Lives of the fellows

Henry Savage

b.12 May 1928 d.23 April 2012
MB ChB Liverp(1954) DObst RCOG(1957) MRCP(1964) FRCP(1977)

Henry Savage, known as ‘Harry’ by all his family and friends, was a consultant physician in Macclesfield with an interest in the medicine of the elderly. He was born in St Helens, where he attended Cowley Grammar School, during which time he played rugby and cricket, but his main sporting passion was hockey, and he played for Lancashire whilst a schoolboy. He was torn between a career in medicine and the church, but, encouraged by his grandmother, he eventually chose to become a doctor.

After leaving school, Harry did his National Service in the RAF and represented the service at hockey. On leaving the RAF, he went to Liverpool University to study medicine (as an ex-serviceman the government paid his university fees). During the summer vacations he and a group of friends went on farming camps, and it was at one of these that he met his future wife, Pamela (née Gautrey).

He graduated in 1954 and, after house positions at Sefton Hospital in Liverpool, he went on to do a year in general practice in Stoke-on-Trent. It was during this time that he realised that the lives of the elderly could be greatly helped by much improved medical care, and his interest in geriatrics was born. He went on to do posts in geriatric medicine in Uxbridge and Harlow, after which he returned to Merseyside, as a medical registrar at Stanley Hospital and the Royal Infirmary, and then as a senior registrar at Clatterbridge.

In 1967 Harry was appointed as a consultant physician with an interest in geriatric medicine at Macclesfield District Hospital. He was determined that facilities, investigations and treatments for the elderly should be comparable to those for younger patients, and he developed a modern system for the hospital care of the elderly people of East Cheshire. With his dedication and drive he was able to oversee the building of two new wards complete with modern facilities. He was chairman of the Mersey branch of the British Geriatrics Society for several years in the 1970s, and his enthusiasm for the Society continued until his retirement.

He had a great interest in medical education and was the instigator of the formation of the East Cheshire Association for Medical Education, which established the first postgraduate medical centre. He had a great wish that we should teach medical students but, sadly, this was not achieved until after his retirement, when students from the universities of Manchester and Liverpool began to be taught. Harry was a very regular attender of postgraduate education sessions until his stroke in 2011.

In his career as a consultant physician he was one of ‘the old school’, to the advantage of his patients. Ward rounds were sacrosanct: he demanded quiet and the most senior member of the nursing staff was expected to accompany him and his team. He quite rightly believed that excellent communication between nursing and medical staff was paramount to his patients’ well-being.

Harry was a highly respected clinician among his colleagues, and sometimes a little feared by junior staff if they failed to live up to his high standards. He was a larger than life man in all respects and a champion of the nurses, many of whom regarded him as a legend in his own time. Although he didn’t suffer fools gladly, he was always fair.

He was always good company and loved a strong debate, which never ended in rancour, but which often finished with an amiable ‘agreement to differ’. His presence at any social event was a pleasure because he was a great raconteur and had a wonderful sense of humour.

Harry had a lifelong passion for sailing and the sea, and he co-owned a yacht with two friends. He was an excellent yachtsman, obtaining his Yachtmaster Certificate in 1978. He became a member of the Royal Institute of Navigation in 1984. For many years he was a highly regarded teacher of navigation at night school in Wilmslow. His crew consisted of many old friends, often from medical school, together with his colleagues from the hospital. The trips with him were very enjoyable, and he played the part of an old sea dog to perfection.

After his sailing days were over, he enjoyed retirement by maintaining an active social life, and enhanced his wide circle of friends by becoming a member of Alderley Edge Probus.

Throughout his life Harry held a strong Christian faith, attended church regularly and could quote chapter and verse of the Bible.

Harry was survived by Pamela, children Helen and Martin, and a grandson, Robert.

M A R Taylor

[Brit.med.J., 2012 345 5220]

(Volume XII, page web)

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