Lives of the fellows

Thomas Rowland Hill

b.14 January 1903 d.14 April 1967
MRCS LRCP(1926) MB BS Lond(1826) MRCP(1928) MD(1929) FRCP(1950)

Rowland Hill was born in 1903, son of Thomas Holt Hill and Elizabeth Jane Burleigh. His father was an official of the Bank of England who died when Rowland was a boy. He was educated at Brighton College before proceeding to Guy’s Hospital where he qualified. During his studies he developed an interest in diseases of the nervous system and was appointed to the staff of the West End Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in 1930, to which he remained attached up to the time of his death. He also was appointed as a Neurologist to Southend General Hospital in 1932, where he was in great demand with the local practitioners. He was on the staff of King George’s Hospital, Ilford. In 1940 he joined the RAMC as a medical specialist and served in West Africa, being invalided out in 1943. He married Janet Sybil Cumming in 1942. There were no children.

Rowland Hill was a large man in all senses of the word. He was gifted with a very able clinical approach and was regarded among his colleagues as a capable and precise diagnostician. A great deal of his work took him into contact with the mentally disturbed and he became expert at giving evidence in the Law Courts, where he was a formidable witness, incapable of being disturbed by cross-examination.

His reputation as a jurist brought him to give evidence before the Royal Commission on Capital Punishment, as he had spent many years in the study of the treatment of delinquency. This aptitude for debate and for politics became a major interest and in 1945 he stood as a Liberal candidate for Cambourne in Cornwall, and only lost the seat by 2,000 votes. His interest in the political field was carried into medicine, and at the start of the Health Service he represented the North East Metropolitan Region as the Chairman of its Regional Consultants and Specialists Committee. This took him to the Central Consultants and Specialists Committee of which he became Chairman in 1950. For a number of years he was a valuable member of the Board of the North East Metropolitan Region and he served on several Hospital Management Committees, only retiring when ill-health took its toll.

In committee Rowland Hill was a magnificent debater, clear in his argument and almost Johnsonian in his manner. As Deputy Chairman of the Joint Consultants Committee, he could argue with any Civil Servant or Minister without hesitation and often with dramatic effect. His only defect in this field was that he did not always realise that he had made his point, and consequently sometimes pressed discussion a little too far. He served on many Committees concerned with the National Health Service and one of his last and most important tasks was to influence the document that is now known as the Cogwheel Report on Medical Administration.

He was a member of the Reform Club and frequently entertained there as a gracious host and connoisseur of food and wine. In moments of well-earned relaxation he loved sailing and was a popular member of the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club at Burnham.

In person he was more shy than most people imagined, but interested in anything that came to his notice. His last few years were dogged by ill health but he resisted any thought of giving up work and many of his activities. His juniors were pleased and proud to work for him and he would help them to the utmost if he thought they were worth it.

The gong that summons Fellows to dinner in the College was given by Rowland Hill’s widow in his memory.

Sir Thomas Holmes Sellors

[Times, 17 & 21 Apr 1967; Brit.med.J., 1967, 2, 317; Lancet, 1967, 1, 960]

(Volume VI, page 341)

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