Obituary - Dr Bryan Ross Kennedy

1935 to 2016

Bryan Kennedy was an ebullient and respected consultant anaesthetist who combined his medical career with‎ long-term service in the Territorial Army.

‎Born and brought up in the North-east fishing town of Fraserburgh, he was the son of the rector of the town’s academy where he was educated and, having excelled in the bursary competition for entrants to Aberdeen University, he went on to achieve distinction in materia medica and pharmacology, something that may have influenced his ultimate choice of specialty.

‎After graduating he went on to resident posts in general surgery and medicine at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary before embarking on a career in anaesthesia initially in Aberdeen before heading to Wales.

In Cardiff ‎ he progressed from registrar to senior registrar and lecturer in anaesthesia, under the renowned Professor William Wolff Mushin, (all correct) first director of the Department of Anaesthetics at the Welsh National School of Medicine and whose work put the department on the world map.

Kennedy was still only 30 when, along with others, he published a paper on Intravenous Regional Anaesthesia and was incredibly proud when, decades later, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) quoted it as one of the most widely used papers in anaesthesia.

He returned to Aberdeen in 1968 to become a consultant anaesthetist and in the ensuing years published numerous scientific papers in the BMJ, the British Journal of Anaesthesia and Anaesthesia. As a result of one of his pieces of published research, which appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association, he was invited to California, in 1976, to be an expert witness in a long-running medico-legal dispute.

By the age of 60, after carving such a successful career, he was happy to reduce his hours to part-time duties but just two years later he became increasingly unwell. After prolonged investigations he was eventually diagnosed with Addison’s disease, a rare and chronic disorder of the adrenal glands, and never worked again.

In tandem with his professional life he had been a dedicated volunteer member of the Royal Army Medical Corps – an interest in all things military may well have stemmed from his childhood in Fraserburgh when, during the Second World War, he could vividly remember the German aircraft flying so low over the area that he could see the faces of the pilots.

He spent roughly 25 years with the Territorials, as a member of a Mobile Field Surgical Team, and was made a major in 1970, being awarded the clasp to the Efficiency Decoration for long service 10 years later. His service had taken him to camps at locations at home and abroad, mostly in what was then West Germany, as well as on extra attachments with the regular Army when he saw active service in Belize in Central America.

And a love of exotic travel was not stifled in retirement by his illnesses, even when he developed three different cancers and endured radio and chemotherapy plus hormone treatment. He defied his doctor’s advice to stay at home and he and his third wife, Margot, enjoyed a variety of long-haul trips.

They both loved train journeys and travelled on the luxurious Blue Train in South Africa, the Desert Express across Namibia and on the Darjeeling “Toy Train”, a spectacular expedition to India’s highest railway station in the Himalayas. Apart from one night camping near Ayers Rock, their accommodation was always in the best hotel or Gentlemen’s Club and one of his favourite journeys was returning from Australia first class with Emirates Airline, enjoying an infinite supply of Dom Perignon and Johnnie Walker Blue Label whisky.

An appreciation of the finer things in life extended to fast cars, good wine and food. Once an accomplished shot and a golfer who played off a single-figure handicap, he latterly confined his activities to more sedentary pursuits and became an excellent chef.

Resilient, courageous and uncomplaining, when disability proved too challenging he and Margot moved from their lovingly-restored home at Midmar in rural Aberdeenshire to Inchmarlo near Banchory where he died. 

Married firstly to Allie, a fellow medical student with whom he had three sons and a daughter, then subsequently to the mother of his second daughter, he is survived by Margot, whom he first met in 1968, and his children Neil, John, Susie, Ross and Sarah.

Alison Shaw