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Biographical entry Weston, Peter Alexander Murray (1924 - 2016)

MRCS LRCP 1947; MB BS London 1951; FRCS 1952; LMCC 1953.

Born
23 March 1924
Oswestry
Died
15 April 2016
Occupation
Accident and emergency surgeon and General surgeon

Details

Peter Weston was a consultant accident and emergency surgeon in Nottingham. He was born in Oswestry, but spent his early years in Eastbourne, where amongst other things he taught himself to sail and thereby developed his love of the sea. He went to Chelmsford Hall Preparatory School and was then awarded a Kitchener scholarship to board at Bradfield College, Berkshire. Following the family tradition (his grandfather and father were both general practitioners), he started his medical training at St Bartholomew's Medical School in London in 1942.

After qualifying in 1947, he spent a short time in the Army doing his National Service (based at Millbank during the Korean War treating returning casualties), while also studying for his FRCS from 1949 to 1951.

He then worked at the Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, from 1953. This included being doctor in charge of the Grenfell Mission Hospital, St Anthony, Newfoundland, during the winter of 1953 to 1954, where he had many adventures, including rescuing casualties by dog sled and seaplane. From 1954 to 1955 he spent a year as a registrar at Farnborough Hospital, before moving out to Jamaica to work as a senior orthopaedic registrar and lecturer in surgery at the University College of the West Indies from 1956 to 1962. Whilst in Jamaica he developed an interest in urology, in particular the management of urethral strictures. In 1960, he was awarded a Rockefeller scholarship to the USA, which allowed him to visit hospitals in Boston and Los Angeles.

While in Jamaica, he met and married his wife, Ann, a physiotherapist working with polio victims, and they were married for 59 years. They had three of their four children, Theo, Cecilia and Penelope, in Jamaica; the fourth, Georgia, was born back in the UK.

The family returned to the UK in 1962 and Peter took up the post of senior registrar in urology at Newcastle General Hospital and subsequently on the professorial surgical unit at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle, in 1964. Later that year he took up his first consultancy post as consultant surgeon in the accident and emergency department, Cumberland Infirmary, Carlisle, where he stayed until 1972. During this time, he made huge changes to the way casualties were treated in the department and also helped to start up the local pre-hospital medical care service, the Penrith and District Accident and Emergency Scheme, where doctors volunteered to give up their time when called out to emergencies by the ambulance service (a very novel and pioneering idea in those days).

Unfortunately, he then developed rheumatoid arthritis, which affected his hands, feet, ankles and knees, and meant he had to take a career change to a more administrative/teaching role as a consultant in the accident and emergency department at the University Teaching Hospital, Nottingham, in 1972. Here he was very involved in the move to the new Queen's Medical Centre and in teaching medical students. He also became involved in the treatment of head injuries and the setting up of the support group, Headway (which continues to provide support and assistance to patients).

Fortunately, around 1981 his joints were sufficiently stable to allow him to return to a more active surgical role and his very wide training and experience enabled him to work in East Africa for the last few years of his professional career. This included three short spells in Zimbabwe following the civil war (working in hospitals in Harare, Umtali and Bulawayo), five years in the Mbeya Government Hospital, Tanzania (from 1981 to 1986) working as a surgeon in a team sent by the Overseas Development Administration and finally six months in St Francis Hospital, Katete, Zambia.

He was co-author of Accident and emergency medicine (Tunbridge Wells, Pitman Medical, 1980) and wrote various articles in journals including the West Indian Medical Journal, Injury, Hand, Archives of Emergency Medicine and Tropical Doctor. He gave the Hunterian lecture in 1961 on urethral stricture and the Ruscoe Clarke memorial lecture in 1986 on the care of the injured in the Third World.

Peter was an outstanding surgeon, whose technical abilities, even with the most challenging and delicate of procedures (such as hand surgery and cleft palate repair), was second to none. His range of surgical skills, especially when he worked in the remote hospitals of Africa, was extremely wide ranging and accomplished. Despite his significant disability, his exceptional drive and determination meant that he was able to continue his work, which was his passion. He had a very innovative way of working, encouraging the use of local resources, skills and expertise, thereby leaving a legacy of sustainability in some very testing environments.

After his retirement, his zest for life continued in a variety of pastimes including canoeing, fell-walking, gardening, carpentry and choral singing, though his lifelong passion from a very early age was sailing. Throughout most of his life he was never far from a sailing boat and when his family were quite young he built a 20ft sailing boat in his backyard, which was used on family holidays for many years. Even when he was in his mid-eighties he was still canoeing around the Lakes in Cumbria and also off the west coast of Scotland, including two trips across the Solway Firth. He was also very involved with the Jubilee Sailing Trust, sailing tall ships with mixed ability crews, Carlisle Overseas Aid Trust and talking newspapers.

When he was younger he played the flute to a high standard and latterly enjoyed singing in local choral groups. He had a very active and well-read mind right up until recent years, and used his literary skills to write a book about the local history of a stretch of the Caldew River between Caldbeck and Sebergham in north Cumbria. Latterly, despite some physical ailments, he characteristically continued to work hard in his garden and workshop with many DIY and carpentry projects.

He died peacefully on 15 April 2016 after a short illness with his family at his bedside. He was 92.

Theo Weston
Ann Weston

The Royal College of Surgeons of England