Lives of the fellows

Richard Vernon Stone

b.7 April 1920 d.14 March 2014
MB BChir Cantab(1943) MRCP(1945) MD(1950) FRCP(1972)

Richard Stone was a general physician at Park Hospital Davyhulme, now Trafford General Hospital, Manchester. The day after he died, aged 94, open copies of The Lancet and The BMJ remained strewn across the couch at his Cheshire home, an indication of how he never lost the desire to keep up with the current trends in medicine. He also maintained an interest in general knowledge. Until the day he died his family and friends knew better than to challenge him at The Telegraph crossword or argue a historical fact. Richard was born in Chorlton-cum-Hardy in Manchester, the son of William Stone, a chartered accountant, and Dorothy Stone née Garnett. His interest in medicine began as a teenager at Haileybury College, Hertfordshire, and he switched from classics to science. He went up to Clare College, Cambridge, in October 1938, was secretary of the college squash club and played for the Trundlers cricket team.

Unfortunately his time at Cambridge was cut short when war was declared. In 1939 he applied to the London Hospital, Whitechapel, for his clinical work, but in April 1940 he received a note saying the hospital was being evacuated because of the bombing. The hospital was going under canvas in Essex and was not taking students. He was told to take the letter to his nearest major hospital at home and ask if they could educate him.

He returned home and approached Manchester Royal Infirmary (MRI) for hospital training. He was in the MRI when a bomb hit the hospital killing two radiographers and destroying the X-ray department. A second bomb knocked out the auxiliary lighting, so they had to rely on candles and torches. Whilst still a student he set up a clinic in All Saints with one of the junior hospital sisters, with access to a local GP should they require any medication. He took a job as a house physician at Salford Royal Infirmary, but as all doctors were expected to help with the war effort, he joined the Merchant Navy as senior ship’s surgeon. (He had been told that the Royal Navy had enough doctors.) He took part in numerous convoys, witnessed the horrors of bombings at sea, supported the D-Day landings and picked up survivors of prisoner of war camps in Singapore.

On his return to England he became a member of the Royal College of Physicians in 1945. From 1950 to 1974 he was a general physician at Park Hospital, Davyhulme, now Trafford General Hospital. He also acted as consulting physician for several local enterprises, including Kellogg’s, Rolinx, Lancashire Cricket club and Manchester United. On retiring from the NHS, Richard went on to consult privately in south Manchester until he was 82. He was appointed as the medical referee at Manchester Crematorium in 1951, a post he held until three months before his death 63 years later.

Richard earned the respect of all as a physician and teacher, and numerous doctors recall with pride the influence he had on their lives. He was a courteous man and always treated his patients and colleagues with dignity and respect. Although he had an interest in cardiology and diabetes, he was essentially one of the last general physicians. A colleague remembers ‘Richard was perhaps the most complete doctor I knew.’ He could be relied upon to give patients an attentive hearing and thorough examination before arriving at an opinion, which was invariably helpful and greatly appreciated by patient and referrer alike. He is remembered as a brilliant diagnostician who worked hard and expected hard work from all the members of his team. He was a dedicated if exacting teacher who encouraged his juniors to extend themselves and reach their full potential.

Richard married Lorna Ridge, known as ‘Bunty’, in 1944 and they had four daughters, Judith, Charlotte, Deborah and Prudence. Bunty died a month after their golden wedding and he subsequently married Jean Unna, adding another daughter, his stepdaughter Rosemary, and going on to enjoy another happy chapter of his life.

In the words of a longstanding colleague at Manchester Crematorium: ‘Richard was a husband, father, grandfather, keen gardener, consultant physician, medical referee and friend to many, but above all he was a true gentleman.’

Elaine Tamkin

(Volume XII, page web)

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