Lives of the fellows

Michael James Clarke-Williams

b.22 February 1927 d.28 April 2011
MRCS LRCP(1951) MB BChir Cantab(1953) MRCP Edin(1962) FRCP Edin(1972) FRCP(1984)

Michael James Clarke-Williams was appointed as a consultant physician in geriatrics to the Portsmouth district in 1963, one year after his friend and colleague, Philip Wilkins [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XII, web]. His appointment was not atypical of those days: they took over 530 beds from one general physician with only a nominal interest in the care of the elderly.

Michael was born in London. His father, Alfred Ronald Clarke-Williams, was a barrister who was severely injured in the First World War rescuing an injured comrade. His mother was an actress. They had two sons. Michael was educated at Allhallows School, Rousdon, Devon, Pembroke College, Cambridge, and St Bartholomew’s Medical School. He qualified in 1951.

He was a house physician, and then a geriatric and medical registrar. From 1952 to 1954, he carried out his National Service in the RAMC, mainly in dermatology. Following his demobilisation, he held posts at Rochford General Hospital, St Bartholomew’s and Whipps Cross.

In 1959, Michael settled in Eye in Suffolk as a senior house medical officer in geriatrics working with John Agate [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XI, p.3], an inspiring pioneer in the art of transforming inactive units which, along with a thick skin was, in those far off days, possibly the most essential skill a geriatrician needed to acquire.

In 1963 Michael was appointed to his post at Portsmouth. The two consultants in Portsmouth had to cover beds in two district general hospitals in the city, as well as literally hundreds of beds in four peripheral units stretching the 35 miles from Gosport to Liphook. Michael insisted that they see all patients at least once a week.

He was both fearless and forceful in his advocacy and pretty unwilling to change his views. As the junior doctor representative on the then consultants and specialists committee, I first saw this trait in action when Michael monopolised the meeting arguing that an intended day hospital should not be sited on an upper floor of the administrative block. In this he was completely unsupported and totally right. When I returned to Portsmouth a few years later the brand new and ground level Amulree Day Hospital had just opened.

At meetings he usually spoke without notes. His unamplified voice could be heard in the furthest corner. When necessary, he could, with no preparation, state well-ordered views or codify clinical information as if he was reading from a well-rehearsed script.

He was at one time or another treasurer of the British Geriatrics Society, examiner for the diploma in geriatric medicine and the Edinburgh fellowship, clinical tutor in the Portsmouth district and a clinical teacher at Southampton Medical School. In 1992 he was awarded the president’s medal of the British Geriatrics Society.

With John Clement Small he wrote Endocrinology (London, Heinemann Medical, 1972], and contributed chapters to other textbooks. He had a special interest in the rehabilitation of the elderly amputee, and wrote articles on this subject.

He had a profound belief that elderly medicine should continue to have a major role in the care of the ‘long stay’ patient, and was saddened that his successors were abandoning this ‘duty’.

Michael was interested in politics and, while living in Suffolk, became mayor of the borough of Eye. He was a competent carpenter, brilliant gardener and a passionate prize-winning philatelist who became chairman of the Portsmouth Philatelic Society. He was also an enthusiastic painter of watercolours.

In 1952 he married Shirley Hinton and they had four children, Marion, Richard, Jeremy and Jane. The death of his wife in 2006 brought much sadness to his final years.

John Grunstein

(Volume XII, page web)

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