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Biographical entry Morton, Harry Stafford (1905 - 2001)

OBE 1945; MRCS 1930; FRCS 1935; BA Dalhousie 1925; MSc 1927; MB BS London 1930; MD; LLD 1983; FRCOG 1937; LMCC; FRCSC; FACS.

18 August 1905
Port Greville, Nova Scotia, Canada
7 December 2001
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
General surgeon and Philanthropist


Hal Morton was born on 18 August 1905 in Port Greville, Nova Scotia, Canada, the son of Charles S Morton, a physician in Halifax, and Marie née Stafford. He was educated at St Andrews College, Toronto, and then Dalhousie University, where he became a member of the Phi Rho Sigma Fraternity of Canada. He then went to the London Hospital to study medicine, where he fell under the spell of Russell Howard and Henry Souttar, and became an enthusiastic rugby player. At first he thought he would be a gynaecologist, but later turned to general surgery.

He returned to Canada in 1937 as honorary attending surgeon to the Royal Victoria Hospital, Montreal, and then joined the RCNVR in 1938 and spent the war years on active service as a surgeon, refusing promotion beyond Surgeon Commander so that he could continue operating. He retired as Surgeon Captain in 1945, his outstanding service being acknowledged with the OBE.

He was a keen teacher at McGill University Medical School, organising the surgical fellow training programme for nearly 20 years. Having gained so much from his experiences overseas, he set up (and financed) an exchange fellowship between the London and the Royal Victoria Hospital. From 1960, he was chief surgeon at the Queen Mary's Veterans' Hospital. He was chairman of the cancer committee of the Quebec Medical Society and founded the Quebec Tumor Registry. He was chairman and chief examiner in surgery of the Royal College of Surgeons of Canada. He was awarded an Hunterian Professorship in 1954 for his work on electrogastrography.

He married Rachel Perot Wainwright, who shared his love of travel and learning. They had no children, but they threw their energies into making friends of their trainees. In retirement they lived near the edge of the sea on Heckman's Island, near Lunenburg, where they developed a traditional farm using sustainable agricultural practices. They left this farm to Acadia University so that it could be maintained in perpetuity as an environmental studies centre.

Always a generous man, Hal Morton gave our College a very substantial donation to encourage young surgeons to go abroad, especially to Canada. The College acknowledged this by electing him to its Court of Patrons in 1999, the President, Sir Barry Jackson, making a special journey to Montreal for the purpose. In retirement, Hal established the Mount Allison University Morton Library Fund, which supports studies in history and biology, and was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree.

A keen sailor, he was instructor in navigation to the Montreal Power and Sail Squadron and, after moving to Halifax, continued to race 14-foot dinghies, and was a life member of the Lunenburg Yacht Club. He was honorary medical officer to the last corvette, HMCS Sackville, which is docked in Halifax as the Canadian Naval War Memorial; there he furbished a naval sick bay as it would have been during the second world war. In his 95th year he published a book on Canadian medical officers in the Royal Navy during the second world war, the product of many hours of research.

A genial friendly man with a distrust of bureaucrats and stuffed shirts, Hal had many friends on both sides of the Atlantic. He died on 7 December 2001, in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The Royal College of Surgeons of England