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Biographical entry Swain, Valentine Andrew James (1910 - 1998)

MRCS 1933; FRCS 1941; LRCP 1933.

21 February 1910
Ilford, Essex
10 April 1998
Paediatric surgeon


Valentine Andrew James Swain was a paediatric surgeon in London's East End. He was born on 21 February 1910, a twin, in Ilford, Essex, into a family with a strong medical tradition. His father, James Steel Swain, and grandfather were both doctors. His mother was Mary Blanche née MacMunn. He went from Chigwell School to St Bartholomew's, qualifying in 1933. He had his general surgical training at the Royal Northern Hospital under McNeill Love and Hamilton Bailey, and was house surgeon at Great Ormond Street, where he was influenced by Sir Lancelot Barrington-Ward and T Twistington Higgins.

During the first two years of the second world war he served in the Emergency Medical Service in London. He then joined the RAMC, serving as a surgical specialist with the rank of Major with the 1st Airborne Division in the 181 Airlanding Field Ambulance through the North African and Italian campaigns, where he was mentioned in despatches. Later, as a Lieutenant Colonel, he was in charge of the surgical division of 21 British General Hospital in India.

After the war, he returned to the Royal Northern Hospital as a senior registrar. In 1948, he once again specialised in paediatric surgery and was appointed to the staff of Queen Elizabeth Hospital for Children, Hackney, and Queen Mary's Hospital Stratford, where he developed a particular interest in the care of children with myelomeningocele.

He was a founder member of the British Association of Paediatric Surgeons (BAPS) in 1953, at a stage when there was a marked distinction between those who only treated children and those who also held appointments in adult surgery. Swain helped abolish the distinction within a few years. He was the natural choice as the first archivist of BAPS. In 1981, he produced a brochure on the origins of the association.

He was a member of the Council of the Hunterian Society and was for ten years chairman of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Children's Appeal Fund.

He never married, but took great pleasure in the children of his twin sister, Blanche Moody. A gentle, quiet, courteous man, he had many outside interests, notably medical history, painting and collecting paintings. He died on 10 April 1998.

The Royal College of Surgeons of England