Lives of the fellows

John Royden Davies

b.27 July 1943 d.25 October 2010
MB BS Lond(1968) MD(1979) FRCP(1984)

John Royden Davies (‘Roy’) was a consultant physician and cardiologist at the Royal Northern and Whittington hospitals in London. Born in the tiny Welsh village of Howey, near Llandrindod Wells, his father was Sydney Davies, a civil servant. He described his childhood as ‘defined by enormous freedom’ as he and his two siblings would be packed off with their sandwiches to roam the countryside for hours. Living in a two-up, two-down house, his father kept pigs and used to blow the bladders up to make balloons for their entertainment.

Educated at the County Grammar School in Llandrindod, he studied medicine at London University and the Middlesex Hospital. Qualifying in 1968, he did house jobs at the Southmead Hospital in Bristol from 1971 to 1972 and then returned to the Middlesex as registrar, then senior registrar and lecturer. During this time he spent a year (1977) as a research fellow at Cornell University Medical Centre in New York. In 1978 he was appointed a consultant physician and cardiologist at the Whittington and Royal Northern hospitals where he stayed for 27 years.

He was one of the first clinicians to be appointed to both hospitals and started at a time when there were a lot of financial pressures and great uncertainty including external threats to their future. The first chairman of the combined Royal Northern and Whittington Hospital Medical Committee, he subsequently became the consultant representative on the district management team at a time when the overarching ethos was ‘consensus management’. Heavily involved with planning the improvement of the Whittington site, he also led the review that culminated in the construction of the Great Northern building into which the services of the Royal Northern Hospital moved in 1992.

A very busy clinician, he had on-call responsibilities, was part of the ICU rote and helped to run the busy cardiovascular services. An energetic fundraiser, he managed to raise considerable sums to purchase extra equipment for the ICU and CCU. A colleague recalled how he went fundraising for the hospital dressed in a pink teddy-bear suit and came back with £10,000 and, in 1989, he organised a walk from the Whittington to Mansion House which raised £75,000. One of his patients was the actor, Paul Eddington, after whom a ward was named when he gave a very generous donation.

When he retired in 2005, the hospital threw a This is your life style send off for him during which he recalled leaving his newborn baby daughter in 1981 to rush of to the scene of an horrific accident on the underground when many Arsenal fans were injured by an escalator malfunction. Colleagues recalled his Celtic passion, high intellect and mischievous sense of humour. His students were grateful for his generosity with his time and he was regarded with great affection by his patients.

Moving back to Wales on retirement, he was able to indulge his enthusiasms for sheep farming, shooting and collecting. A man of many quirks, he had a penchant for Roger and Gallet soap, Armani aftershave, Gordon’s gin, white lilies, Gitanes cigarettes, his Panama hat and ‘fastidiously shined shoes’.

In 1972 he married Katharine Mary née Walmsley, a medical practitioner and fellow of the Royal College of Radiologists. Her father was a headmaster. They had four children, Claire, Angharad, Rhiannon and Tomos, who recalled happy days with a father who took them wherever he went and provided memorable roast beef Sunday lunches. Katherine predeceased him and he was survived by his children.

RCP editor

[Camden New Journal and; The Link – all accessed 9 June 2015]

(Volume XII, page web)

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