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Biographical entry Denham, Hono Evan Horrell (1913 - 1991)

MRCS 1940; FRCS 1941; MB ChB Otago 1937; FRACS 1946; LRCP 1937.

18 May 1913
Brisbane, Australia
16 June 1991
General surgeon and Thoracic surgeon


Evan Denham was born in Brisbane on 18 May 1913, but was brought up in New Zealand where his father, Henry George Denham, was Professor of Chemistry and Rector of Canterbury University. His mother was Helen Horrell, of farming stock. He was educated at Christ's College, Christchurch, and Canterbury University, where he won the Parker Prize and played cricket and hockey for the university. He was house surgeon at Christchurch Hospital and then came to England for surgical training. After demonstrating anatomy at Newcastle he served as RSO at the Royal Masonic Hospital and the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Hospital in Oswestry, where he was much influenced by Reginald Watson-Jones and Henry Osmond Clarke, and met his future wife, a Scottish nurse. He worked in the EMS Hospital in Hackney during the Blitz on London, and took the FRCS along with 34 others in a College that had recently been severely bombed. Sadly, he died before completing his memoir of the College at that time.

Having passed the Fellowship he joined the New Zealand Expeditionary Force Medical Corps from 1941 to 1945, becoming captain and surgical specialist and serving in North Africa and Italy.

At the end of the war he returned to Christchurch on the surgical staff and remained there until 1978, with refresher visits between 1949 and 1950 to gain experience in thoracic surgery in Leeds, Shotley Bridge, and Sully Chest Hospital, Glamorgan; in the summer of 1967 he visited St Bartholomew's and St George's Hospitals. Back in Christchurch he carried on an extensive practice in the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis and neonatal surgery, whilst continuing general surgery. He was one of the first in New Zealand to operate on a baby with congenital atresia of the oesophagus. In 1952 he added to his appointments by joining Greymouth Hospital. Subjects of particular interest to him were the parathyroid, parotid and portal hypertension.

Evan Denham was an active supporter of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, serving on the Dominion Committee and the Court of Examiners from 1960 to 1970. His central role in organizing national postgraduate education was recognized by his becoming Chairman of the New Zealand Postgraduate Medical Federation from 1966 to 1976.

An enthusiastic sportsman, he played hockey and cricket in his youth and later became expert in fishing, shooting and golf. He was a keen member of the Order of St John. In 1946 he married in Christchurch the nurse he had met in Oswestry, Ada (Bunty), née Robertson, from Glasgow. They had three daughters, all of whom became nurses, and a son, who took up farming. Although in later years he had become severely disabled, his death on 16 June 1991 was unexpected.

Sources used to compile this entry: [NZ Med J 1991 104 390].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England