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Biographical entry Kilpatrick, Francis Rankin (1908 - 2005)

MRCS 1933; FRCS 1936; MB BS London 1934; MS 1939; LRCP 1933.

18 September 1908
Windsorton, Cape Province, South Africa
19 August 2005
Urological surgeon


Francis Rankin Kilpatrick, known as ‘Kilp’, was a urological surgeon in London. He was born in Windsorton near Kimberley in Cape Province, South Africa, on 18 September 1908. His father had been a draper’s assistant who emigrated from Northern Ireland to South Africa in 1897, where he flourished, ending up as the owner of his store. He returned only once to Ireland, to bring back his wife, Annie Rankin. He died in 1923, leaving Annie to bring up Kilp (then only 14) and three other children.

Kilp and his brother John went to England before the war to study medicine at Guy’s Hospital. Kilp qualified in 1933, and held house jobs and junior surgical posts. He left Guy’s to be RMO at Putney Hospital for a few years, where his reputation grew, and he was invited back to Guy’s. But for the war he would have been appointed to the staff (according to his backer, Nils Eckhoff). Instead he was appointed surgeon to the Emergency Bed Service, working at Guy’s and the Wildernesse (where he was surgeon superintendent). At the outbreak of war Hedley Atkins was responsible for the surgical organisation: Kilp and Sam Wass were the surgical registrars who took turns to deal with the emergency surgery throughout the Blitz, the anaesthetics being provided by another South African, Abe Shein. Those days have been vividly described: the casualties were operated on in an improvised four-table operating theatre in a cellar. The operations went on day and night, even though the hospital itself was heavily damaged. On five occasions the daily total of admissions was more than 100. This intense activity was to be repeated later in the war during the V1 and V2 attacks of 1944 and 1945.

After the war Kilp was appointed consultant surgeon to Guy’s in 1946 and to St Peter’s Hospital in 1948. At St Peter’s Kilp was worshipped by the younger RSOs for his meticulous technique of retropubic prostatectomy, which in his hands was notably gentle and bloodless, and for the endless pains he took in teaching. In a day when some surgeons were famous for their arrogance, few people were so courteous and friendly to people of every walk of life. His juniors like his patients regarded him as their friend.

He married Eileadh Morton, a radiographer, in 1939. They had three children – Stewart, Bruce and Fiona. He retired to Fittleworth, where he developed a keen interest in bird-watching and photography. He died on 19 August 2005, aged 96.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Information from Stewart Kilpatrick; BMJ 2006 332 240; Paine, D. ‘The Doodlebug Era,’ Guy’s Hospital Gazette, September 1990; Bishop, P M F. ‘Guy’s and the German War,’ Guy’s Hospital Gazette, July 1945].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England