Lives of the fellows

Maurice George Philpott

b.21 September 2014 d.7 February 2014
MB BS Lond(1943) MRCS LRCP(1943) DCH(1944) MRCP(1946) MD(1952) FRCP(1971)

Maurice George Philpott was a consultant paediatrician in Hull. He was born in London, the son of Ernest Walter and Lillian Mary Philpott née Carsberg. His mother’s parents owned George Carsberg and Son, a firm of surgical instrument manufacturers, which had been in business since 1777, the running of which Ernest took over in the early 1920s.

The family moved to Welwyn Garden City and Maurice attended Hitchin Boys’ Grammar School. Here he developed a deep interest in science, and early on decided he wanted to be a doctor, an unsurprising choice in view of the family business and several medical antecedents. His other great interest was the school scout troop, where he developed practical skills and a love of travel, particularly with a spartan edge.

In 1937 Maurice was accepted as an undergraduate at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, where he was a diligent student. At the outbreak of the Second World War he was evacuated to Cambridge, and later Bishop’s Stortford. Although excused military service until after qualification, he was a member of the London University Officer Training Corps and was engaged in fire watching and other civilian wartime duties. By the time he qualified in 1943 he had developed an interest in paediatrics, passing the diploma in child health in 1944. He always had a great fondness for his alma mater, and attended reunions until none of his contemporaries where able to attend.

His first post was as a house officer in the children’s department at Bart’s under Alfred White Franklin [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VIII, p.166], who became his early mentor. He went on to hold posts in the Emergency Medical Service, in Bishop’s Stortford and Hitchin, and then returned to Bart’s children’s department. From 1945 to 1946 he was a clinical assistant at the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street.

In 1946 Maurice joined the Royal Army Medical Corps, where he developed further skills, before being posted as a physician on the hospital ship Oxfordshire. The ship was employed repatriating sick allied and former enemy forces to various countries. Several trips to Hamburg were followed by two much longer voyages to the Far East, including Japan, where Maurice visited the devastated Hiroshima. These were probably the greatest adventures of his life, and were recorded on 9.5mm cine film.

On discharge from the Army in 1948, Maurice gained a training post at Great Ormond Street, where he built up further paediatric knowledge, before being appointed tutor in child health at the University of Sheffield under the renowned Ronald Illingworth [Munk’s Roll, Vol.IX, p.259]. Here he made good friends with others concerned with child care, including Donald Beasley from New Zealand, Spyros Doxiadis, later Greek Minister of Health, and John Lorber [Munk’s Roll, Vol.X, p.307], who became professor of paediatrics in Sheffield. Maurice completed his MD in 1952 and in late 1953, at the age of 34, he was appointed as a consultant paediatrician in Kingston upon Hull.

Paediatric services in the city were at a fairly basic level. With his senior colleague, Tom Morton-Stewart, and later Richard Pugh [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XII, web], services were developed over the ensuing decades. Maurice rapidly entered the wider medical circle in Hull, becoming secretary, chairman and president of Hull Medical Society, and serving on many professional and hospital committees. His main base was Victoria Hospital for Sick Children, but he also had responsibilities on the neonatal unit at Hedon Road Maternity Hospital, wards at the Western General Hospital, and took outpatient clinics in Driffield and Bridlington. In those days of difficult transport for patients and little diagnostic sophistication, domiciliary visits at the request of GPs were a commonplace occurrence. Maurice would travel to far-flung parts of the East Riding in all weathers armed with little more than a stethoscope and a fine diagnostic eye. His special interests included streptococcal sensitive conditions, childhood enuresis, and particularly haemolytic disease of the newborn. At one stage he devised a machine to reduce the tedium of replacement transfusions, and his family recollect prototypes being worked on at the kitchen table using diluted Ribena to simulate blood.

In the early 1960s plans were afoot for the new Hull Royal Infirmary, to be built in Anlaby Road. Maurice was an important member of the team planning paediatric services. The progress of construction of the hospital was recorded on cine film, by now with sound commentary, and it was a proud moment when the children’s wards on the 12th and 13th floors were opened in 1967.

He was involved in the training of a great number of future paediatricians, many from overseas, and was still in contact with colleagues in India, Pakistan, Turkey and Nicaragua into his later years. Family holidays were often combined with meeting up with former colleagues. These involved driving across great tracts of Europe, camping en route, to destinations as far as Helsinki, Athens and Istanbul. Other holidays were taken at the family cottage at Gillamoor in North Yorkshire.

Maurice ceased practising on his 65th birthday in 1984, and it turned out that his retirement was almost as long as his time as a consultant. In 1945 he had married Constance Quarmby, a theatre sister from Yorkshire, and they subsequently had three children – Nicholas, Susan and Prudence. These later provided the couple with six grandchildren and four great grandchildren. After retiring, Maurice widened his social group from a former largely medical base, becoming a member of Probus, a bonsai society and a walking group. He was still a regular attendee at Hull Medical Society meetings. He was an avid reader of the British Medical Journal until his final couple of years, at which point he claimed to be unable to understand a word of the publication apart from the obituaries.

In October 2002, Connie suffered a major stroke, which left her severely disabled until her death in 2010. She needed continuing nursing care, and moved to a residential home. Maurice religiously visited her daily, and his devotion gained him great admiration from all who knew him. In October 2012 Maurice entered a care home himself, where he spent the remainder of his life in relative contentment.

Nicholas Philpott

(Volume XII, page web)

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