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Biographical entry Wilkinson, Francis Owen Wharton (1924 - 2004)

MRCS and FRCS 1955; MB BS London 1947.

29 November 1924
30 May 2004
General surgeon


Francis Wilkinson was a consultant general surgeon with an interest in urology to the Macclesfield and District Group of Hospitals. He was born in Southampton on 29 November 1924, the son of the Reverend Charles Wilkinson, a Church of England priest, and Jane née Penny. He spent most of his early years in Dorset, and as an only child forged many friendships with local youngsters of his own age with whom he kept in touch throughout the years. Sent to Ravenscroft preparatory school at seven, he then entered Haileybury until it was time to proceed with his medical education.

In his youth he was an active sportsman, playing rugby football and squash racquets. When at home in Dorset he ‘worked ferrets’, thus supplementing the family diet, but also helping to increase his own pocket money.

He trained at the London Hospital and, before qualifying, first experienced “man’s inhumanity to man”. He was one of a group of students who were asked to go to Belgium for relief work after the Second World War. Instead, they were diverted to Belsen, which had been liberated by the American Army. His abiding memory was the appalling smell that he was always able to recall with horror.

After qualifying, he completed several house appointments at the London Hospital and at Wanstead Hospital, where he was a casualty officer. He then entered the Royal Navy for National Service, serving as a surgeon-lieutenant on HMS Mauritius during the Korean War.

Francis Wilkinson decided on a surgical career and, after passing the FRCS, he undertook a registrar post with a urological bias in Preston. His higher surgical training was centred on Manchester, where he became an assistant to Michael Boyd on the professorial unit, and was seconded to Salford Royal Infirmary to continue his senior registrar training.

In his academic post he researched and published on gastric function before and after portosystemic anastomosis and also idiopathic megacolon. At a later date, his interest in urology led him to do some clinical research on cryosurgery of the prostate gland. He helped the Spembly Company produce the prototype of a cryosurgical apparatus, a rather cumbersome model that eventually led to a larger and more-effective multi-purpose machine.

When established in his consultant post, relaxation came from sailing and field sports, including pheasant and partridge shooting, red deer hunting and salmon fishing in Scotland. An animal lover, he enjoyed working with spaniels when out shooting and supported his children’s interests in pets, ranging from horses to snakes.

Francis was fond of good food and wine, and enjoyed cooking. This led him to go on several ‘cordon bleu’ courses, much to the benefit of his family and friends.

He was a member of the Royal Society of Medicine, and enjoyed the winter skiing meetings of the section of urology. He regularly attended the British Association of Urological Surgeons (BAUS) annual meetings and those of the Manchester Medical Society. Francis enjoyed travel and was able to visit India and Sri Lanka, finding the latter country had changed little since his naval days. He loved the Greek island of Paxos, where he bought a villa and where locals fondly nicknamed him ‘Benny Hill’. For over a quarter of a century he gave informal ‘consultations’, always rewarded by a bottle of ouzo or olive oil, or both.

His workload was heavy and when he retired from surgical practice he was replaced by a full-time general surgeon and a urologist.

Francis Wilkinson married twice. He married Dorothy Howard in 1952, by whom he had four children – Oonagh Jane, who works in NHS bed management, Roger Geoffrey, who inherited his father’s love of sailing and builds boats, Dorothy Ann, an air hostess, and Annesley Charles, who is an architect and works in Singapore. In 1972, he married Anthea Cameron, with whom he spent 32 happy years. They had a family of two – (Anthea) Keri Jane, who is retail buyer, and Colin Francis, a disc jockey and music maker.

Francis Wilkinson died on 30 May 2004 following a stroke. He is survived by his wife, Anthea, his children, and two grandsons, Daniel and Philip Griffiths. A funeral service was held at St Oswald’s Church, Hollington, attended by his family and many friends and was followed by a private cremation.

N Alan Green

Sources used to compile this entry: [Information from Mrs Anthea Wilkinson].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England