Browse Fellows


www Lives

Biographical entry Gore, James (1903 - 1999)

MRCS 1925; FRCS 1928; MB ChB Birmingham 1925; ChM 1931; LRCP 1925; FICS 1955.

17 May 1903
South Shields, County Durham
21 July 1999
General surgeon


James Gore was born in South Shields, County Durham, on 17 May 1903, the younger son of James Gore, a civil servant in HM customs and excise, and Eliza née Morton. Both his parents hailed from Belfast; his mother from a medical family. Her brother was William Blair Morton, Professor of Physics at Queen's University Belfast. His great-grandfather, John Beck, was a doctor in Belfast who used to do his rounds on a penny-farthing bicycle, and his cousin was for many years a general medical practitioner in Birmingham. Gore was educated at Harvey Grammar School, Folkestone, and later transferred to Wolverhampton Grammar School after his father was promoted and relocated.

James was admitted to the Birmingham Medical School in 1920, following his elder brother Fred, who had been admitted two years previously. His brother had ginger hair and was nicknamed 'Ruddigore', whereas James, who was dark haired, was known as 'Black Gore'. He had a distinguished undergraduate career and won the junior surgical prize and silver medal in surgery. He qualified in 1925 and also obtained the London conjoint diploma.

He occupied various junior surgical posts, including that of house surgeon to Leonard Gamgee, a noted Birmingham surgeon and teacher, who had many aphorisms which Gore was fond of repeating. One such was "when performing a life-saving operation be content with saving the patient's life"; in other words, do only what is absolutely necessary. He obtained the FRCS in 1928, but had to wait for six months before the diploma could be awarded at the minimum age of 25. After further appointments at the Queen's Hospital and the Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital, he was appointed in 1930 as resident surgical officer at the General Hospital, Birmingham. This was a much sought-after post which provided extensive surgical experience, and after three happy years he was appointed as surgical registrar at the Royal Hospital Wolverhampton. In 1931 he was awarded the ChM for a treatise based on the study of 100 cases of head injury.

In 1936 Gore was appointed consultant surgeon at Selly Oak Hospital, then one of the two largest municipal hospitals in Birmingham, and it was here that he spent his entire professional career. The work load was heavy and the range of experience required was extremely wide; he would happily start a list containing a thyroidectomy, cholecystectomy and a couple of hernias with a meniscectomy. He defined general surgery as "the surgery of the umbilicus and everything within a three foot radius".

James married in 1938 Nesta Lewis, who was a staff nurse he met while working in Wolverhampton, and they had three children, Peter, Roberta and Timothy. He was rather diminutive in stature, but a highly competent and effective surgeon who operated with caution and precision and worked closely with his other consultant colleague, Robert Sage. Together they forged an enviable reputation as trainers of young surgeons. A well known physician and life long friend once described Gore as "one who knew when to operate, and more importantly, when not to". His principal recreations were chess and gardening and he was also an avid crossword puzzle solver. At the age of 90, he sustained an intertrochanteric fracture of his right femur followed by a number of transient ischaemic cerebrovascular attacks which progressively deprived him of his mobility and considerable intellect in his declining years. He died on 21 July 1999.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Aesculapius July 2000].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England