Arthur Maclagan KingonBMJ 2005; 330 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.330.7488.423-a (Published 17 February 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:423
Arthur Maclagan Kingon
Consultant physician and geriatrician Weston-super-Mare 1968-85 (b Grahamstown, South Africa, 1920; q London 1951; MBE, FRCP London), d 12 December 2004.
Arthur Kingon led a full and adventurous life buoyed by a mildly eccentric and sometimes testing demeanour that sheltered his sensitivity and strong commitment to the underdog. He was born in Grahamstown, South Africa, in 1920 to a Methodist minister who preached widely throughout South Africa.
Arthur attended 10 schools but still matriculated at the early age of 16, by which time he was also a lay preacher. The outbreak of the second world war brought to an end several years work at the Standard Chartered Bank of South Africa. Arthur joined the South African Air Force and, following training in Kenya, became a bomber pilot seeing active service in northern Africa with 24 Squadron, who dubbed him the "fighting padre."
On 7 December 1941 his Boston bomber, which was on a tactical and reconnaissance role, was attacked and damaged and in flames he landed it and pulled out his two gunners; for this he was awarded the MBE for bravery. He was imprisoned by the Italians at Poppi in Tuscany. Escaping through sewers, he remained on the run long enough to pick up passable Italian, but was subsequently recaptured and taken by the Germans to a POW camp at Lübeck in Germany, adding a knowledge of German. After the war he was repatriated to South Africa, but intolerant of apartheid he left for England in his father’s ill fitting clothes and little else at the age of 26 to train in medicine at Guy’s Hospital. He never returned to his homeland. While studying medicine Arthur met Margery, married, and had two sons, Neil and Angus.
On qualifying as a doctor Arthur joined the British RAF and saw over 16 years’ medical service in Germany, Aden, and a number of British postings. He left the RAF as a wing commander. During his RAF service he wrote what was for some time a handbook for the management of venereal disease. Following his RAF service he trained in chest medicine at the Brompton Hospital, but as career prospects were poor he pursued the emerging specialty of geriatrics, taking a senior registrar post at the renowned unit at the Cowley Road Hospital, Oxford. In 1968 he was appointed as the first consultant physician and geriatrician to be based at Weston-super-Mare with a contract split between the hospital boards of Bristol and Taunton. His responsibilities were extensive, the population he served being best defined by Ordinance Survey map 182 (excluding Bridgwater). He established a service for older people and managed hundreds (literally) of hospital beds as a singlehanded consultant. "King Arthur’s kingdom" contained beds in many hospitals—Butleigh Cottage Hospital, The Priory in Wells, Paulton Hospital, Keynsham, and St John’s and Shute Shelve hospitals in Axbridge, as well as four Weston-super-Mare facilities. Not only did he control admission into his beds ensuring older people were not inappropriately institutionalised but he sustained people in the community through developing a number of day hospitals across his "patch" and the provision of dependable respite care. He also undertook innumerable clinics that reviewed older people receiving care in unregulated settings who would otherwise have remained unseen. Patients, their families, and doctors had an unfailing confidence in his service, but few had awareness of its extent. In addition to all this he also took part in the acute medical admission rota at Weston’s General Hospital.
Arthur was admittedly no politician but, to the irritation of colleagues (on which it has to be said he thrived), he was very aware that the continued efficient working of his service was fundamental for the development of Weston’s fledgling medical services. He was unquestionably intolerant of bureaucracy generally and indecision in particular, having a strong sense of what was right and what was wrong. With his onerous professional responsibilities spread so widely he was a relative stranger at meetings either at Taunton or Bristol and disingenuously referred to as a "physician with an interest in motoring," to which could only be added "in the fast lane," though he was generously supportive to trainees who sought his help.
The demands, resources, and commitment of Arthur’s clinical work would have been unmanageable for most. He flourished partly through his eccentric tendencies that included an occasional outing for straw hat in summer, the companionship of Margery, his family, and the distraction of his estate with its small flock of sheep. He enjoyed travel, particularly in France, which enabled him to acquire his fourth language. Having a keen disregard for pomposity it was not in Arthur’s nature to be overly revealing, and many that worked with him will have been unaware of the adventurous course of his life. [C E Bowman, N Kingon]
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