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Biographical entry Holdsworth, William Goldthorpe (1911 - 2009)

FRCS 1943; MB BS Melbourne 1933; FRCS Edinburgh 1943.

18 October 1911
19 January 2009
Plastic surgeon


William Goldthorpe 'Bill' Holdsworth was a senior consultant surgeon at Queen Mary's Hospital, Roehampton. Born on 18 October 1911, he was educated at Carey Grammar School, Melbourne, and graduated from Melbourne University in 1933. In 1935 he went to England, and on the approach of the Second World War he joined the RAF, seeing service in France and Burma.

He was fortunate to work under two great wartime pioneers of reconstructive surgery, Sir Archibald McIndoe at East Grinstead and Sir Harold Gillies at Rooksdown House, near Basingstoke. He succeeded Gillies as senior consultant at Rooksdown in 1952.

Bill specialised in operating on babies with cleft lips and palates. Despite its additional complexity, he was an advocate of early surgery - lips were repaired in infants at three months and palates between six and nine months - to ensure there was a functioning palate before the child began to speak. His book, unsurprisingly titled Cleft lip and palate, etc (London, William Heinemann Medical), was published in 1951 and was for several decades the standard work on the subject.

The Rooksdown plastic surgery unit moved in 1952 to Queen Mary's, Roehampton, and Bill went with it. He was senior consultant surgeon there until his retirement in 1972. A great lover of the sea, he then combined business with pleasure for 10 years as a ship's doctor. For many of his friends this happy time is commemorated by one of Bill's meticulous ships in a bottle.

Although he had the great practical advantage of being ambidextrous, he would say of himself that he had more persistence than talent. The record disagrees, as do colleagues who remember him as a good and patient teacher.

Bill was 97 when he died, peacefully, of complications following a fall, on 19 January 2009. He left a son and three grandchildren.

The Royal College of Surgeons of England