At the funeral at St. Mary’s Church, Theydon Bois, on 11 March 2020, Sir Marcus Setchell gave the following tribute to his long-time friend and colleague:
I am deeply honoured to have been asked to provide this tribute to a man who was my teacher and introducer to ‘Obs and Gynae’ as a medical student.
He was my trainer and consultant boss as a junior doctor in the late 1960’s when, I remember to this day, he told me to make what was my first abdominal incision. Seeing me paralysed by nerves, a gruff voice said: “go on boy, get on with it!”, and I did. After being appointed as a consultant colleague, he became a highly valued mentor and role model for the whole of my career, and even becoming a father-figure of guidance into retirement, right up to his death.
Christopher Neville Hudson (Chris, or ‘Huddie’, as he was known to many of us) was born in Oxford on 19 July 1930.
His parents lived in Bombay where his father, Lovell, worked as an accountant. His mother, Margaret, who had been a nurse, had lost two children due to premature births in India, and hence returned to the UK for future pregnancies. A daughter Anne, sadly now deceased, was born in 1926, and Chris was born four years later.
I am grateful to Caryl for providing me some details of his early life, which I had never heard Chris speak of. He had what, perhaps at that time, was not an unusual childhood, in that his parents remained living in India, while Chris lived in England being rotated around four aunts as child minders, of whom his favourite was Biddy, only seeing his parents when they came back on leave periods from India. He was sent to boarding school in Reigate at a very young age, and then to Radley College in Oxfordshire, now one of only four all-male, all-boarding schools in the country, with a strong emphasis on sport . This is where his life-long passion for rowing developed. He was apparently not noted for scholastic achievements, but no doubt his rowing prowess helped him secure a place at Queens’ College, Cambridge in 1949 for his pre-clinical studies.
As a student at Cambridge and then Bart’s for his clinical studies Chris had a reputation for being a bit of a rebel, although Caryl describes this as ‘a bit of a naughty boy’. He and Caryl, who was doing her nurse training at Barts met at one of the ‘hops’ in College Hall. These regularly-held, rumbustious events were the forerunner of discos and dating apps, and a great deal more fun, I suspect. Chris wooed her with hair-raising spins, not just on the dance-floor, but in his Bentley drop-head coupe. From what I understand she decided to dump him for a time, while he grew out of his naughtiness, until true-love took hold after they had both qualified, and they married in 1957. Caryl, with the help of his beloved dogs, has been the absolute central core in guiding and supporting this man, who had been denied real family life, through a warm, loving, long and happy marriage. Chris was rightly proud of Jayne, Grahame and Neal’s successful lives and their families, which brought so much fulfilment to his life.
Of course there is much to be said of the huge contributions that he made in his professional life, but suffice it to say today that the devoted care he gave to literally thousands of patients at Barts, Hackney, The Mothers’ Hospital, Homerton, not forgetting a year in Ibadan, Nigeria, and eight years in Sydney where he was Foundation Professor at the new Westmead Medical School.
His research output resulted in 92 academic publications; he wrote five textbooks, travelled all over the world lecturing; and sat on endless university, Royal College and National Health Committees. He was a brilliant surgeon, and devised an operation for advanced ovarian cancer, as well as publishing important research on new medical treatments, which changed thinking on how to deal with this disease. Later in his career he carried a banner for the management of HIV in relation to pregnancy, which had considerable influence on attitudes and care of these patients.
He loved everything about Barts, and after he returned from Sydney, he was appointed back as a Consultant and Professor at Barts and Homerton. By a neat turn of fate, Chris had been on the appointment committee when I was appointed a consultant in 1975, and I was on the committee that re-appointed him to Barts ten years later. He was a major player in the campaign to prevent Barts from closure. Students loved him for his enthusiasm for the Boat Club, although as a teacher, he was somewhat feared if they fell short of his high standards. We all loved his barbecues and fireworks on November 5th, and other hospitality at Chris and Caryl’s home, and at Leander Club. In retirement he led from the front as the first male Chairman of the Guild of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, where he inspired volunteers and all who worked for this valuable patient support organisation. He also contributed widely to local organisations here in Essex.
It is no wonder that there are so many here today, to honour this man of the highest integrity, who selflessly gave so much to so many in his long life. We have also come to express our sympathy to Caryl and his family, who gave so much support and love to him throughout his career, and all the others who helped him to endure so bravely many years of debilitation at the end of his long life.
Sir Marcus Setchell
KCVO FRCS FRCOG