Advancing paediatric surgery through education and research

Mr Hugh Greenwood OBE

It is with great sadness that BAPS heard of the death of Mr Hugh Greenwood. This obituary was written by Professor David Lloyd and was originally written for Liverpool University.
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Hugh Greenwood OBE

It is with great sadness that BAPS heard of the death of Mr Hugh Greenwood. This obituary was written by Professor David Lloyd and was originally written for Liverpool University.

Hugh Greenwood
OBE, LLD(Hon) (Liverpool, Exeter, Leicester), FRCPCH (Hon), BAPS (Hon Member)

Hugh Greenwood, who has died at the age of 102, was a successful businessman who over the past fifty years or so used his wealth with unstinting generosity to support, through extraordinary acts of charity, the development of children’s medicine throughout this country and abroad.

Hugh was born in Waterloo on Merseyside in 1912. He hardly knew his father, who died in the First World War at sea on his way to the Dardanelles, on 4 May 1917. His mother had four children to bring up, three boys and a girl, two other girls having died in infancy. These losses were to have a momentous influence on Hugh in later years. Hugh left Bootle Secondary School at sixteen and worked first as a local reporter. He then studied Accountancy and found work in the city of Liverpool.

In the early 1930s, when still only eighteen and backed up by nothing but his own initiative and drive, he leased land and, with the shrewd assistance of a far-sighted Manager at the District Bank in Warrington, he was soon registered as a limited company in property and construction. By the outbreak of the Second World War, Hugh had already built more than 200 homes for rent. His company, Greenwood Brothers, founded in 1936 and still going strong today, was given a contract by the Ministry of Works during the war to maintain key military properties right across the North West.

After the war the business enjoyed further rapid growth and went from strength to strength over the next fifteen years. It was in 1962 that a chance encounter turned Hugh’s thoughts in the direction of children’s health. In that year he was invited to advise Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital on some building work. During the visit Hugh fell into conversation with Alan Moncrieff, Nuffield Professor of Child Health at the Hospital, who explained the importance of medical research and the need for funds to support this. This touched a powerful chord in Hugh, who had never forgotten his two sisters who had died so young.

Here was an opportunity to help prevent such tragedies from happening to others. He had money; and so began a remarkable history of enlightened and utterly selfless charitable giving on a very significant scale. He immediately initiated a substantial annual gift to the Hospital, which was continued for many years. News of this generosity spread to Hugh’s home town of Liverpool, and a dialogue ensued which culminated in a gift to the University of Liverpool to build a new Institute of Child Health, which was duly opened by Lord Rhodes in 1967.

By now a pattern of charitable donations to fund child-related medical research was well-established, and through Hugh’s Children’s Research Fund, ventures in many leading hospitals and universities around the country, notably London, Glasgow, Leicester, Exeter, Birmingham, Southampton, and Manchester, came to benefit greatly. The people of Merseyside, and not least the University of Liverpool, will remember him for the research and treatment facilities that he has helped to create in the University’s Department of Child Health, including its original building on the Alder Hey site.

Hugh Greenwood was honoured with an OBE in 1976 in recognition of his charitable services to medical research. More recently, honorary degrees followed from Liverpool, Exeter and Leicester as well as Honorary Fellowship of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and Honorary Membership of the British Association of Paediatric Surgeons. He was very proud of the latter.

Internationally, Hugh supported developments in medical education and training through his charity Children’s Research International. These included funding a medical school at Zamboanga in the Philippines and supporting the training of doctors and nurses abroad. When asked what his main aim was with regard to his charitable work, he replied “to help as many children as possible during my life”. To this end, over the past decade his focus was on training doctors and nurses in developing countries, largely in Africa, through generous donations to the BAPS. These enabled the BAPS International Affairs Committee to establish four eponymous Hugh Greenwood travel fellowships for overseas paediatric surgeons to visit the UK and conversely for British surgeons to work and teach abroad, including a surgical skills course that visited several countries in Africa.

Hugh Greenwood’s donations have made a material contribution to improving, and saving, the lives of sick children across the world, and his vision and generosity of spirit in making possible major capital developments and the establishment of BAPS training fellowships, have ensured a legacy that will sustain his ambition to help as many children as possible.