Written by William MacRae
I first came across Arnold when he was a medical student and I was the resident in Ward 31 of the Royal Infirmary. The very fact that I remember him as a medical student and cannot remember any of the other students in the ward at the time must itself indicate that he was a remarkable individual even then.
The ENT department to which he devoted most of his working life was initially in the Royal Infirmary but in 1966 it was moved to a purpose built ENT area of the City Hospital. Much effort was made by him and his colleagues to ensure its success. This was an excellent move and saw the creation of a department which became very efficient and friendly with stable staffing, once they were recruited. Arnie, of course, played an important part in the development.
Arnold was always busy but he was a night bird and getting the lists started in the morning was not easy. However, we lived quite close to each other at that time in Colinton and I came to the conclusion that something had to be done to get the lists, which were long, underway quickly in the morning. So on the days when he was operating I went along to his house and saw Anna and she got him moving and I took him over to the City Hospital. At that time Nikki and Charles were very small and presumably unaware of this intrusion.
The City Hospital was very busy and we developed a group of staff who worked well together and enjoyed the work. We put through a huge number of patients year on year. The flow of patients through the system was well organised and rarely held up the work.
I am not sure this is true of many hospitals today.
As well as working well, we also played well and the City Hospital Cricket Club was one where many of the doctors across the city who had played cricket in their youth or wished they had played cricket, including Arnie who was as ever enthusiastic, congregated and there was a lot of fun. Now it is a housing estate!
After some time Arnie presumably became frustrated with the repetitive nature of his work and he began to look elsewhere for stimulus and decided to become involved in Head and Neck Surgery of which there was a great need at the time and came to the conclusion that he should take some time off and go to the USA to see different ways of working and develop the necessary skills. This he did in 1967 and there he gained lots of experience and, as usual, made lots of friends, many of whom were still around at the end of his life.
His return to Scotland was, first of all, to a consultant post in Dundee followed in due course by a return to Edinburgh where he settled in again to the City Hospital. Head and Neck Surgery was a stressful area of work, particularly at its beginning as the patients were often aged and frail and required careful and skilled management.
He rapidly built up the service and in collaboration with another very good friend Dr later Professor Philip Stell in Liverpool they created much acclaimed teaching courses and textbooks, which enabled others in the country and indeed around the world to develop their skills in this field of work. This brought those wishing to develop their skills in this branch of surgery to work with him and be taught by him. He was a good teacher.
Once this service became settled Arnie continued to be a restless individual and it became clear that he was seeking another stimulus. This time he started to develop skills in endoscopic techniques in sinus surgery and he threw his weight into this area of work with his usual enthusiasm.
Then, as if that was not enough, he moved even further, devoting his interests into the pathology and treatment of voice disorders.
As a result, this brought him into contact with many of those who required their voices to be perfect, particularly in the field of entertainment where a degree of secrecy fell over this area of his work, as he said even giving the names of the patients he treated could have compromised his and their careers!
It was not surprising to us all that in due course Arnie with his involvement in the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh where he had served as Honorary Secretary and Treasurer became its President in 1997. This was a great honour for him and for his department.
He received Honorary Fellowships from several College of Surgeons and was President of the Laryngology section of the Royal Society of Medicine. He was particularly proud of his D.Sc. from the University of Hong Kong. During his time as president he travelled widely to visit other Surgical Colleges and made many friends.
After our retirals from the Health Service, Bryan Dale and I met Arnie once a month for lunch when we put the worlds to rights. When his recent illness came upon him at a short visit to see him, he suddenly said having a very limited prognosis given to him by his oncologist was not without benefit! This was very surprising as it was difficult to see any upside to the situation. But he was looking for a bright side.
Now he was able to plan out the end of his life with care instead, as occurs with most people the whole thing is rushed. He said he had put his financial affairs right which left him with time to devote to his funeral and his hoped for Memorial meeting which would be held some little time after his death.
He was a remarkable man. He was delighted to see his specialty develop hugely over the course of his lifetime as it did and it is clear that he himself played a significant part in its development through the City Hospital and in this country and abroad as well.
He was great fun to be with. He was extremely generous. To celebrate his 80th Birthday the nurses and ODAs who had worked for him organised a lunch for all the theatre staff which was very good and it showed that even many years after his retiral he was still in their hearts. On another occasion when visiting him during the latter stages of his illness he said I am sorry to ask you to leave as I am now having lunch with a colleague from the USA who has come over specially to see me. A long way for a free lunch – but that was the effect of knowing Arnie.
He was always pushing the boundaries of whatever interested him at the time. All who knew him will miss him very much indeed.
I shall certainly miss him.