Lives of the fellows

Joseph Milne Anderson

b.13 August 1942 d.3 January 2013
MB ChB St And(1965) MRCP(1969) FRCP(1983)

Milne Anderson was a consultant neurologist at the Midland Centre for Neurology and Neurosurgery at Smethwick. Born in Elgin and brought up in Forfar, he was a Scot and proud of it. His father, Joseph Anderson, was a joiner. Milne was educated at Forfar Academy and then went on to study medicine at St Andrews, where he qualified in 1965.

He held junior posts in Dundee and Arbroath, before moving to Birmingham in 1969, initially as a registrar in neurology. He was appointed to his consultant post in 1977.

Milne always had an affinity with the ‘common man’ and a mistrust of power, be it managerial or political. His intellect and natural authority might have led to medical leadership, but he disliked settling for compromise and devoted himself to his patients and his students. His workload was immense: he managed to provide a comprehensive neurological service to a busy general hospital, East Birmingham (later Heartlands), while also making a substantial contribution to the regional hub, first in Smethwick then at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham.

He had an infallible clinical nose for what needed to be pursued, while giving sympathetic and plausible reassurance to the worried well. His succinct entries in medical notes told his colleagues exactly what they needed to know. His bond with his patients was demonstrated by their willingness to be presented at his matchless clinical grand rounds, which demystified neurology for a generation of students and junior doctors.

He pursued an interest in infections of the nervous system, which led to him co-authoring Neurological infections (London, Saunders, 1988) with Martin Wood [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XI, p.637]. When published it was the most comprehensive British book on the subject. He also contributed a chapter on infection to Brain’s diseases of the nervous system (Oxford, Oxford University Press).

Tall and bearded, Milne could play the fierce highland chieftain, a part that went down well during his year in Saudi Arabia, when he practised and taught clinical neurology in Riyadh. His hosts loved him, as much for the pleasure of seeing revealed the warmth and fun just beneath the exterior as for the lucidity of his teaching on a subject they had supposed to be formidably difficult.

While in Birmingham, he thought nothing of returning ‘home’ for a weekend’s hill-walking or canoeing. When the weather was truly atrocious, he instead indulged his passion for the study of history and politics, amassing a substantial library, its most prized volumes bound by their owner.

He retired to Kinlochleven. He died suddenly, soon after returning from a bicycle ride. He was survived by his wife of 50 years, Patricia Mary Anderson née Manson (‘Pat’), their three sons (Peter, Rory and Boff), a daughter (Fiona) and 12 grandchildren.

Christopher Ellis

[The Courier 24 January 2013 – accessed 1 July 2013; The Forfar Dispatch 5 February 2013 – accessed 1 July 2013]

(Volume XII, page web)

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