Whilst paying a visit to leafy Warwickshire, I happened upon this article in the Leamington Courier …. This is the most personal Blog post I have written – yet I did not write it. The subject matter involves me (I am one of the 11). As people who are close to me know – I respect the privacy of others – that is why I have tried to omit the surname of my family from my whole blog. However, with the right tenacity, it will be very easy to track me down on the web. But, as I mention on the About page, I am a bit weird (after a long history of ill health) but please do not hold my point of view against my family.
Obituary for Dr. Thomas B_________ 1922-2016, by his son David B_________.
Thomas Wynter B________ was born in Horwich, Lancashire, the only son of Canon Thomas B_________, vicar of St. Catherine’s Church in that town and Mary, nee Wynter or Winter.
Along with many other sons of the clergy he went to Dean Close School in Cheltenham and was expected to follow in his father’s footsteps into the ministry. However, after his ordinary certificate exams in the classics he decided that he wanted a career in medicine, so there was some rapid catching up to do in the sciences. Despite evacuation of the school to Monkton Combe during the early years of the war he must have done reasonably well in his exams in order to read natural sciences at Queens’ College, Cambridge, in 1940.
In due course he moved to the Middlesex Hospital in central London to pursue clinical studies.
At university he continued with sports. While at school he had played for the AFA Public Schools XI earning a write up “although a head shorter than the Whalley Range centre forward, and easily brushed aside, [he] came again and again into the thick of the fray like a wasp at a picnic.” At Queen’s, hockey was his main game, and in addition to college colours he earned a full Blue in 1942 for hockey. In London, later, he played for Southgate Hockey Club. His medical supervisor had suggested that he needed to choose between playing hockey every Saturday (an England trial was at stake) and studying if he wanted to pass his exams.
In the later stages of his training, so the story goes, after an operation in the theatre the senior surgeon suggested that his junior, Tom, take the theatre sister, Margaret Gratze, out for a date. With the help of a colleague sports car for trysts in Hyde Park, and war time price-limited dinners in Greek Street, the bonds of a lifetime were cemented and they married in 1949.
After initial qualification as a surgeon he had the long slog of National Service in the RAF, further professional exams and eventually decided to specialise in the rapidly developing field of radiotherapy, spurred on by the surfeit of young surgeons leaving the armed forces at the end of the war. Eventually, in 1957 he obtained his first consultant post in the Coventry & Warwickshire Hospital in Coventry, and the family moved from Ruislip to Kenilworth with a fourth child, making four boys, arriving a year after.
Dr. B_________ became head of department some ten years later and oversaw the development of a new cancer treatment facility at at the new Coventry hospital at Walsgrave in 1970. He served on the management team of the Coventry hospitals during the 1974 reorganisation of the NHS. This was a time of rapid change in his field as new treatments became available and the specialism became Oncology rather than Radiotherapy. As early as 1966 he was reporting on the use of a new cytotoxic agent in the treatment of Hodgkin’s disease. In 1973/74 he served as President of the Radiology section of the Royal Society of Medicine, and he helped steer the Royal College of Radiologists through these challenging times, elected as Vice-President (Radiotherapy and Oncology from 1980 to 1982. But the outlook for some patients remained difficult and there was an increasing need to support patients and their families during the later stages of cancer. In 1979, Tom and the Bishop of Coventry, with others, launched a fundraising campaign, and in 1984 opened the Myton Hospice in Warwick in a converted children’s home. No doubt there are many patients and relatives who remember him for his humane care and attention at very difficult times.
As thought this were not enough he also became involved in the parents’ association for Warwick School, attended by all four sons, and went on to become chair of the governors for a few years in the 1980s, battling to improve the facilities for boarders at school.
Other local organisations benefited from his patient and considerate membership.
After retirement in 1987 he enjoyed more time for travel and relaxing. He was one a group of four Queen’s men who kept regular meetings together, with spouses, as long as they could. With the “walkers” he explored south Warwickshire, taking in pubs that served Hook Norton Beer where possible. But as an antidote to relaxation children with families descended upon the house at short notice, or indeed none, as a temporary abode, and grandchildren based themselves with “Granny & Grandpa” while working or studying in the area. In 2006 the local Rotary Club nominated him Kenilworth Citizen of the Year.
Tom B_________ died on 1 July 2016 survived by Margaret, his wife of 67 years, four sons, 11 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.