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Biographical entry Hey, Wilson Harold (1882 - 1956)

MRCS 11 May 1905; FRCS 10 December 1908; LRCP 1905; MB BCh Manchester 1905; Chevalier, Légion d'Honneur.

1 September 1882
15 January 1956
Whaley Bridge
General surgeon, Mountaineer and Radiologist


Born on 1 September 1882, son of Thomas Hey JP of Colne and his wife Martha Jane Tatham, whose father was a solicitor there, Wilson Hey was educated at Burnley Grammar School and the University of Manchester, winning scholarships and prizes. He took his clinical training at the London Hospital, and qualified in 1905. At the Royal Infirmary, Manchester he served as house surgeon and resident surgical officer, and was awarded the Tom Jones memorial fellowship. He was elected to the honorary staff early in 1914, but on the outbreak of war joined the RAMC and served as a surgical specialist in France, reaching the rank of Major.

After the war he resumed his practice in Manchester, joined the Royal Infirmary again, and was appointed to the Staff of Ancoats, the Christie, and the Children's Hospitals, and the Hartley Hospital, Colne. He was a pioneer in using radium for treatment of cancer, and later devised an operation for prostatectomy which was widely accepted. He was a good teacher, enlivening his lectures with anecdotes. He lectured on clinical surgery at Manchester University and examined at Cambridge. He was the first president of the Manchester Medical Society when it was reconstituted in 1950 by the amalgamation of five societies, having already been president of the old Medical Society and of the Surgical and Pathological Societies.

Wilson Hey was a skilled mountaineer; he served on the Council of the Alpine Club, and was founder and president of the Manchester University Mountaineering Club. As chairman of the Mountain Rescue Committee he organised rescue equipment posts, wherever rock climbing is practised in Great Britain. He insisted that morphine be kept at each post, in case of painful injury, but the Home Office refused permission for the drug to be available without control. Hey deliberately flouted their orders, and was summoned in 1949 for failing to notify the inspector about his stock of morphine. He was fined £10 but gained the necessary publicity to extort an agreed arrangement from the authorities.

Hey married in 1916 Elsie Brown (MB ChB Manchester 1909), who survived him with two sons and two daughters, one a doctor. He died at his country house, Fernilee Hall, Whaley Bridge, near Stockport, on Sunday 15 January 1956, aged 73. He had practised at 16 St John Street, Manchester. He was of strong and cheerful personality with a quiet manner.

Early closure of gunshot wounds. Brit med J 1917, 2, 445.
Benign enlargement of the prostate. Trans Med Soc Lond 1943/46, 64, 271.
Asepsis in prostatectomy. Brit J Surg 1945, 33, 41.
The catheter and the prostate. Brit med J 1946, 1, 757, and correspondence at p 997 and 2, 241 and 624.
Prostatectomy, in H P Winsbury White's Textbook of genito-urinary surgery, Edinburgh 1948, pp 477-481, and Cancer of the prostate, in the same, pp 522-525.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times 17 January 1956 pp 17 a-b, and 4 April p 10 b, will: Brit med J, 1956, 1, 174, with portrait, and p 297 by N F Kirkman; Lancet 1956, 1, 211 with portrait and appreciation by WRD; information from Mrs Hey].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England