Obituary: Bernard Nolan, 87

Bernard Nolan took part in the first British kidney transplant. Picture: contributed
Bernard Nolan took part in the first British kidney transplant. Picture: contributed
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A MASTER surgeon who took part in the first kidney transplant in Britain has died, aged 87.

Bernard Nolan joined the Edinburgh University medical faculty in 1944, having been born in Eccles in Lancashire.

He was a keen member of the University Air Squadron and enjoyed playing rugby at the University Athletic Club.

While a student, he developed a special interest in surgery and following his graduation in July 1949 he worked until October 1950 in the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary as house surgeon.

It was followed by a year as surgical senior house officer at the Cumberland Infirmary, Carlisle, before he was called up for National Service in the RAMC.

He spent the next two years as a junior surgeon in military hospitals in the Suez Canal Zone and in Libya, and was demobilised with the rank of captain, returning to Edinburgh as a surgical registrar at the Deaconess Hospital and later at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children.

In May 1955 he became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh where he met his future wife Margaret (Peggy) Coleman, who was a young medical student at the time. They were married three years later.

Bernard was recalled to the army during the Suez Crisis in 1956 and was upgraded to surgical specialist status with the rank of major.

The crisis was short-lived and he returned within the year and was appointed registrar in the surgical outpatients department of the Royal Infirmary.

In May 1957 he became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England and the next day met Michael Woodruff, the newly appointed professor of surgical science at Edinburgh University, who he would work alongside at the Royal. In May 1959 he was appointed lecturer in Professor Woodruff’s university department with integral involvement in its transplantation research programme and membership of the Edinburgh-based Medical Research Council Group on Transplantation.

Eighteen months later, on October 30, 1960 he assisted Professor Woodruff to carry out the first ever kidney transplantation in the British Isles, which was carried out on identical twins.

Two years later he was awarded a postgraduate fellowship at the Harvard University Medical School, and was appointed senior lecturer in surgery at Edinburgh University with consultant status in the Royal Infirmary.

He retired in 1989, and he and Peggy were able to give full indulgence to their love of foreign travel until Bernard was hurt in a road accident while walking close to his home.

He later developed pulmonary fibrosis and was cared for at his home in the Capital until his death last month.