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Biographical entry Wardle, Derek Basil James (1924 - 1997)

MB BChir Cambridge 1948; MRCS LRCP 1948; FRCS 1953.

4 October 1924
28 August 1997
Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia
General practitioner, General surgeon and Vascular surgeon


Derek Wardle was a general surgeon and general practitioner in New South Wales, Australia. He was born in Herefordshire to Harold Wardle and Elsie Wardle née Clarkeson. As a boy, he loved working on local farms, developing a love of agricultural work that played out later in his life in Australia, when he purchased a small property at Torryburn, East Gresford, in the Hunter Valley. Here he raised Hereford cattle, as a link to his childhood. He had an older sister, Margaret, who married French pilot, Rene Jonchier, and lived with their three daughters in French colonies and Paris. Derek was a keen sportsman, excelling at rowing, cricket and football during his university years.

He studied at Cambridge and then King's College Hospital Medical School. Derek married Jacqueline Payne in London 1948 and, against his parents' wishes, he converted to Catholicism at Jacqueline's request. They courted through the end phases of their medical training. A family tale is told of them in a training session on eyes. Students were asked to turn the eyelid of the person next to them. Derek turned to Jacqueline, folded her eyelid back, and that, as they say, was that.

They worked in the mid 1950s at the Royal Infirmary in Cardiff, Wales. From there they made the decision to move to Australia, following some colleagues and friends, the Coulthards and the Withercoms. Derek flew to Australia in 1957 to set up a home and work. Originally, he considered working in Kalgoorlie, but decided on a practice in the western suburbs of Newcastle, New South Wales. They had by then four children; Penelope, Timothy, Rebecca and Deborah, who was born after Derek had flown to Australia.

Jacqueline followed with the four children, on an eight-week boat trip through the Suez Canal to Australia. The family lived initially in Wallsend, then set up home on ten acres at Cardiff, New South Wales. They had two more children, Nicholas and Felicity. The family took annual holidays to Narrabri Pony Camp for over 30 years, where Derek was the camp doctor, patching up children after falls from their horses.

Derek worked at the Mater Hospital and Wallsend Hospital, and in general practice in both Glendale and in Wallsend. Derek and Jacqueline often worked together in general practice. When Derek completed his studies to become a surgeon, he established a surgery in Watt Street, Newcastle. He specialised in vascular surgery and, through private research, developed a successful alternative to general anaesthetic and vein stripping. The method of vein compression with bandages in the treatment of varicose veins was a day procedure, which involved injecting saline for small, spider veins and tetradecyl sulphate diluted into larger veins. He also did some vein stripping and was a pioneer with sclerotherapy when it started. Patients with bandaged legs were required to walk regularly to ensure circulatory rehabilitation.

He was a respected senior surgeon in Newcastle, New South Wales and much-loved by his patients for his compassion and generosity. He was a doctor who often surpassed the constrictions of medico-legal or political correctness.

Derek was appointed as an anatomy teacher at the newly-established medical school at Newcastle University in the 1980s. His kind rapport with students made him an excellent and popular teacher.

Derek practised surgery until his late sixties. Derek and Jacqueline retired to Kilaben Bay, on Lake Macquarie and remained strongly involved in the Catholic parish at Toronto. In retirement Derek had more time for his much-loved fishing on Lake Macquarie and growing vegetables. He also practised woodturning and amateur furniture making. Each of the children had a garden bench made for them, along with numerous bowls, cigarette trays and three-legged stools, which became known as the 'child-killers', for all the tumbles that the grandchildren took from them.

Derek was a loving and engaged father and grandfather. His passions, including Australian history, reading, the bush, fishing and amateur construction, have been passed on. He built sheds, stables and a tree house, among his many practical endeavours on the 10-acre block. He kept a cow and, for some years, a pig, an expression of his childhood love of farming.

Jacqueline died in April 1997, and his six children knew that he would not last long after the death of the love of his life. Derek was a man of strong integrity and had a great sense of humour. He died from peripheral arterial disease and septicaemia, following a stubbed toe. 'At least the smoking didn't get me', was one of his parting quips. He and the children refused lower-leg amputation.

Derek Wardle died on 28 August 2007. He was 82. He lived a full life, fostered principles of love in his family, and held the respect and admiration of friends and colleagues.

Deborah Wardle

The Royal College of Surgeons of England