Lives of the fellows

James William Partridge

b.18 August 1936 d.17 April 2009
BA Cantab MB BChir(1961) DCH(1963) DObst RCOG(1963) MRCP(1965) FRCP(1982)

James Partridge was a consultant paediatrician in Warwickshire. He died of mesothelioma which he believed to have been caused by exposure to asbestos during his medical training at the Middlesex Hospital.

Born in Leicester, his father, Oliver Geoffrey Partridge, was a bank clerk. Educated first at Crewkerne Grammar School, in Somerset and then at Bedford School, he won a scholarship to Christ’s College, Cambridge where he studied medicine before training at the Middlesex. Qualifying in 1961, he did house jobs at St Mary’s Hospital, Plymouth, followed by St George’s in Lincoln (1962), Warneford Hospital in Leamington Spa (1962), and Oldham (1963). From there he moved to Stoke Mandeville as medical registrar for a year and then, developing his interest in paediatrics, worked at Westminster Children’s Hospital.

For two years, from 1966, he was a senior paediatric registrar at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, then he joined the staff of the Middlesex and Central Middlesex hospitals in a similar position and was there from 1968 to 1971, when he was appointed a consulting paediatrician to the South Warwickshire hospitals. He also became an honorary senior lecturer at the Birmingham Institute for Child Health in 1981 and tutor in child health to Warwick University the following year.

He published various papers on neonatal disorders and a popular book on care of the newborn, The baby’s first day’s (London, Priory Press, 1973) which was re-issued three years later.

The 1970s were an interesting time to be in Leamington due to its proximity to the, recently founded, University of Warwick. Partridge and his wife opened their home to many to enjoy their hospitality, exchange ideas and foster various local projects. These included a women’s group crèche, the Other Branch alternative bookshop, the Bath Place community centre and a food co-op. He was also a Labour Councillor on the County Council from 1974 to 1978 and campaigned tirelessly for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. The welfare of society was important to him and, a staunch defender of the NHS, he refused to take private patients.

A keen gardener, he was a highly knowledgeable botanist and a fine chess player. He loved the arts and was very well informed as to contemporary culture. When listing his interests he described himself as ‘avoiding sport’.

In 1961 he married Eleanor Mary née Tinkler, who was the daughter of Ronald, an accounts clerk. They had a son, Ben, and two daughters, Sarah and Emily. Eleanor died of a cerebral haemorrhage in 1991 and the following year he married his second wife, Mary. In the year that he died, he published an article entitled 'Did working in a hospital give me cancer?' (The Guardian 18 April 2009) attributing his lung cancer to the asbestos he had absorbed during his years of training at the Middlesex, when he constantly went to and fro in underground passageways between the buildings insulated with that substance. He wrote of being in hospital for the first time in his life and of how he would not be tempted to sue the NHS for ‘a problem it was not aware of’. He said that he had found working ‘in the egalitarian environment of the NHS... immensely rewarding, being able to treat all children regardless of status.’ When he died, he was survived by Mary and his children.

RCP editor

[The Guardian - accessed 4 December 2009]

(Volume XII, page web)

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