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Biographical entry Harris, Ian Antrobus (1920 - 1997)

DSC; Hon FRCS 1992; MB BS Adelaide 1949; FRCS Edinburgh; FRACS.

Adelaide, Australia
8 June 1997
General surgeon and Orthopaedic surgeon


Ian Harris was surgeon to the government of Brunei. He was born in Adelaide in 1920. His father had emigrated from Scotland, and Ian himself felt profoundly Scottish. He interrupted his medical studies to join the Royal Navy during the second world war. In the North Sea and later in the Mediterranean he was engaged in exploits of great gallantry, about which he seldom spoke. He was awarded the DSC for services at Anzio, and mentioned in despatches for services in the north Atlantic.

After completing his medical degree in 1949, he went to Edinburgh as reader, and studied thoracic surgery, orthopaedics and trauma surgery. In 1963, he was appointed the first (and for many years the only) surgeon to the government of Brunei, where, as well as covering the whole range of surgery, he established an orthopaedic service of very high quality by training local doctors, nurses and orderlies. He received honours from His Highness the Sultan of Brunei. He was a gifted teacher, and played his part as chieftain of the clan on St Andrew's night.

He was a keen sailor and, on retirement in 1988, he sailed his boat, mostly single-handed, from Brunei to east Africa, where a change in the wind caused him to abandon the rest of his trip to Fife. He still wanted to practice surgery, and paid several visits to Lebowa and elsewhere in South Africa, as a surgeon. He developed serious coronary and valvular heart disease, brilliantly repaired in Edinburgh, and used to accompany the fishing vessels sailing from Anstruther. He was found dead in the water beside his boat on 8 June 1997.

He leaves a wife, Ursula, and a son and daughter, together with an older family from a previous marriage.

Sources used to compile this entry: [BMJ 1997 315 955].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England