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Biographical entry Ghey, Philip Henry Ratcliffe (1909 - 1992)

MRCS 1933; FRCS 1935; MB BCh Cambridge 1934; MCh 1938; LRCP 1933.

14 March 1992
St Austell
General surgeon


Philip Ghey was born of a Quaker background in Plymouth in 1909, and was educated at Kelly College in Tavistock, Devon, and St John's College, Cambridge. He completed his medical education at St Bartholomew's Hospital, where he qualified in 1933, but he had already passed his Primary FRCS as a third-year student at Cambridge.

After graduating, he worked as house surgeon to Sir Geoffrey Keynes, and then in Plymouth and at Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge. In 1938 he was appointed surgical registrar at Addenbrooke's, and soon after became its first resident surgical officer, and finally in 1939 consultant surgeon there. A visit to the Mayo Clinic was cut short after three months due to the outbreak of war and Ghey, as a territorial army officer, was recalled to this country as a surgical specialist RAMC with the rank of major.

He joined the 1st Eastern General Hospital in France, and was evacuated from Dunkirk in 1940. He was released from the army in 1942 and returned as an EMS surgeon to a grossly over-worked and under-staffed Addenbrooke's Hospital.

In 1946 Ghey resumed his consultant post in Cambridge and was appointed internal examiner for the BChir and MChir examinations. He was also an active member of the Moynihan Chirurgical Club. He will be remembered by generations of Addenbrooke's surgeons and trainees as an outstandingly skilful surgeon, both technically and diagnostically, and as a man of absolute integrity. To watch him operate was a delight due to a combination of gentleness, speed and dexterity. He also set the highest standards, both for himself and those who worked for him. Beneath a sometimes severe exterior he had a keen sense of humour, and only those who knew him well appreciated his warmth and generosity. He placed the care and welfare of his patients above all else, which at times brought him into conflict with administrative authority, but his integrity never wavered.

In 1964 Ghey took a two-year leave of absence to work in Sarawak as a general surgeon, which he found interesting and rewarding, and he subsequently returned to Cambridge for four years before finally retiring in 1969. He then offered his services for voluntary work overseas, but much to his disappointment these were declined, and he decided to retire to his native West Country. There he found pleasure in gardening, walking and golf, and he became secretary of the Ramblers' Association, becoming involved in the opening up of the coastal footpath in Cornwall.

He died in St Austell on 14 March 1992 from a cerebral glioma, and was survived by his wife Ruth (also a doctor) and their two children, Peter and Margaret.

The Royal College of Surgeons of England