Lives of the fellows

Denis Bernarr Irwin

b.8 September 1917 d.24 June 2011
MB BS Lond(1940) MRCS LRCP(1940) MRCP(1947) MD(1948) FRCP(1973)

Denis Irwin was a consultant physician in geriatrics to the Bournemouth and Christchurch hospitals, Dorset. He was born in Workington, in what was then Cumberland, where his father, Edwin Arnold Irwin, was a dental surgeon. His mother was Minnie Irwin née Stubbs. He was educated at St Bees School. After pre-clinical studies at King’s College, London, he qualified in 1940 at the newly-built and reopened Westminster Hospital, which had replaced the old hospital opposite Westminster Abbey. He then completed appointments at Westminster as a house physician and casualty officer.

Like most of his contemporaries, he was then caught up in the Second World War, serving throughout in the RAMC, attaining the rank of captain. His wartime experience was varied and included service in a light field ambulance unit, a military hospital and a troopship.

He returned to Westminster Hospital after the war, where he became a senior registrar and chief assistant to William Ernest Lloyd [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VI, p.297] and Dudley Hart [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XI, p.249].

Professionally he was very conscientious and imperturbable. He was an excellent diagnostician and a colleague recollects his accurate diagnosis of a difficult neurological case that had eluded a neurologist from the National Hospital. He had a gentle, quiet manner with, when appropriate, a humorous undertone.

At the time he completed his post as a senior registrar there was an extreme shortage of available consultant appointments, which forced some senior registrars to emigrate or change specialties. Denis, in fact, took up an appointment as senior physician at the General Hospital, Bridgetown, in Barbados, which he enjoyed with his family for several years before returning to England.

He was appointed as a consultant in Dorking and later at Shrewsbury, before moving south as a physician in geriatric medicine at Christchurch Hospital. His friendly and empathetic approach and clinical ability made him a popular and much valued member of staff.

He had many interests outside medicine, including music, ornithology, photography, angling and sport. He regularly attended Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra concerts. Soon after he qualified he married Betty (née Alker), whom he first met when she was a nursing sister at Westminster Hospital. He was survived by his daughter Denise and son Nigel, a general practitioner, and their families.

Justin Clark

(Volume XII, page web)

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