Lives of the fellows

Anthony Babington Herring

b.23 September 1931 d.12 January 2018
BA Oxon(1952) BSc(1955) BM BCh(1957) MRCP(1959) FRCP(1976)

Tony Herring was a consultant neurologist in Cornwall. He was born in Mortlake, London, the first and only son of a schoolmaster, Charles Kemp Herring, and Beatrice Herring née Doudney. He was distantly related to the 19th century physician William Babington [Munk’s Roll, Vol.II, p.451].

When he was eight years old and soon after the outbreak of the Second World War, Tony moved with his mother to the Witterings on the Sussex Coast in order to avoid the bombing of London. It was lucky that they did as in 1941 their house was hit, but thankfully it was on a night when his father, who had remained in London, was not at home.

Tony spent the war years in the Witterings and spoke of the dog fights above the South Downs during the Battle of Britain. He attended Chichester High School for Boys, where he excelled academically. Tragically in 1950 his father died, leaving, in Tony’s words, his mother and himself ‘penniless’. In 1948 Tony had won a state scholarship to study at Brasenose College, Oxford and in 1952 he obtained a first class BA in physiology and won the Theodore Williams physiology scholarship. Next year, in 1953, he won the Theodore Williams scholarship in pathology and (shared) the Radcliffe prize in pharmacology. Research in the biochemistry department in Oxford (from 1953 to 1954) led to his BSc thesis in 1955 on 'The influence of Pyridoxine deficiency on certain enzyme systems'.

In 1954 Tony started clinical training at St Thomas' Hospital in London. In 1956 and 1957 he gained several medical school prizes, including the prestigious Mead medal for medicine. He was exceptionally bright and a very hard worker and he gained the top first in his year, and was able to finance his time at medical school by entering and winning academic prizes. Subsequently, Tony continued his studies at St Thomas’, where Jack Elkington [Munk’s Roll, Vol.V, p.116] (of a large medical dynasty) took the brighter medical students under his wing, ensuring his love of neurology and his subsequent career choice. He qualified BM BCh in 1957.

Tony's career followed the usual progression. He was a casualty officer, then a house physician and a senior house physician in the department of neurology and thoracic medicine at St Thomas’ from 1957 to 1959. He gained more general experience as a resident medical officer at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital (from 1959 to 1960), which involved significant neurology responsibilities with Nathaniel ‘Barney’ Alcock [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XII, web], who also covered the whole of Devon and Cornwall, leaving the young Tony to look after many patients. This helped him gain his MRCP in 1959. From 1960 to 1962, Tony carried out his National Service as a junior medical specialist at the Wheatley and Colchester Military hospitals. He was then a registrar in the departments of neurology and psychiatry at St Thomas', where he was a very effective teacher of the subject to undergraduates who could opt for neurology as an additional firm. From here he was appointed as a house physician at the Maida Vale Hospital and the Hospital for Nervous Diseases in Queen Square (from 1964 to 1965) and then as a senior neurological registrar at the London Hospital (from 1965 to 1967).

Tony had come to like Cornwall and in 1967, having calculated that the neurologist in his favourite Chichester was not that old and still in good health, he took the post of consultant neurologist to the Cornwall and Plymouth clinical areas, working almost exclusively in Cornwall and based in Truro. He lived with his mother and, apart from an occasional visit to Plymouth, boasted that he never crossed the Tamar again.

Tony liked to work alone and spent most of his week in clinics at the many small miners' hospitals in Cornwall, a truly extensive outpatient service supplemented by the use of a few beds in Truro and of the investigative facilities that the neurosurgeons in Plymouth extended to his patients. He wrote two papers – ‘Action of pronethalol on Parkinsonian tremor’ (Lancet. 1964 Oct 24;2[7365]:892) and ‘Sarcoidosis of the central nervous system’ (J Neurol Sci. 1969 Nov-Dec;9[3]:405-22).

After retiring, Tony devoted his life to looking after his mother until her death aged 103 in 1998. At home, he was an avid reader. Somewhat reluctantly he accepted an old computer and became very proficient and hence these skills were put to great use with his later involvement in the tennis club and the University of the Third Age, the U3A.

He had often talked about playing tennis and he joined Truro Lawn Tennis club. He played regularly at the club nights and waxed lyrically about the Friday night barbecues where he was made most welcome. He was soon on the committee and a very active member of the club, providing cakes and cooking cheesy chips for the children. He was not a great mixer and socialiser, but he felt his last 20 years were the happiest of his life. He was a keen gardener and amassed many unusual plants. Tony died peacefully and was cremated in Truro.

Christopher Gardner-Thorpe

(Volume XII, page web)

<< Back to List