Lives of the fellows

David Ridley Humphreys

b.8 August 1916 d.11 April 2011
MB ChB Birm(1938) MRCP(1940) MD(1943) FRCP(1963)

David Ridley Humphreys was a consultant physician in Birmingham. He was born in Birmingham, the son of John Alfred, an insurance company manager, and his wife, Jessie Hilda née Scattergood. The eldest of their three children, he was educated at King Edward’s High School and won a scholarship to study medicine at the Birmingham Medical School when he was 17. After qualifying in 1938, he did house jobs at the Birmingham General Hospital and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, becoming resident medical officer at the Queen Elizabeth in 1939 and running the pneumothorax clinic. When the Second World War began he attended to military casualties and, when the drug was introduced, was appointed penicillin officer. At this time he began to develop his interest in thoracic medicine.

He enlisted in the RAMC in 1945 to do his National Service and, having done a course in tropical medicine the previous year, was posted to India. In Bikaner he was a consultant physician at the Japanese Prison Camp Hospital and was put in charge of 50 beds used by Japanese patients. He later served in a hospital ship and in Indian hospitals in Calcutta and Darjeeling where his lasting memory was of dining in a Maharajah’s palace in the open air when the guests included the author E M Forster.

On demobilisation in 1948 he was appointed a consultant chest physician to the United Birmingham Hospitals and, in 1960, to the mid-Worcestershire group of hospitals. He also became Chief Medical Officer to the Wesleyan and General Assurance Society, a member of the Ministry of National Insurance Appeals Tribunals, medical advisor to the Midland Bank and to Boots Ltd.

He was a passionate botanist and joined the Botanical Society of the British Isles (BSBI) in 1964. The following year he bought a derelict property, Krill Court, on the borders of Radnorshire and Herefordshire. From then on, he spent weekends there restoring the building and exploring the area. On his retirement in 1979, the family moved to live there permanently. He had joined the Herefordshire Botanical Society the preceding year and he worked with diligence and enthusiasm to record the plants of the area and produce maps of their localities, which greatly enhanced the Society’s publications. He served on their committee for many years and was also a member of the Welsh branch of the BSBI and a trustee of the Radnorshire Wildlife Trust.

Another passion was music. He played the oboe and the piano, was past chairman of the Birmingham University Musical Society and, with his wife, established the Halcyon Choir which continued for some time to meet at Krill. They were also instrumental in founding the Presteigne Festival which has featured as an important musical event for thirty years.

In 1944 he married Helen Christine née Mason, a fellow medical student who shared his enthusiasm for music. She became a medical officer for the Family Planning Association. Their twin daughters were born while he was in India and he did not see them for two years. They had two further daughters, Philippa (later Philippa McInerney) and Nicola. Never happier than when out in the field, he continued botanising, always wearing a lens, throughout his eighties until he suffered a devastating stroke in 2007.

RCP editor

[Botanical Society of the British Isles www.bsbi.org.uk/DRHumphreys.pdf - accessed 2 September 2015]

(Volume XII, page web)

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