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Obituaries: 1960-1969 Leavers

 Francis C (Colin) Excell (1958-62)

Francis Colin Excell was born 8 August 1944 to Stanley and Phyllis Excell at Guildford Hospital, Surrey; this was a hospital that used to be a workhouse so he would sometimes say he was “born in the workhouse”. His family actually lived in Observatory Road, East Sheen.

Colin went first to Tower House, East Sheen and later to St Paul's (on the old site). He was in the choir of Christ Church, East Sheen and, at about the age of seven, was chosen to sing the “Once in Royal David's City” solo at the carol service when his elder brother, Robin, had been chosen for one of the readings.

Colin was very practical and inquisitive; at the age of four he sat watching a workman doing 'wood graining' to correct war damage. After moving with his parents to Worthing, Sussex he did some wood graining at the new house for his father from the knowledge gained. As a member of St Paul's Scouts, Troop 3, he helped at 'agoonerees', supporting disabled scouts while camping. He had taken up rowing while at St Paul's and because of his small size, he naturally became a cox. Before there was a 'national squad' for rowing he was coxing it (Barns Cottage) and had hoped to attend the Tokyo Olympics; only coxless fours went however, but he was awarded his national colours.

Colin was involved with Expo68 raising money for Sussex Churches including the building of the daughter church (St Peters) for St Mary’s of Sompting, Sussex. In fact he eventually did four son-et-lumières: Chailey Heritage, Cuckfield Park, Sompting St Mary’s, and St Mary’s Goring. He did sound and lighting effects for various amateur theatrical societies.

Colin became unwell with stress in the late 1970s and was still not working when; through his parents' membership of the Sussex Family History Group he met Judy Warren and they were married at Sompting St Marys in December 1981 and went to live in Goring on Sea. When he was again fit enough for work he immediately applied and obtained a job as a cleaner; he later became a supervisor of a team of cleaners and was highly regarded at the agency by which he was employed.

He also responded to calls for volunteers for Neighbourhood Watch and in 2000 became an early member of the West Downs Neighbourhood Watch Search Team. He was called out on several searches until 2010.

Colin became Chairman of the Sussex Family History Group in 2008 and only stood down (in 2015) after he had helped with the establishment of The Keep, which houses local record office material and at which SFHG has its own room. He was there at the beginning when the idea of The Keep was no more than an architect’s bubble diagram on a flip chart, and he was there at the end when the building was officially opened and he met the Queen. In between he worked tirelessly to help deliver the dream.

One of Colin’s many interests was the weather and he would view the reports on the BBC and also watch the skies. This usually enabled him to cut the grass just before the rain.
Colin died on 7 September 2015, having been rushed to hospital by ambulance, of a heart attack. One hundred and forty people attended his funeral in Brighton on Monday 5 October with donations to the Friends of Sompting Church.

 

Martin Hankey (1957-62)

Martin was born in Maidenhead on 12 March 1944: a son to Gus and Irene and a younger brother to Tim.  At St.Paul’s he was an outstanding scholar, deploying his aptitude for Classics, languages  and friendship with his customary humour, vigour and aplomb.   In Peter Cleaver’s words; ‘he always seemed to win every prize going’; Ken Waters recalls that Martin never forgot any poem that  he had learned, including those in Latin. Passionate about rowing, too, he was stroke of the 2nd VIII  in 1962.  He went up to Trinity College, Cambridge, on an Exhibition in Classics.  Robert Ascott recalls him doing distinguished work there as well as enjoying success rowing in the 2nd May Boat.  Martin also much enjoyed singing in the choir at St.Paul’s, in a madrigal group at Trinity and later in the Tonbridge Philharmonic. At Cambridge, he met Gillian – a very bright classicist at Newnham – and Robert played the organ at their wedding.

Martin’s professional career took him almost seamlessly from Cambridge to qualification as a  solicitor in the City of London, in the leading firm of Herbert Smith and then Nordic Bank, a  consortium of four major Nordic banks including Handelsbanken, which later on decided to  go it alone. To set up a new bank from scratch was, in the words of his boss, Lars Evander, ‘an experience few are offered, and it was a pleasure to do it with Martin.’  He went on to become Head of Legal and Compliance for the investment side of the bank and was very happy there. Each summer he organised a regatta for the Nordic banks, using Tub Fours borrowed and then bought from the school, and also enjoyed to the full a Swedish Viking Society which combined memorising Swedish verse, singing raucous songs and drinking.  Whenever he wanted to relax and exorcise the pressures of work, he took to the Medway in his canoe.

Martin relished his links with the School and his contemporaries, offering drinks in his City flat for OPs before the Feast Service at St.Paul’s and supper at the Mercers, and also catching up at Colet Boat Club dinners. In 1990, as City Remembrancer, I admitted Martin to the Freedom of the City of London.  In 2007, he was one of 16 present of the 17 in the school Remove of 1957 at a dinner at Brooks’s hosted by John Govett, who recalls that he was the only one who said that he did not regret reading Classics.  In 2011, I hosted a lunch for nine of us at The Garrick for the 2nd VIII of 1961.
He was a devoted and adored husband to Gillian, father to Anna and Carrie and grandfather to Lucy, Thomas, Felix and Malika.  He was a very kind, loving, funny and, at times, eccentric man who loved to tell jokes, sing songs and read bedtime stories, doing all the voices.  Martin was very active locally in the Tonbridge Round Table, the French Circle with Gillian, U3A, 41 Club and other local groups. He much enjoyed holidays abroad, where his French, Italian, Spanish and Swedish were much in evidence, with copious quantities of camaraderie, wine and fun.  Italy and Greece always felt like a particular kind of home to Martin.

Already ill, Robert drove him to the Earliest Vintage luncheon at the school on 25th April last year. He told me about his concerns for Gillian’s health and the infection behind his right knee. Things only got worse.  The amputation of his right leg was far too late to halt the spread of the infection and cancer to the rest of his body.  Tony Fuller and his wife, Valerie, kept in regular touch with both Martin and Gillian. Alan Chaney kept him in stitches with regular emails from Denmark.

Bruce Boswell recalls Martin’s wish to continue canoeing, albeit with only one leg, and his fury that it was his right leg that was missing, making it impossible to heel and toe his beloved Alfa Romeo: ‘It will have to be a bloody automatic’.  As his health deteriorated, he was thrilled to be able to watch on YouTube from his hospital bed all five days of Henley Royal Regatta, culminating in the superb triumph of the 1st VIII in the Princess Elizabeth Cup for the first time since 1997.  Martin died on 28 July with his family around him, save Gillian who was too ill.  His GP, Dr Peter Bench, told Anna and Carrie that Martin was undoubtedly the bravest man that he had ever met.

Adrian Barnes (1956-61)

 

Professor Bryan D Lask (1954-60)

Bryan Lask, died aged 74 on 24 October 2015 after a long illness. He continued to work, teach, write and research until six months before his death.  He was a pioneer child and adolescent psychiatrist with an international reputation for his work on eating disorders, especially those occurring in children and adolescents. After 12 years, 1983 -1995, investigating and treating the families and psychological states of these patients, (usually, but by no means always girls), he turned his attention to the possibility that there might be a brain-based explanation for these conditions. In the mid-1990s, with his colleague, Isky Gordon, a leading paediatric radiologist, he embarked on a series of studies of brain functioning. Alongside these, in collaboration with research psychologists, he carried out numerous studies of neuropsychological function. It had previously been assumed that the causes of anorexia nervosa lay entirely in the personalities and upbringing of those suffering from this disorder. Inevitably parents were made to feel guilty at the thought they might have been responsible for their children’s disorders. Lask and Gordon were able to demonstrate changes in regional blood flow in the brains of girls with eating disorders. With his long-standing colleague, Ken Nunn, an Australian child psychiatrist, Lask developed a neurobiological theory focusing on the insula, a deep-lying structure in the brain, as central to the development of these conditions. Following training at Great Ormond Street, Nunn has had a successful academic career in Australia but he and Lask remained close friends and colleagues over the years.   These studies were brought together in a book entitled ‘Eating Disorders and the Brain’, edited by Bryan Lask and Ian Frampton. More than anything else, Lask aimed to reduce the stigma and blame associated with eating disorders by highlighting that they were not a choice but an affliction for those affected.

From his earliest days as a consultant child psychiatrist, Lask had shown an unusual ability to bring scientific rigour to his subject while retaining genuine enthusiasm for finding ways of treating illness. At a time when treatment studies in the field were rare, he carried out a controlled study of family therapy in patients with childhood asthma, showing benefit to those who received the treatment. He showed an early interest in childhood onset anorexia nervosa and, with his colleague, Rachel Bryant-Waugh, a gifted research-orientated clinical psychologist, he carried out an important series of clinical and follow-up studies of this condition. It became apparent from these studies just how crippling early-onset anorexia nervosa could be. An article published in 1987 from the team he led described the first large series of young children with anorexia nervosa. There were 48 children aged less than 14 years, 13 boys and 35 girls. They were aged 7 to 13 years and half had not reached even the first stages of puberty. They showed the typical symptoms of the condition, with food refusal, severe loss of weight, depression, fear of fatness, distorted body image, self-induced vomiting, excessive physical exercise, obsessional behaviour, bingeing and laxative abuse.  The existence of the condition in children before puberty and in boys gave the lie to the idea that this was a disease of adolescence or that it arose from a fear of growing up to be a fully mature woman. Childhood onset anorexia nervosa was revealed to be a serious condition. A follow up seven years later revealed that 10 children had remained moderately or severely impaired in their everyday lives and two had died.

He also had a gift for identifying previously unrecognised disorders. In 1991, with colleagues, he published the first clinical description of so-called pervasive refusal syndrome, a condition in which children aged 9 to 15 years refuse to eat, drink, walk or talk for months or even years at a time. One of the four children described was a nine year old girl transferred from a paediatric ward. After she had developed normally into an intelligent, hard-working, popular girl, she had become increasingly withdrawn. She eventually stopped speaking, making only high-pitched moans. On admission to the childen’s psychiatric ward she was alert and showed interest in her surroundings but avoided eye contact by covering her eyes whenever an adult came near her. She refused to walk or care for herself, and resisted all physical contact, including any form of feeding. After 18 months of group and individual therapy and encouragement from nursing staff she was eating normally and was mobile but refused to go home. Reasons for her rejection of home were suspected but nothing could be proved. Eventually she was placed in a small group children’s home, fully active.  Pervasive refusal disorder is now identified as a major syndrome, occurring, for example, in refugee children who have given up hope at a time when they feel their parents have also given up hope.
One of Lask’s outstanding characteristics was his ability to communicate to patients and their families as well as with the wider public. He was much in demand as a speaker at international conferences. The week after his appearance in October 2013 on the Radio 4 programme, Inside Health, talking about eating disorders, the presenter, Mark Porter, reported that his producer had had so much positive feedback from listeners on his contribution, he was thinking of setting up a Bryan Lask fan club!

He was brought up in London, the eldest of the three sons of Rita and Aaron Lask, a general practitioner well known for his interest in psychosomatic medicine. He was educated at St. Pauls’s School, and trained in medicine at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, London. Like at least some other doctors who eventually found a niche in psychiatry, he had great difficulty in passing the examination in Physics necessary for admission to medical school. After two failures only St. Bartholomew’s would consider him but they required a pass (50%) in Physics. On 21 December 1960, he had not heard the result and, with great anxiety, plucked up the courage to ring the Professor of Physics. This happened to be Joseph Rotblat, a nuclear physicist who had worked on but then withdrawn from the Manhatten Project and who later won the Nobel Peace Prize. According to Lask a ‘sympathetic and kindly eastern European accent emerged and said ‘Lask, yes indeed Lask. I do have your result here. You obtained 49% but as Christmas is approaching we’ll call it 50%’.

After medical qualification in 1966, he trained in psychiatry and then child psychiatry at the Maudsley and the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street, London. He met his wife, Judith, a social worker who achieved prominence in her own field, when he was a junior doctor and she a young social worker. They had been allocated to co-lead a therapeutic group in the Maudsley Children’s Department.  Lask was appointed consultant child psychiatrist in the Department of Psychological Medicine at the Hospital for Sick Children, London, in 1975. There he entered fully into all aspects of the work of a very busy department, while setting up the first nationally recognised Eating Disorders Clinic for children and adolescents with Rachel Bryant-Waugh. This was a very busy and productive time for him.

In 1998 he moved to St. George’s Hospital where he was appointed to a Chair in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. From 2004-2011 he worked as a Visiting Professor and Research Director at the Regional Eating Disorders Service, University of Oslo, Norway. His international standing was confirmed by his election to be President of the Eating Disorders Research Society from which he received an ‘outstanding leadership and service award’. As recently as 2012 he was appointed the founding editor of a new journal ‘Advances in Eating Disorders – theory, research and practice’. He was constantly trying to encourage plain English, develop practical approaches, dismantle professional pretence and avoid medical jargon. In 1985 he published an article in the Journal of Family Therapy entitled ‘Jargon, Ambiguity, Pomposity and Other Pests’, deploring the style of much academic literature in the field.

It is not widely known that from 1977 and for the rest of his life, Lask battled with the complications of treatment for cancer of the bowel.  His condition required admission to hospital every year often for days or weeks at a time. He wrote a paper on the psychological effects of stoma surgery, but his own courage and energy in the face of long-standing illness were remarkable. He maintained a punishing schedule of teaching and presenting keynote addresses at international conferences. He became separated, but not estranged, from Judith who gave him great love and care throughout his life and his illness. He died after saying goodbye to her, and is also survived by his two sons, Gideon, the CEO and founder of a multiple technology business and Adam, an archaeologist who runs a training business in his field, as well as four grandchildren, Raffi, Lucas, Cassius and Lila.

Bryan Lask, child and adolescent psychiatrist, was born on 18 February 1941. He died on 24 October 2015, aged 74.

Written by a colleague, Phillip Graham

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