Sir Norman Blacklock

Urologist and 'Britannia' surgeon


Norman James Blacklock, naval officer and surgeon: born Glasgow 5 February 1928; Consultant in Surgery and Urology, and Director of Surgical Research, Royal Navy 1970-78; OBE 1974; Medical Adviser to the Queen (on overseas visits) 1976-93, Extra Gentleman Usher 1993-2006; Professor of Urological Surgery, Victoria University of Manchester 1978-91 (Emeritus); CVO 1989, KCVO 1993; married 1956 Marjorie Reid (one son, one daughter); died Portsmouth 7 September 2006.

Norman Blacklock combined several careers that are usually mutually exclusive. He was a general and trauma surgeon, a consultant urologist and Professor and Head of Department of Urological Surgery at the Victoria University of Manchester - where he set up a lithotripsy service, the first non- invasive treatment for kidney stones. He was a naval surgeon with experience of trauma treatment who accompanied the Queen on Britannia, later taking leave from his university post from time to time to be with her on her overseas tours. He was a contributor to several textbooks on medicine and surgery and his research advanced our knowledge of prostate enlargement and cancer, and of kidney stone formation.

He was, said his former colleague Sir Miles Irving,

a quiet man for a surgeon; very kind, a gentle man in the true sense of the word. He was a kind man, and a urologist who made major advances in the understanding of prostatic disease.

Blacklock was a reassuring personage in the royal entourage, carrying a black bag packed with medicines, a portable defibrillator and other resuscitation equipment. He took diplomatic account of the Queen's enthusiasm for homeopathy. Britannia always had a naval anaesthetist on board, and the Queen brought her own surgeon (she is known to prefer the company of servicemen). The royal yacht had a fully equipped operating theatre, and the Queen's Flight is fitted with emergency medical equipment. Blacklock also had to liaise with the best local hospital in case the Queen needed in-patient treatment.

The Duke of Edinburgh nicknamed him "Hemlock". The press corps did the same, but were happy to consult him when needed. The Queen never suffered from anything worse than gastroenteritis on her trips, and only in very hot climates, while the Duke never admitted to being ill and recoiled from the sight of a medical receptacle.

Part of Blacklock's job was to vet the food being offered by host countries. In Belize, Central America, the prized dish at a feast was a roast agouti or paca, known locally as a gibnut, a 2ft-long nocturnal rodent prized for its delicious flesh. He had to explain to Her Majesty that it was "a dressed-up rodent". The British tabloid press reported this as "Queen Eats Rat" and in Belize the animal is now known as the royal gibnut.

Norman Blacklock was born in 1928 into a Scottish medical family with a naval tradition. When he was 13 the family home was badly damaged by a near-miss from a 2,000lb bomb in the Glasgow blitz and he was evacuated, to McLaren High School, Callander, in Perthshire. He qualified in medicine at Glasgow University and did his postgraduate house jobs at the Western Infirmary and Glasgow Royal Infirmary in the following year. He followed this by three years' National Service in the Royal Navy, serving on HMS Theseus and Warrior, where he treated trauma victims.

He remained a naval reserve officer when he returned to civilian life as registrar and lecturer in surgery at Glasgow Royal Infirmary for two years, followed by two years in Ipswich. By then, the Navy needed to expand its cadre of surgeons within the service and asked him to rejoin. His first appointment was at the naval hospital in Chatham, followed by hospitals in Plymouth and Malta.

Blacklock was then posted to the navy hospital at Haslar, serving Portsmouth, where he launched a department of urological surgery, and carried out research into the anatomy and inflammatory disorders of the prostate, and on renal stone and its aetiology. He became the Navy's Director of Surgical Research, retiring in 1978 after a 20-year stretch.

During his last two years in the Navy he accompanied the Queen on a visit on Britannia to Luxembourg, standing in at the last minute when the designated surgeon was taken ill on the eve of departure. This was originally a one-off arrangement, but was so successful that he accompanied the Queen on the many visits she made in 1977, her jubilee year. He continued to be royal surgeon on her overseas visits until 1993. Britannia was phased out during this time, and he accompanied her on the Queen's Flight instead. He was appointed CVO in 1979 and advanced KCVO in 1993, at the end of his last royal tour, to Hungary.

Unusually for an ex-service doctor, he became an academic, being appointed Professor at Manchester University. He was based at Withington Hospital in south Manchester where, with the encouragement of the North Western Regional Hospital Board, he set up a lithotripter centre for treating kidney stones. Hitherto, stones had been removed using open surgery; the lithotripter machine broke stones down using ultrasound waves, usually as an out-patient procedure. Other hospital regions rapidly bought the machine and offered a similar service.

Blacklock published over 80 papers on prostatic disease and kidney stone, including studies on dietary influences, and contributed to numerous textbooks.

In his retirement he travelled, tended his garden, cooked, and baked bread. He remained in good health. On the afternoon of his 50th wedding anniversary he fell while ascending some steps and died a few hours later. He is survived by his wife and his children, Neil and Fiona, both of whom are doctors.

Caroline Richmond

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
The Queen and the letter sent to Charlie
football
Arts and Entertainment
Eurovision Song Contest 2015
EurovisionGoogle marks the 2015 show
News
Two lesbians hold hands at a gay pride parade.
peopleIrish journalist shares moving story on day of referendum
Arts and Entertainment
<p>
<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
</p>
<p>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
<p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
<p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
booksKathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
News
Liz Kendall played a key role in the introduction of the smoking ban
newsLiz Kendall: profile
Life and Style
techPatent specifies 'anthropomorphic device' to control media devices
Voices
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits
voicesAndrew Grice: Prime Minister can talk 'one nation Conservatism' but putting it into action will be tougher
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?