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Biographical entry Higton, Desmond Ian Ralph (1934 - 2013)

MRCS LRCP 1958; MB BS London 1958; AKC 1961; FRCS 1963.

9 December 1934
21 October 2013
General surgeon


Desmond Ian Ralph Higton, always known as 'Ian', was a general surgeon in Bromley. He was born on 9 December 1934, the elder son of John William Higton, managing director of a coach building company, and Olive Gwendoline Higton née Smith. He was educated at Farnham Grammar School, Surrey, King's College, London, and King's College Hospital Medical School.

After qualifying in 1958, he worked as a house surgeon to Sir Edward Muir and Sir John Peel who, with general surgeon A J Heriot, influenced his choice of surgery as a career. He worked as a senior casualty officer at King's before taking up a post as an assistant lecturer in anatomy at University College, London, in preparation for the primary fellowship examination. Ian then worked as a surgical registrar to the Bromley group of hospitals and at King's College Hospital, where he became a senior surgical registrar until his appointment as a consultant general surgeon to the Bromley group. His main practice was at Farnborough Hospital, Kent, before moving to Bromley Hospital in the latter part of his career. He also worked at Beckenham Hospital until its closure as an acute unit. He retired from the NHS in 1994. He also had a substantial private practice largely based at Sloane Hospital, Beckenham, where he was one of the founders.

Ian Higton was very much a general surgeon with a very broad surgical interest. He worked with irrepressible energy, providing a ceaseless and unflagging service to local GPs. He was not an academic surgeon and published little after his appointment as a consultant, but he kept abreast of new surgical techniques throughout his career. He attended and contributed to surgical meetings and was a fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine, where he regularly attended meetings of the surgical section. He taught well, was an honorary tutor to Guy's Hospital Medical School, and served as Royal College tutor to the Bromley hospitals. He took a full and active part in hospital management, and for some years his opinion was much respected as a member of the Bromley District and Area Health Authorities.

A love of Hereford grew over the many years that Ian attended the Three Choirs Festival, and this led to his retirement from surgery to that city. Retirement enabled him to pursue further his other lifelong interest in music and in particular organ music. As a medical student he was organist and choirmaster at Holy Innocents Church, Hammersmith, and he continued taking organ lessons over the years. After moving to Hereford he became organist at St Margaret's Church, Foy, and, when called upon, he played at St Martin's, the 'SAS church', where members of the Special Air Service are buried. He was chairman of the Herefordshire Organists' Society and he founded the Hereford Music Circle. Ian's interest in the arts extended beyond his love of music and he was proud to be the first male chair of the Hereford Decorative and Fine Arts Society.

Ian was a devoted family man. In 1959 he married Margaret, daughter of Sir Wilfred Neden, chief industrial commissioner to the Department of Labour and a medical secretary. She was a great support to him in every way throughout their long marriage. They were generous hosts and many friends enjoyed their hospitality and musical evenings at their home. They had two children, Elisabeth, a renal nurse practitioner, and John, a management consultant, and four grandchildren. Sadly Margaret predeceased Ian by one year. Ian died suddenly on 21 October 2013, aged 78. His memorial service conducted by the dean in a packed Hereford Cathedral was a fitting testimony to the esteem in which he was held.

H E Berry

The Royal College of Surgeons of England