Alfred Downing Fripp (surgeon)

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Alfred Downing Fripp

Sir Alfred Downing Fripp KCVO (12 September 1865 – 25 February 1930) was Surgeon to Edward VII and George V.

Early Life[edit]

Born in Blandford, Dorset, Fripp was the son of Alfred Downing Fripp and Eliza Bannister Roe. His father's first wife, Anne Dalton Allies, was a cousin of John Neale Dalton, tutor to Prince Albert Victor ('Eddy') and Prince George - and godfather to Fripp. Anne died in 1850 after giving birth to Fripp's half-sister, Annie. Fripp had another sister, Jeanie (Edith Jane), and a brother, Rex (Reginald). Annie married Edward Penny, who became physician to Marlborough College. Rex, a pupil of the school, died aged eighteen - in 1895; their parents died in the same bronchial epidemic. Jeanie had gained a 'Senior Optime' in Mathematics at Girton in 1886 and soon after married William Hale-White, son of Mark Rutherford. Hale-White, a physician, and Fripp, a surgeon, were to work at Guy's Hospital together for over thirty years.

Royal Patronage[edit]

In 1883, on a visit to Cambridge to visit his sister, Fripp called on his godfather at Trinity, where the Canon was acting as 'chaperone' to the student Prince, to whom he introduced his godson. A year later Fripp spent a few days at Cambridge in Prince Eddy's company. Six years passed in medical studies, sporting activities and theatre-going, when he accepted a two-week job as a locum tenens for an M. D. - and old Guy's man - in York. As Prince Eddy was stationed in the area and had to be attended to, they met up again. The Prince insisted that he accompany him to Deeside where Fripp became an accepted, if unofficial, doctor-in-residence to the Prince and other members of the Royal Family. Fripp was sent with Eddy on a Royal Tour to South Wales - with only the Prince's equerry, George Holford, in attendance. At the age of twenty-four, and still with exams to pass, he had the seal of Royal approval. When his "hope of hopes",[1] Prince Albert Victor, died in the 'flu' epidemic of 1892, he thought his Royal days were over; but four years later Edward, Prince of Wales, made him his Surgeon-in-Ordinary. With Holford's help and his own persistence, he persuaded Edward to preside over the Guy's Hospital Fund, ensuring the financial security of the Hospital - before he had been given a post there. However, after this Cooper Perry and Cosmo Bonsor persuaded the Board to create an Assistant Surgeon post for him. This, and his private practice in his brother-in-law's house in Harley Street, established him as a doctor, teacher and surgeon. A year later, just before his marriage, he set up as a consultant in his own home, 19 Portland Place. For the next thirty years aristocrats, plutocrats and famous stage personalities were frequent visitors - most as patients and friends.

Marriage[edit]

On 8 June 1898, Alfred Fripp married Margaret Scott Haywood (1880-1965), daughter of Thomas Haywood of 'Woodhatch', Reigate. His godfather officiated and George Holford was best man. The Fripps were to have five children: Alfred Thomas Fripp, FRCS (1899-1995); Betty Agnes Fripp (1904-1975); Margaret Cicely Fripp (1908-1972); Venetia Sybil Fripp (1911-1993); Reginald Charles Fripp (1915-1982).

Marconi[edit]

Mr. & Mrs. Fripp were half way through their honeymoon - bicycling in Dorset and France - when they had to rush back to London so that Fripp could attend the Prince of Wales. He had damaged his knee in a fall at Waddesdon Manor and required Fripp to accompany him to Cowes Regatta. The Fripps were found a cottage near Osborne House where they befriended Marconi who was demonstrating his new telegraph machine to the Queen. Along with the Prince of Wales, Fripp was one of the first people to send an official message using Marconi's invention.

Boer War[edit]

When, in late-1899, it was obvious that the Boer War was not going to be "over by Christmas", the yeomanry of the shires were asked to enlist in order to augment the regular Army - who were being killed more by an enteric epidemic than by Boer snipers. Georgiana (née Churchill) Curzon decided to raise money to set up Imperial Yeomanry Hospitals, the first and biggest being at Deelfontein. Knowing Fripp socially - at places like Warwick Castle, where he was often a guest of Daisy and her husband - she and her Committee (mainly composed of Society ladies) selected the 34-yr-old Fripp to turn an empty bit of the Karoo, chosen by Lord Roberts, into an Army hospital for 500 yeomanry patients. With generous funding from the I.Y.H. Committee and the acquiescence of the military commander, Lieut.-Colonel Sloggett, Fripp transformed the idea of how to run a base hospital: despite being scoffed for doing it, he took over five times as many nurses than the R.A.M.C provided for a similar number of patients; he took more orderlies and assistants (including his wife who, leaving their son with her mother, travelled with him - and was later rewarded with a Royal Red Cross medal for keeping the men supplied with cigarettes and other such 'comforts'); and he took a physician, Dr. Washbourn, a dental expert, Newland-Pedley - both from Guy's - and an X-ray specialist, Hall-Edwards from Birmingham: three such specialists had never been taken to war before. He even took a masseuse who, he claimed, was more useful than he and his three experts put together. Having said all this, in his answers to questions put to him by members of the Royal Enquiry into the War in South Africa, he claimed that the modern steam sterilising unit he had had shipped from England saved more lives than medical expertise - and was more necessary than the most up-to-date medical implements. The success of this hospital was such a contrast to the R.A.M.C. hospitals - where men were dying in squalor - that when the M.P., Burdett-Coutts, reported the facts to Parliament and The Times, there was public outrage. However, Fripp had already returned with ideas of his own for the reform of the Army Medical Service. He sought out Balfour, who sent Fripp to speak to the newly appointed Secretary of State for War, Brodrick, and between them they chose a Committee, headed by Brodrick, to work out the details of Reform along Fripp's lines. One of their choices was Lieut. Colonel Keogh whom Brodrick appointed as Chairman of the working Committee; others were Dr. Perry of Guy's and Sir Frederick Treves. King Edward made sure his Government put the Committee's recommendations into practice before the end of his reign, but knighted Fripp for his part in instigating the reforms much earlier - on July 18, 1903; at 37, the youngest doctor to receive this title. At the outbreak of the Great War, Sloggett was in charge of the R.A.M.C. but, when the task immediately proved to be too much for one man, Keogh was brought out of retirement to share the duties. Fripp's practical solutions to problems at Deelfontein and his detailed plans for the R.A.M.C.'s reform were put into practice by the two Army Medical Officers who knew most about them. Years later, Brodrick wrote, "(I was) chief guest to a dinner given to celebrate the splendid service of the corps in the Great War. I felt that their most deserving guests would have been King Edward and Sir Alfred Fripp.".[2] At the time, Fripp's part in the success of the I.Y.H was deliberately left out of Lady Howe's 3-Volume Report because he had infuriated the Lady by suggesting to the Commission of Enquiry that some of the statistics in her 1st Volume were 'cooked'. He was never to receive full acknowledgement for this life-saving work.

1914 - 1918[edit]

At the beginning of the War, Fripp was employed by the War Office to minister to the Navy's wounded[3] at Rosyth. After one year, the Government decided that employing civilian experts was an unnecessary expense, so Fripp returned to voluntary work in London where Holford had turned his Dorchester House in Park Lane into a hospital for officers. A few months before the War ended, Fripp became embroiled in the Pemberton Billing affair. Billing published an article saying that the dancing of Maud Allan as Salome was part of a plot to enable Germany to blackmail all those (47,000, according to Billing) Establishment and Society people who enjoyed watching lesbian dancing from a homosexual's play - or other such deviant pleasures. She sued him for libel in May, 1918, and a bizarre court case ensued during which - among other things - Billing implied that Margot Asquith, who employed a German governess and was a devotee of Allan's provocative act, was a danger to the security of the State. Fripp, for patriotic or personal reasons, agreed to attest that he knew of people at Court who might be a danger to security - but, in the event, Judge Darling refused to allow Fripp to answer any of the questions put to him. Billing won his case, and then the War ended - but not before Fripp had invited Lord Rhondda and Dr. Perry to his house to discuss the setting-up of a Ministry of Health. Lord Rhondda's death a few months later meant that this meeting lost its significance.

Charity[edit]

As a friend and doctor to so many rich and famous people, Fripp was always able to raise money, not only for the Hospital - for whom he raised £20,000 from his patients in 1925 and £50,000 from Lord Dulverton in 1926 - but also for children's charities. His principal charity was the Invalid Children's Aid Association. He founded the Hackney branch of the I.C.A.A. in 1906 and immediately raised £10,000 for it, and was indefatigable in his oversight of the Branch.

Ye Ancient Order of Froth Blowers[edit]

At the time of his retirement from Guy's Hospital in 1925, Fripp was a famous personage in London and environs. When he died in 1930, he was a household name throughout the Empire. In 1924, he performed life-prolonging abdominal surgery on a patient called Bert Temple. Bert formed Ye Ancient Order of Froth Blowers[4] in order to raise £100 - in life-membership fees (5/-) and fines at meetings. This took a year. But, in 1926, the Sporting Times advertised it and it took off. In four years Fripp, who was 'No. 1' to Bert's 'No.0', attended over two hundred A.O.F.B. functions and received in excess of £100,000 from the 688,000 Froth Blowers who had joined by 1930. In 1927, he helped to establish the West Wickham Home of Recovery for Children with Heart Disease, and the A.O.F.B. endowed 17 of its 50 beds at a cost of £8,500. It endowed at least 30 other 'cots' in other parts of the country. At the same time, in the grounds of the West Wickham Home, a still extant Girl Guide hut, called Heartsease, was built specifically for East End children. Over 600 needy causes were helped by the Order, despite being the target - Fripp, in particular - of the Temperance Movement's obloquy.

Last Years[edit]

Sir George Holford died in 1926 and the only non-family member he left money to was his friend of thirty-six years, Sir Alfred Fripp. As this was the considerable sum of £5,000, Fripp had a house designed for him in Lulworth, Dorset, by Sir Edwin Lutyens and named it 'Weston' after Holford's country house, Westonbirt. Fripp was made a Governor of Guy's Hospital in appreciation of everything he had done for it, so was busy in retirement attending meetings of the Hospital and the A.O.F.B. In early-1930 he contacted nephritis and, on February 25, he died. He was buried in Lulworth churchyard. On March 4, a Memorial Service was held in St. Martins-in-the-Fields.

Legacy[edit]

Fripp left money for an annual lecture on "Happiness and Success", the first - in 1932 - being given by Stanley Baldwin and another by Baden-Powell. He endowed Guy's Hospital Medical School with the Sir Alfred Fripp Memorial Fellowship in Child Psychology. Major Beith launched the Sir Alfred Fripp Memorial Fund a month after Fripp's death - devoted to the development, building and upkeep of Children's Department of Guy's Hospital. Lady Fripp and her daughters continued his work, particularly in the area of girls' and boys' Scouting. He wrote a book with a colleague - "Human Anatomy For Art Students" - illustrated by his cousin,(Henry Charles) Innes Fripp (1867-1963).

References[edit]

  1. ^ Alfred Fripp by Cecil Roberts
  2. ^ Records & Reactions: Midleton - John Murray (1939) p.167
  3. ^ Experiences of a Civilian Among the Naval Medical Service in War by Sir Alfred D. Fripp, K.C.V.O., C.B., M.S., F.R.C.S.
  4. ^ The Zestful Gollopers by David L. Woodhead & Ian Brown