So many royal connections!

So many royal connections!

I am running short on anecdotes about royal patients, but do have some other royal connections, about which you are no doubt curious, and maybe envious.

Let’s start with Kings. I was born in the little village of Kingstone, near Hereford, in the west of England.

Note “Cotton’s Meadow”, which was indeed a meadow across from our house before it was built on and so named, and a good place to fly model gliders. The Kingstone name is derived from old English in anglo-saxon days as cyningestun ‘the king’s settlement’, i.e. royal manor. It is sometimes shortened to Kingston (as in Jamaica), or even Kington, where I played golf on some Wednesdays with Doug and Pat (local doctor and vicar).

I went to school in Reading, in the county of Berkshire, which houses the Royal Berkshire Hospital, which I once visited for a rugby fracture. It is known for removing both legs from the famous fighter pilot Douglas Bader- featured in the movie “Reach for the Sky”- and for birthing Prince Charles’s future wife (but not at the same time). There is also a  famous golf club that used to be called “The Royal Berkshire”. It had the prefix removed by the Prince of Wales when he was not allowed to take his caddie into the bar.

When supposed to be studying at Cambridge University, I played golf at The Royal Worlington and Newmarket Golf Club. Their records indicate that the nine-hole layout was consistently ranked in the top 100 courses in Britain and Ireland and was reputed to be the best nine-hole course in the world. It was a favorite golfing (and drinking) spot for Henry Longhurst, the doyen of golf writers and commentators a long time ago.

I pause to mention with reverence “The Royal and Ancient Golf Club at St Andrews”, the home of golf, which you will remember was so honored by King William IV in 1834.

Teeing off at St Andrews

Even some golf enthusiasts may not know that Royal County Down golf course (in Northern Ireland) was recently ranked number one in the world by Golf Digest, followed by Tara Iti in New Zealand, a wonderful new course that Linda kindly took us to last year. Royal patronage was bestowed on County Down in 1908 by King Edward VII, the same year the layout was modified by Harry Vardon (who taught my grandfather, a scratch golfer that we called “Gruncle”). 

I went to medical school at St Thomas’s Hospital in London, which developed a royal connection sometime later (see later).

STH, a liitle before my time

My first internships after graduating were at Kingston on Thames hospital and the Royal South Hants Hospital in Southampton.

Royal South Hants Hospital in Southampton

At RSH I was fortunate to work under and study with a prince of physicians, Kenneth Robertson. I learned more from him in a year than in all my time at medical school (between golf games). RSH was a busy place with large open wards and an emergency call system of historical interest. There were no beepers, and, of course, no cell phones. Above each door were 4 small light bulbs, red, yellow, blue and green. My call sign was red, blue and green.

After a spell at Birmingham Children’s Hospital with no royal connection I went to work at the Warneford Hospital in Royal Leamington Spa, honored I believe because of frequent royal bathers.

The Hospital name had been carved in stone above the entrance “Leamington Hospital and Bathing Institution”, but when I was there the first two words were missing, courtesy of a WW2 bomb, so I am proud to have “and Bathing Institution” on my resume (later listed alongside Fellowships of the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Surgeons of London).

From Leamington back to St Thomas’s for specialist training under another excellent educator, Brian Creamer, to whom I owe a great deal. He steered me towards a career in endoscopy when it became clear that I would never make a scientist. He hoped that I would eventually join him on the consultant staff, but I was seriously outranked by another applicant who proved his superior pedigree eventually by becoming President of the Royal College of Physicians and indeed a Royal Physician. I went instead to work at the unroyal Middlesex hospital about which I will reminisce more sometime. Our research meetings there were held in the early evenings at a convenient local hostelry called the King and Queen.

Happily, my royal connections did not end when I crossed the Atlantic to live in a country which carelessly mislaid the monarchy some time ago. I was smart and fortunate enough to marry a Princess, who makes me feel like a Prince, if not a KING.

Thanks to anyone who has stuck with me on this royal ramble. You will be relieved to know that I have now exhausted my royal anecdotes.

All part of life’s rich tapestry.

3 Responses

  1. alvin says:

    Don’t stop these priceless short stories!! You have remarkable talents. Talk to you soon. Alvin

  2. Angela Hwang says:

    Nice to have a good laugh during covid, which leaves nothing to laugh about.

  3. Jan Jennings, BSN, RN says:

    Thanks Dr. Cotton for such an interesting story. Reminds me of the first time I had the pleasure to hear you speak in person at an SGNA meeting. I was certainly in awe of your presentation on ERCP. And after going to work with Cook and introduced to you by Don Wilson – I knew that GI was going to be my career for life. Thank you for sharing your stories – and please continue to do so. Take care.

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