This blog is about new entrants to the Colombo Medical Faculty of the University of Ceylon (as it was then known) in June 1962. Please address all communications to: firstname.lastname@example.org.You may bookmark this page for easier access later.
Header image: Courtesy Prof. Rohan Jayasekara, Dean, Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo (2011 - 2014).
Hamilton Bailey FRCS, FACS - Surgical Tutor par Excellence
By Nihal D Amerasekera
To medical students and doctors the name
Hamilton Bailey is synonymous withSurgery for his extraordinary contribution to surgical literature. His
books Demonstrations in Clinical Surgeryand A Short
Text Book of Surgery which he co-authored with McNeill Love became our text
books. They were bench-books for surgeons during their
training.His book titled Emergency Surgery was greatly respected
by practicing surgeons. These books are
still in print, updated and widely read. They still command worldwide sales. With
such knowledge and expertise I assumed he lead a charmed life of luxury basking
in his wealth and affluence. I thought he was an eminent consultant in a prestigious
London teaching hospital with a lucrative Harley Street practice. I was proved
wrong on both counts.
For many years, in September, I have
followed the swallows in their migration to southern Spain for the luxury of
autumn sunshine. The Costa Del Sol is a paradise for sun-worshippers. I made my
annual pilgrimage to a quiet corner away from the hordes that descend on this
magical place. On one such occasion I visited the city of Malaga, the largest
coastal city in Andalucia. It is a fascinating place with Moorish and Roman
ruins and the Picasso Museum.As I
walked its pretty tree lined streets I came across an English Cemetery and
decided to take a stroll along its well-heeled passages. As usual I read some
of the tombstones as I passed by and amazingly came across the name of Hamilton
Bailey. This aroused my curiosity and fascination to research his life to find
out why he lay in a distant foreign field.
Hamilton Bailey was born to Scottish
parents in 1894. His father was a doctor and his mother, a nurse. She suffered
from depression and drank heavily. His sister had schizophrenia and was in and
out of mental institutions. Thus his
childhood wasn’t ideal.Despite his
difficulties he entered the London
Hospital Medical School at the age of 16 and qualified in 1916. While training
in surgery at the London Hospital he developed an infection in one of his
fingers which had to be amputated. This was the era before antibiotics. It was
a tragedy for a budding surgeon.
1927 he published his first book Demonstrations
in Clinical Surgery. A Short Text Book of Surgery soon followed in 1932.His co-author was his friend and colleague
McNeill Love. His wife who was a photographer did the
magnificent illustrations for his books. Meanwhile he made many unsuccessful
applications for consultant posts in several hospitals. In 1930 he finally got his break at the Royal
Northern Hospital in Holloway, North London. It was not considered an elite
London teaching hospital.His reputation
spread as a charismatic teacher and a fine lecturer. He was one of the first to
organize a drill for cardiac arrest. Hamilton Bailey became a Hunterian
Professor at the Royal College of Surgeons.
With his large frame and self confidence he
was demanding and domineering. Those who knew him have said he had few social
graces, had no respect for authority and no rapport with patients or
colleagues. It is a sad indictment for an elegant author and a superb lecturer
with so many publications to enhance the profession.
Tragedy struck his family when his only
child died in a railway accident in 1943. His mental health suffered and his
behaviour became erratic.His temper was
uncontrollable at times. In 1949 Hamilton Bailey gave up his surgical practice
and sought psychiatric help.He was sectioned
and incarcerated for 3 yearsand was unresponsive
to treatment. When they were planning a prefrontal leucotomy a young registrar suggested trying out a new
drug.He was started on Lithium. Although he made a remarkable recovery he
never worked in medicine again. In 1951
he retired and bought a house in the hills near Fuengirola close to Malaga, in Spain,
to enjoy its Mediterranean climate. There he continued to write and maintained
contact with his surgical friends in England.
While enjoying his retirement he developed
signs of acute intestinal obstruction. He was rushed to the hospital in Malaga
where he had an abdominal operation. Hamilton Bailey died in 1961, aged 66, of septicaemia and peritonitis after surgery
to remove a cancer of the colon. He was buried in the English cemetery in
Malaga, Spain. There are many doctors
who visit the grave to pay homage to this brilliant teacher. They come not only
from the UK but from all over the world.
There can be few doctors of my generation
who do not remember Hamilton Bailey gratefully. Unlike many consultants of his
era he never chased money nor accumulated wealth for himself.His erratic behavior and tantrums are perhaps
due to his difficult childhood and mental illness.I sincerely hope history will judge him
kindly and remember his many contributions to surgery and his brilliance as a
teacher and author.He changed the face
of surgical teaching in the 20th century.
None of our lives are what it appears from
the outside.When I delve into the lives
of famous people I realize amidst their success they too have their share of
misfortunes and tragedies. There are many events in our lives that are beyond our
control. What amazes me most, in our
lives, is the awesome force of destiny.
I dedicate this short biography to my friend Bernard Randeniyaalias Claude Bernard . He was my constant companion all through Medical School and beyond. I have vivid memories of criss-crossing the long corridors of the General hospital Colombo with Bernardlooking for “good cases”. The agony and the ecstasy of exams, dancing and prancing, the music and the laughter of those years come easily to mind. He became a valued administrator in charge of the Cancer Institute in Maharagama.Bernard had so much to offer society when his life was cut short. Destiny was never kind to him. I will always remember him most fondly for his friendship, generosity and loyalty. His loud laughter still rings in my ears.May his Soul Rest in Peace.