2004 was spent breaking new ground abroad – Singapore and Australia had never before been visited by the TSS – and treading old at home, for Leeds had not only been the host town in 1979 but was also the base from which the great Sir Berkeley – later Lord – Moynihan pioneered British surgery.
At his Harrogate home in 1924 he had entertained the twelve founder members of the Travelling Surgical Club (as it was originally known) giving it his patronage if not his presence. Note was made at that inaugural event of his black tablecloth, black being his favourite colour (as his bed linen also attested).
The visit to the Far East and Australia was undertaken in conjunction with the Royal College of Surgeons whose President Sir Peter Morris had been born in Melbourne and now welcomed the opportunity to visit Darwin (where his son was a doctor). During the one week stopover in Singapore, the academic meeting was held in the Regent Hotel where we stayed in splendour at very reasonable cost, enjoying the courtesy and smiles of the Singaporeans whether it be at the hotel itself or at Raffles Hotel, where Singapore Slings, gently oscillating fans and a massive downpour of rain were reminders of colonial days.
2004 was also the year of our new President Geoffrey Glazer, well versed in the activities of the TSS having been its highly efficient Secretary until he handed. that baton to Peter Craig, whose secretarial tenure also came to a close, in this case at the end of the Leeds meeting in September 2004 when Bill Thomas assumed the Secretarial mantle.
Professor Bob Shields had taken on the interim Presidency amongst a host of other commitments in retirement, and we are very grateful for his very professional captaincy of the good ship TSS, and the distinction brought to the post. If metaphors are permitted to be mixed: the King (and his minister) are dead: long live the King and his minister!
The TSS continues to flourish and extend its influence through the tireless hard work of its principal officers. Though not the only medical travelling group, it is certainly amongst the most active and better known, both because of the high profile of its senior Officers and through the website, so professionally assembled by Terry Irwin.
His skill in such matters of presentation will surely become more widely recognised with the publication of his book on PowerPoint for doctors, doubtless destined to be a bestseller. On numerous occasions has he bailed us out at meetings – the latest at Leeds!
In Darwin, our three daily meetings each began with an acknowledgement of – and thanks for – the use of the sacred land of the indigenous Aboriginal peoples, whose representatives also addressed us and explained the problems they had to face. The excellent presentations included an account of Darwin’s role in dealing with the victims of the Bali bombing, what is was like to practise surgery in the outback, and so on.
Tours of the neighbourhood and of Darwin bay (twice the size of Sydney Harbour) failed sadly to give us a glimpse of the fabled Darwin sunset, though some who visited the Kakadu National Park could savour this from a light aircraft in its one hour flight (with commentary).
The Leeds meeting early in September strengthened the view that here was a pioneering surgical unit, backing first class clinical services (especially hepato-pancreatico-biliary and colorectal) with extensive research into cellular and molecular biology for which a fourth clinical science unit had already had its site opened by the Health Minister John Read.
The visit began with a visit to Thackray’s Museum, opened in 1997 on the site of the old Leeds Union Workhouse and capturing the history of medicine in a variety of galleries and displays – including a mock slum – appealing to the child’s curiosity in all of us. On display were a collection of instruments and their catalogues (going back several hundred years. Numerous rooms and galleries were dedicated to educating the interested public about the evolution of medicine, hygiene, and social change especially in the Leeds area.
There was also a temporary tribute to that pioneering forensic pathologist Sir Bernard Spilsbury, who was born in Leamington Spa in 1907 and gave credibility to his chosen career, both in the courtroom and the public eye. His evidence convicted Crippen and other famous murderers, including Tony Mancini of Brighton. His son was one of few to die at St Thomas’ from a direct hit on the hospital from wartime bombing, and as Sir Bernard became aware of his own failing faculties he gassed himself in his laboratory at the age of 72. His legacy to forensic science was immense.
Our visit to Leeds surely captured the spirit extant in the days of our founding President Lord Moynihan.
Sadly two distinguished long-lived senior members of the TSS died in 2004, namely Arnold Gourevitch and Sinclair Irwin. They made enormous contributions to the surgical services in their respective home grounds of Birmingham and Northern Ireland, and their presence at our meetings brought distinction and humour as well as happy memories. Their obituaries follow. Joan Wade – Larry Wade’s widow – also died, giving cause to reflect on Larry’s own contributions to thyroid surgery. All three were well over 80.