1931 - 2012
an appreciation, by Michael Wells
This eulogy was given by Professor Wells at the funeral of Professor Fox
I have known Harold for 40 years; in the early 1970s, he inspired me as a medical student to do Pathology. His lecturing style was electrifying and amusing. He gave the undergraduate lecture on the Pathology of Venereal Disease (as it was referred to in those days). He began by stating:
“Of course, it is not true that you cannot catch venereal disease from a lavatory but it’s not a very pleasant place to take a lady”.
spent his entire professional life in
an intercalated BSc with Harold in 1973 and our paths crossed again when I
Harold had full insight into the possible consequences of his lifestyle and probably no one was more amazed than he that he reached his 80th birthday. Like Leonard Bernstein, Simon Gray, Beryl Bainbridge and David Hockney, his cigarette smoking seemed to be linked inextricably to his creativity. His output was prodigious and included several textbooks and hundreds of scientific papers, many of which were the result of his longstanding collaboration with Hilary Buckley. He was awarded the Gold Medal for his MD thesis on the Pathology of the Placenta, founded two journals including Placenta with Page Faulk and was made a fellow of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. But it was his ability as a lecturer that resulted in him being, probably, the most widely travelled and renowned pathologist of his generation. Like the finest Queen’s Counsel, Harold was well rehearsed and had the ability to dissect the issues and develop an argument, often in a quite iconoclastic, but always amusing manner.
will be best remembered by his friends and colleagues for his acerbic wit. At
the winter meeting of the Pathological Society in 1987, at dinner in an
in 1987, a contingent of British pathologists travelled by train from
favourite story occurred in
not share Harold’s enthusiasm for Manchester United or
For his 79th birthday, I gave him a copy of Nathaniel Philbrick’s latest book “Last Stand” about the Battle of Little Big Horn. I found it gripping, reading it late into the night. Harold took one look at it and declared: “It’s quite astonishing Mike that, after all the years you have known me, you seem to have no idea what I enjoy reading!”
I could go on with my amusing recollections of the last thirty years; we laughed uncontrollably on many occasions, usually about some local behavioural idiosyncrasy.
Harold could be petulant, brusque and, sometimes, downright rude but warmed to those who did not give ground; he could be disdainful in spades and, undoubtedly, had his detractors. However, the salient point for me is that those who worked with him, often over many years, held him in great affection.
Following his surgery in 2007, when he could no longer
fly and, after years of exotic travel, Harold and Augusta visited more prosaic
destinations in the
Harold’s last public appearance, as it were, was in November 2008 when, at a dinner at the Athenaeum, he was awarded the Presidential medal of the British Division of the International Academy of Pathology, for his long and distinguished service to education in gynaecological pathology. Though frail, within one minute of him rising to his feet, everyone in the room was laughing.
“On these occasions it is usual for one to express humbly how undeserving such an award is. Well, can I say that, in this case, it’s thoroughly deserved; in fact I believe it’s rather overdue”.
In 2004, I interviewed Harold for the International Journal of Gynaecological Pathology. I asked him if he had any outstanding or unfulfilled ambitions. Harold replied:
“…my ambitions are largely negative: I don’t want to feel guilty about not learning a foreign language, I do not want to take classes in art or art appreciation, I do not want to drink less wine, I do not want to eat more fruit and vegetables, I do not want to take more exercise and I do not want to fly Economy Class”.
Harold exuded fortitude and a total lack of self pity in his final illness. He was intellectually sharp and retained his sense of humour to the end when, after some quip, his face would become suffused by his mischievous smile.
We shall all miss him a great deal and his legacy will endure for years to come. Even as I say that, I can hear him saying: “Mike, are there any more platitudes you would like to share with us?”
30th March 2012