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Biographical entry Holgate, John Edward (1921 - 1984)

MRCS 1945; FRCS 1952; MB BS London 1945; LRCP 1945.

21 October 1921
Vizagapatam, India
5 February 1984
General surgeon


John Edward Holgate was born in Vizagapatam, India, on 21 October 1921, the son of Maurice James Holgate, who was a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Indian Medical Service. His mother was Miss Florence Polyxenie Marsden. John was sent to Epsom College and then to St Bartholomew's Hospital graduating MB BS London 1945. Following hospital appointments in Leeds at St James' Hospital and at the Hereford General Hospital he decided to work in the colonial medical service. He went to eastern Nigeria, where he worked from 1951 to 1960 (1). He then transferred to the Manor House Hospital at Guyana for a brief period (1963-64) and finally to Grenada in the West Indies. Here he stayed for the rest of his colonial service (1965-83) when he retired to Wiltshire. There he was able to follow his hobby of fly-fishing. He was also a keen sailor.

John was particularly interested in the problems created by Siamese twins and he wrote on this subject in the British journal of surgery (1953).

In 1949, while in New Zealand, he married Hilda Green who was a State Registered Nurse. They had three children, Nigel John, Hilary Susan, and Alyson Anne Polyxenie. John Holgate died on 5 February 1984 being survived by his wife and three children.

[(1) Originally noted as holding a rank of colonel in the colonial medical service. Daughter confirmed that he held no rank in this organisation.]

See below for an amended version of the published obituary:

John Edward Holgate was a general surgeon in the Colonial Medical Service. He was born in Vizagapatam, India on 21 October 1921, the son of Maurice James Holgate, a lieutenant colonel in the Indian Medical Service, and Florence Polyxenie Marsden. John was educated at St Dunstan's in Worthing and Epsom College, before attending St Bartholomew's Hospital. He qualified in 1945.

Following hospital appointments in Leeds at St James's Hospital - where he met his wife-to-be Hilda Green, a State Registered Nurse (known as 'Dilly') - he went on to Hereford General Hospital. He then had a short spell in New Zealand, where he and Dilly married.

John decided that, like his father, he wanted to work in the Colonial Medical Service and in May 1951 went to West Africa, first to the British Cameroons, and then on to Enugu in what is now Nigeria (where his first two children were born) and Port Harcourt.

It was while he was in Port Harcourt in July 1954 that he carried out a separation of conjoined twins, assisted by a Nigerian doctor, B J Ikpeme. The twins were joined at the lower part of the chest and were known to be alive in their mid-twenties. Whilst this operation had been carried out several times in London and other European cities, the conditions and equipment of the General Hospital, Port Harcourt were not as modern as those in Europe, so there would have been more difficulties to overcome. The mother and babies arrived by canoe from a fishing village nine miles away.

John left Nigeria at the time of independence in 1960, went on to Grenada in the Caribbean for a short time, and then to New Amsterdam in Guyana in 1961. His third child was born there.

In 1963, he returned to the UK. After a brief spell at the Manor House Hospital, Golders Green, London, he was asked to return to Grenada in 1966, where he stayed for the remainder of his career. Here he was able to enjoy his hobbies of sailing and fishing.

He retired to the UK in May 1983, but ill health meant he was not able to enjoy a long retirement and he died on 5 February 1984 in Salisbury, Wiltshire. He was survived by his wife Dilly and children - Nigel John, Hilary Susan and Alyson Anne Polyxenie.

The Holgate family

The Royal College of Surgeons of England