Education And Debate

The hard boiled saint: Selwyn-Clarke in Hong Kong

BMJ 1995; 311 doi: (Published 19 August 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;311:492
  1. Mervyn Horder
  1. a4 Hamilton Close, London NW8 8 QY

    Percy Selwyn Clarke by birth, he adopted the name Selwyn-Clarke by deed poll during the first world war, expressly so that he could collect his letters more promptly on active service, there being already a surfeit of ordinary Clarkes in his division. It was the kind of original, independent act that was completely typical of the man.

    Early career

    He was born in North Finchley in December 1893, the fifth of a London solicitor's 11 children. Educated at Bedales, he joined St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical School in 1912 and qualified in 1916. He served as medical officer with two different units in France, was twice wounded, and was awarded the Military Cross in 1918. Some brief excursions into general practice led him to resolve that never again would he take a patient's money in exchange for his medical services; so that after the war in 1919 he volunteered for the Colonial Medical Service, which gave him his first civil posting abroad, to the Gold Coast.

    Few Europeans survived the savage heat of West Africa for more than a few short tours of duty. Selwyn-Clarke served there (including a two year secondment to Malaya) for more than 17 years. In addition to his routine public health duties, he immersed himself in the pioneer work on control of yellow fever that was being carried out in West Africa; his share of the work included inoculating himself with some of the experimental vaccines. He remembered with the greatest pride that, when all the former European street names were changed (with the coming of the new state of Ghana), the name of Selwyn Market, which he had caused to be built in Accra, was alone retained and is retained to this day. During his period in Malaya in 1929 he travelled widely all over the Far …

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