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Biographical entry Riddle, Peter Riversdale (1933 - 2011)

MB BS London 1957; MRCS LRCP 1957; FRCS 1963; MS 1968.

1 September 1933
1 January 2011
Urological surgeon


Peter Riddle was a well-known urologist who worked all his consultant life in London. He was emeritus surgeon at University College London and at St Peter's Hospital, and had been sub-dean at the Institute of Urology.

He was born on 1 September 1933. His father, Leonard, was an assurance broker and his mother, Beatrice Helen Valentine née Colyer Fergusson, a housewife. He had at least two medical forebears. His great-great grandfather, Sir William Fergusson, became president of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1870 and was Serjeant-Surgeon to HM Queen Victoria. The second medical ancestor was John Coakley Lettsom, a Quaker physician and philanthropist, who founded the Medical Society of London in 1773.

Peter was educated privately at Colet house, the preparatory school to St Paul's School. He progressed through the junior to the senior school, where he won academic prizes in languages and gained colours in athletics, and boxed for the school team. Following his illustrious forebears, Peter went into medicine, studying first at King's College, London, and then gained an entrance exhibition in anatomy and physiology to St George's Hospital, Hyde Park Corner. He participated to the full as social secretary of the medical school and continued his pugilistic activities in the first VII boxing team.

Peter qualified in 1957 and became a house surgeon at St George's Hospital to Sir Marriott F Nicholls, a general surgeon with wide interests including urology, who was elected president of the section of urology of the Royal Society of Medicine (RSM). Following further house appointments at St George's and University College Hospital, Peter carried out his National Service as a captain in the RAMC. He then became a research fellow and a senior registrar at St Mary's Hospital, before undertaking a resident surgical officer post at St Peter's Hospital, London.

He was appointed as a consultant surgeon at St Peter's and was sub-dean at the Institute of Urology. He also worked for many years at St George's Hospital until it merged with St James' Hospital, Balham. He strongly disapproved of this merger, which prompted him to resign from his post. From 1974 for a few years he was on the staff of the Central Middlesex Hospital, replacing J D Fergusson. Peter continued on the staff of the Royal Masonic Hospital until he retired. He was an honorary consultant to the Army and gave long service to the War Pensions Appeals Committee.

He was a regional adviser at the Royal College of Surgeons for many years and was a lecturer on fellowship courses organised at Lincoln's Inn Fields.

He published widely over the years starting in 1963 and wrote some 40 papers on urological malignancy and operative surgery. He contributed to several textbooks, including those by Rodney Smith and Charles Rob, and also wrote chapters in three editions of R M Kirk's book on surgery.

He was a regular attender at the meetings of the urology section of the RSM, serving on the council and as secretary. He was also on the council of the British Association of Urological Surgeons. In honour of John Coakley Lettsom, Peter served on the council of the Medical Society of London, as secretary and then as vice president. He was also a director of St Peter's Trust for Kidney, Bladder and Prostate Research.

Outside of medicine, Peter had a great interest in restoring and running vintage cars, his favourite being a 'bull-nosed Morris'. In his earlier days he was a keen squash player, but admitted that, when playing golf, his handicap was rather high. Painting was a later interest and for many years he enjoyed skiing, particularly at the winter 'uro-ski' meetings of the section of urology of the RSM. These annual events of 'urological fellowship' were started by Ken Owen of St Mary's Hospital when members and their wives visited Obergurgl. The meetings combined science and exercise on the ski slopes. In-house morning discussions and lectures were followed by skiing (or walking) until early evening.

Peter had more than his fair share of medical problems, of which he made light, including a nephrectomy, parotid surgery and radiotherapy, artificial hip replacements and coronary artery by-pass surgery. Prone to vascular problems, he lost the sight in one eye, but wore a black patch and continued to live a normal life.

Peter's marriage to Kitty née Berkley, by whom he had a son, Jonathan, was dissolved. Jonathan has a son, William, and lives in an isolated part of Wales. When living in retirement near Stonehenge, Peter met Rosemary ('Rosie') Page, whom he had first known when he was a house surgeon at St George's Hospital, Hyde Park Corner, and she was a staff nurse. They fell in love and married in 1995, and Rosie and Peter shared many happy years. Peter was an excellent stepfather to her twins, Jay and Maria, and also to her daughter, Annalisa. Together they maintained a large garden and Peter continued painting to a high standard in watercolours and oil. On his second marriage he became a Roman Catholic. He died peacefully on 1 January 2011, aged 77.

N Alan Green

Sources used to compile this entry: [Rosemary Riddle, John Vinnicombe, Forbes Abercrombe].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England