Obituary: Frank d'Abreu

Frank d'Abreu gave unstinted service for 23 years to Westminster Hospital and Medical School.

D'Abreu was a skilful, delicate, gentle and speedy surgeon with whom anaesthetists liked to work - a good recommendation. He was not an "academic" but full of sound clinical judgement. Above all he had the surgical equivalent of "green fingers" so that patients did well even when the complexities of the surgery were great. In no way a prima donna in the operating theatre, he had an idiosyncratic way of challenging his assistants to prevent any mishap - a method of teaching shaped by his puckish humour.

D'Abreu's other great interest was the Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth, of which he was an Honorary Surgeon from 1950. He was a lifelong Roman Catholic and to this small hospital in St John's Wood, north London, run by the Sisters of Mercy, he gave generously of his time and expertise. At the time of his appointment it was a small independent charitable hospital with its own nurse-training school, a casualty department and a 24-hour emergency admission service - which put potentially huge demands on the consultant surgeons. The hospital took in patients of every religion and none - but it had in those days a special commitment to the clergy of the Archdiocese of Westminster. D'Abreu gave freely of his time and expertise in their care and treatment for many years.

The son of a Birmingham doctor, d'Abreu was born in 1904 and educated at Stonyhurst College, in Lancashire. When he left in 1922 he was Head of the Line (headboy), captain of both cricket and rugby and a natural for any sport he tackled. His interest in the field led to his becoming a member of the Board of Management of the Institute of Sports Medicine.

After graduation from Birmingham University he proceeded to Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1932. From 1934 to the outbreak of the Second World War he held registrar posts at St Bartholomew's and Westminster hospitals, in London. Already a member of the Royal Army Medical Corps (Supplementary Reserve), he was soon called up and served throughout, finishing as Lieutenant-Colonel in South-East Asia Command.

In 1945 he married Ann Bowes-Lyon (a cousin of the Queen Mother), and a year later was appointed a consultant surgeon to Westminster Hospital. To this hospital and its medical school he gave service for the next 23 years. He was also an examiner in surgery at the Universities of Cambridge and London and a member of the Court of Examiners of the Royal College of Surgeons. Later he was to become medical adviser and examiner to the Jockey Club.

He was always supportive of the students, especially in their sporting activities. Rugby, and especially the Inter-Hospital Championship, was his obsession and one which undoubtedly helped the Westminster team to rise to great heights in the late Fifties. Never was a match played but he could be seen up and down the touchline encouraging, cajoling and even swearing at his team. At other times, when challenged, he would perform the unusual feat of standing on his head whilst drinking a glass of beer - to the delight of his students.

Philip King

Francis Arthur d'Abreu, surgeon: born 1 October 1904; Consultant Surgeon, Westminster Hospital 1946-69 (Emeritus); Honorary Surgeon, Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth, St John's Wood 1950-69 (Emeritus); married 1945 Ann Bowes-Lyon (one son, two daughters); died 16 November 1995.

ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Chief Executive

£28, 700: Whiskey Whiskey Tango: Property Management Company is seeking a brig...

COO / Chief Operating Officer

£80 - 100k + Bonus: Guru Careers: A COO / Chief Operating Officer is needed to...

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

Day In a Page

Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?