Gordon Hamilton Fairley

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Gordon Hamilton Fairley DM, FRCP (20 April 1930 – 23 October 1975) was a professor of medical oncology. Born and raised in Australia, he moved to the United Kingdom, where he studied and worked. He was murdered by a Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) bomb intended to murder Sir Hugh Fraser.

Life and work[edit]

The son of a research worker in tropical diseases, Sir Neil Hamilton Fairley, Fairley grew up in Melbourne. He later studied at Magdalen College, Oxford, and St Bartholomew's Hospital, London. Trained in hematology as Leverhulme Research Scholar at the Royal College of Physicians, he continued his research with an emphasis on immunohematology.

In 1968, he became director of the Clinical Research Unit at the Institute of Cancer Research. Two years afterward, he became director of the Medical Oncology Research Unit. In 1972, he was appointed Imperial Cancer Fund Professor of Oncology. As Professor of Medical Oncology at St Bartholomew's Hospital, he contributed a great deal to the chemotherapy and immunology of malignant disease, and, in particular, to the treatment of the malignant reticuloses.[1]

In 1969 he delivered the Goulstonian Lecture to the Royal College of Physicians[2]


The 45-year-old Fairley was killed by an IRA bomb in Kensington, London, on 23 October 1975.[3] The bomb, placed under a car outside the Fraser family home, was intended for Sir Hugh Fraser. Fraser, a long time friend of the Kennedy family, had been hosting Caroline Kennedy at the time.[4][5] The Balcombe Street Gang were subsequently convicted of Fairley's murder.[6][7]

Brian Keenan, a senior IRA commander, was also apprehended and stood trial at the Old Bailey in London in June 1980 accused of organising the IRA's bombing campaign in England and being implicated in the deaths of eight people, including Fairley. Keenan was sentenced to 18 years imprisonment after being found guilty on 25 June 1980.[8]

Fairley was married with four children (including Diana, Sarah and Geoff), the youngest of whom was 12 years old when he died. Fairley had been offered an appointment as Elizabeth II's personal physician, but had turned it down, preferring to work with the public.

He is commemorated by a blue plaque in the crypt of St Paul's Cathedral which reads: "Gordon Hamilton-Fairley DM FRCP, first professor of medical oncology, 1930-75. Killed by a terrorist bomb. It matters not how a man dies but how he lives".[9] A ward at St Bartholomew's Hospital was named after him.[10]


  1. ^ British Journal of Radiology
  2. ^ "British Medical Journal-News and Notes". 3 August 1968. PMC 1986266Freely accessible. 
  3. ^ CAIN: Sutton index of deaths, 1975
  4. ^ Moysey, Steven (2008). The Road to Balcombe Street: The IRA Reign of Terror in London. Haworth Press. p. 108. ISBN 978-0-7890-2913-3. 
  5. ^ Time November 3 1975
  6. ^ BBC: Balcombe Street gang's reign of terror
  7. ^ Guardian: Balcombe Street Gang to be freed
  8. ^ Christenson, Ron (1991). Political Trials in History: From Antiquity to the Present. Transaction Publishers. p. 171. ISBN 978-0-88738-406-6. 
  9. ^ Find a Grave
  10. ^ Wards at Barts and the London NHS Trust

External links[edit]