‘We have regarded Bill as an extremely likeable chap, possessed of a keen spirit of comradeship which we appreciated right through our school days.’ He was reported to be an enthusiastic golfer and a member of the Rose Bay Surf Club who was frequently found among the early surfers at Bondi.

While a medical student he was elected to the Liberal Club Committee. He was a student at Sydney Hospital and, after graduating in 1951, was appointed to the resident staff of that hospital. He left for England in 1952 to study general medicine at the Postgraduate Hospital, Hammersmith, and Neurology at Maida Vale Hospital.

At Hammersmith Hospital he met a charming young pharmacist Janet Olwyn Jones, who in 1956 became his wife. They had four children. The older son, Mark, [is] an agriculture graduate and a designer of street furniture in Suffolk, England. Their second son, Hugh, is a cardiothoracic surgeon in Sydney. Their daughter, Lisa, is a psychology graduate but is better known as a dog trainer and owner of the boutique ‘Dogs in The City’. Their younger son, William, is an accountant and owner of a business specialising in documentaries with underwater photography.

Bill and Janet moved from London to Sydney in November 1956 when Bill was appointed Medical Registrar at Sydney Hospital, a post that he occupied until 1959 when he became a member of the Honorary staff.

In 1960 and 1961 he became a locum for the consultant neurological practice of Jim Lance who was departing on a Travelling Fellowship to Boston. Shortly after Bill took over, word passed around the building that a disgruntled patient had threatened to kill Jim Lance. Shortly afterwards a patient of his coming to visit Bill had an epileptic fit on the stairs. The secretaries in the building heard loud thumping and choking sounds and, assuming that the worst was happening, telephoned the police. During this drama Jim was happily unaware and relaxing on the flight to the United States. Bill later bought Jim’s consulting rooms in 133 Macquarie Street, a gracious old townhouse now the centre of the Royal Australian Historical Society.

Bill had a distinguished career as a physician and neurologist to the Sydney Hospital, St Luke's Hospital and, in his latter years, to the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

In retirement he read a lot of history and continued his love of music, an interest he shared with Janet. Bill’s main hobby was collecting watches and clocks which chimed the quarter hour in his living room. It is of interest that Bill’s forebears who came to Australia in the 1830s from the north of England were watchmakers. Perhaps there is a genetic link there.

We have fond memories of his dignified demeanour, his kindness and his sense of humour over a period of about 50 years. He gave outstanding service to Sydney Hospital. He was survived by Janet, his four children and five grandchildren.

J W Lance

[Reproduced, with permission, from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians’ College Roll]

(Volume XII, page web)

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