Lives of the fellows

Cyril William Holmes Havard

b.8 February 1925 d.11 November 2014
BA Oxon(1949) BM BCh(1952) MRCP(1955) DM(1959) FRCP(1970)

Cyril William Holmes Havard (always known as ‘Bill’) was a consultant endocrinologist at the Royal Free Hospital, London. He was born in Wandsworth, London. His father, William Thomas Havard, had been a military chaplain during the First World War and was awarded a Military Cross in 1918. He went on to play rugby union for Wales and became bishop of St Asaph and then St David’s. Bill’s mother, Florence Aimée Havard née Holmes, was also a colourful character. A women driver for the Ministry of Munitions at the end of the First World War, she later kept a speedboat and started flying lessons in her seventies.

From his preparatory school (Old Hall School, Wellington), Bill went to Marlborough College, set up for the sons of Church of English clergy. In 1941 his father contacted Christ Church, Oxford, hoping Bill might enter to study medicine, but he was considered too young and, owing to the war, admission of medical students was restricted. After taking his Higher School Certificate, he joined the Navy in 1943, and in the Trinity Term of that year entered Christ Church for a short period as a Royal Navy scholar. After pre-commissioning training, he joined the anti-submarine training flotilla in Campbeltown, Kintyre as a midshipman. He later served as a sub-lieutenant on a minesweeper and at the war’s end had the honour of beaching his vessel at Milford Haven.

He re-entered Christ Church half way through the Michaelmas term of 1946 and graduated BA in 1949. He spent that summer hitchhiking in the USA with an Oxford friend, having sailed to New York on the SS Marine Tiger on 12 June. He started clinical studies at St Bartholomew’s in October. He captained the rugby club for the 1951 to 1952 season, and the Barts Journal extolled his ability as a back row forward (his father had been a prop). He continued playing for a while after qualifying in September 1952.

The Medical Directory for 1953 was the first to include an entry for Bill. The address given – Abergwili Palace, Carmarthen – was not changed for several years. His first house job, at Barts, in late 1952, was with William Eric Gibb [Munk’s Roll, Vol.IX, p.194] – recently appointed a full physician. For the first half of 1953 he worked with Eric Scowen (later Sir Eric) [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XII, web], the rugby club’s president, and for the second he was house physician to Charles Felix Harris (later Sir Charles) [Munk’s Roll, Vol.IX, p.194], the first full-time paediatrician at Barts. House jobs at the Brompton and Hammersmith hospitals occupied 1954 and most of 1955. Having acquired the MRCP, and a wife (he married Lillian Mary Marjorie ‘Mhairi’ Bott in the Priory Church of Saint Bartholomew the Great in the summer of 1955), he returned to Barts that November as a junior registrar to the senior physician Allan William Spence [Munk’s Roll, Vol.IX, p.496] – a thyroid expert and author of Clinical endocrinology (London, Cassell & Co, 1953).

Like his contemporaries on the professorial unit, he studied patients with unusual disorders with a view to publication, an activity he later encouraged in his own juniors. In 1957 he was the Cattlin research fellow at Barts. His first paper, ‘Thalassaemia minor in an English-woman’, appeared in the British Medical Journal in 1958 with Hermann Lehmann [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VIII, p.274] and Ronald Bodley Scott (later Sir Ronald) [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.521] as co-authors (Br Med J. 1958 Feb 8;1[5066]:304-5); many more followed. He was awarded the DM in 1959 for a thesis entitled ‘An investigation into refractory anaemia’. He joined the Medical Research Society, the Royal Society of Medicine, and the Association for the Study of Medical Education. He was a senior registrar at Barts from 1960 and in 1964 was appointed casualty physician and clinical tutor at the medical college.

In 1966 Bill transferred to the Royal Northern Hospital (where he led its clinical pharmacology unit) and to Coppetts Wood Hospital. His private practice moved to 139 Harley Street and the family relocated from Gipsy Hill to Canonbury in north London. Bill now began producing books as well as papers. The first of five editions of Fundamentals of current medical treatment (London, Staples Press) appeared in 1965; the last – as Current medical treatment (London, Bailliere Tindall) – in 1983. Two volumes of Lectures in medicine (London, Staples Press, 1967 and 1969) were followed by Frontiers in medicine (London, Heinemann Medical, 1973) and later by two editions of Laboratory investigation of endocrine disorders (London, Butterworth, 1979 and 1983). He was the editor of Black’s medical dictionary (London, A & C Black) for the 35th and 36th editions in 1987 and 1990. From 1966 to 1970 he served on the original editorial board of The British Journal of Hospital Medicine.

New End Hospital in Hampstead had a thyroid clinic from 1931 and, thanks to the London County Council, a comprehensive endocrine unit from 1955. Along with Coppetts Wood, it joined the Royal Free Teaching Group in 1968, and in 1971 Bill replaced Raymond (‘Bill’) Hoffenberg (later Sir) [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XII, web] who, after a brief stay at New End, left for Northwick Park Hospital. Along with Jean Ginsburg [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XII, web], the other New End endocrinologist, Bill moved into the new Royal Free Hospital after it opened to patients in October 1974, but he maintained links with the Royal Northern Hospital until 1990.

Bill persuaded Abbott Laboratories to fund a research registrar at the Free to study the menopause and its treatment. The person chosen (Glenis Scadding) was also interested in the problems of patients with myasthenia gravis who had undergone thymectomy, a form of treatment pioneered by Sir Geoffrey Keynes [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.319] at New End in the late 1940s, and continued by his successor J M (‘Nick’) Lange. Thymus tissue from myasthenics was thus readily available for study and with help from Howard Thomas, and later from Angela Vincent and John Newsom-Davis [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XII, web], the group made significant advances in understanding the immunological basis of the disease.

He was welcomed at the Free, which had previously had no bona fide endocrinologist, and soon played a prominent role in key local committees. He was vice dean of the medical school for the three calendar years from 1981 to 1983. At the University of London, he examined at the final MB BS from 1975 to 1993, and from 1977 began 17 years as an examiner for the Royal College of Physicians – of which he was a censor from 1983 to 1985. As an excellent bedside teacher, he was greatly loved by his junior staff and students – except for his insistence that on ward rounds everyone should use the stairs of the tower block rather than a lift. He was a good friend and, as a good organist/pianist, he could be relied upon to liven up a party.

He and Mhairi had four children (Mark, John, Sukie and Mary), but the quality of their marriage gradually deteriorated and separation was followed by divorce. In 1980, he married Lydia, a former Barts nurse, who was a widow with a son, Rob, of a similar age to Bill’s children. Towards the end Bill’s health deteriorated. Lydia had predeceased him and he was looked after at home for several years by Lucia, a devoted carer. He died from subacute bacterial endocarditis at the Royal Free and was survived by his four children (one of whom, John, is a Royal Free graduate) and eight grandchildren, two of whom are medically qualified.

Neil McIntyre

[BMJ 2014 349 7665 – accessed 20 July 2016]

(Volume XII, page web)

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