The man who rebuilt faces

Gifted plastic surgeon Martin Kelly will be remembered for his generosity

Lisa Markwell
Sunday 25 May 2008 00:00

"King of the nose jobs" – what an undignified epitaph for a very dignified man. Yes, Martin Kelly was a plastic surgeon known among the Tatler classes as a talented fixer of noses, but there was much more.

Mr Kelly was a surgeon gifted in plastic procedures and reconstruction, but before his medical career he had been a model, under his birth name of Martin Hirigoyen. As a photographer's assistant in the mid-Eighties, I'd admired his brooding good looks across a studio. What few people could have known is that Martin was modelling to fund his medical training.

Ten years later, after a serious motorbike accident, I found myself in a London hospital, being prepared for reconstructive surgery on a giant leg wound. The surgeon was Mr Kelly, a generous, calm and helpful presence at a terrifying time.

To my shame, I told the nurses that the surgeon was actually an ex-pin up and fixture of style magazines. Whether it caused him embarrassment in the staff lounge I never found out, but he was definitely a cut above the rest of the blue-scrubs brigade.

Mr Kelly's reputation for brilliant (and subtle) rhinoplasty and cosmetic surgery made him famous, and his marriage to the actress Natascha McElhone was a further enhancement, but he didn't take the predicted path of fixture on the celeb circuit between Harley Street appointments.

Well, Mr Kelly was pictured from time to time in illustrious company, most often at fundraisers for the charity he founded, Facing the World, which allowed underprivileged children from the poorest countries to have reconstructive facial surgery by top physicians.

The many tributes to Mr Kelly include one from Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, whose septum he repaired after drug use destroyed it.

On Tuesday, he collapsed on his doorstep, where he was discovered by a fellow surgeon, and was taken to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital – the place he did his NHS work. He was found to have suffered dilated cardiomyopathy, which weakened his heart.

His wife – they had just celebrated 10 years of marriage and had two children – was in California filming when the news was relayed. It is difficult to imagine how traumatic the journey home to London must have been for Ms McElhone, pregnant with their third child.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in