Home » Ted Paterson OBE and Mark Paterson

Ted Paterson OBE and Mark Paterson

Edward Hamilton Paterson OBE, JP, MBBS, FRCS, Hon DSocSc (HK)   Eltham College 1931-1938

John Mark Hamilton Paterson MBBS, FRCS   Eltham College 1969-1971

January 2013 saw the death of Ted Paterson at the ripe old age of 92 years.  This was followed in October by the death of his oldest son, Mark, at the age of 59, after a long illness borne with characteristic determination and humour.

Both fulfilled an Elthamian tradition of being the sons of missionaries.  One became one and one very definitely didn’t.  Like father, like son, they drew much of their inspiration from similar interests, although their lives came to be sustained by different beliefs.

Whilst just 34 years separated the phasing of their lives, in many respects they worked in different worlds – but  worlds in which they both had very distinguished careers in health care and medicine.

When Ted, retired in 1989, it brought to an end a near continuous period of over 81 years of family involvement in medical work in China and Hong Kong.   He was born in Lushan, the mountain retreat to which westerners escaped from the sweltering mid China plains.   His father and mother, a doctor and nurse, had been posted to London Missionary Society’s hospitals in Hubei province in the early 1900s.

Ted’s early years were spent at Zaoshi, a small market town, before the family moved in 1926 to Shanghai.  Ted's much loved older brother John was left, in 1927, to study at Eltham College  when the family returned to China after a period of leave.  The separation was miserable for both and also left a lasting mark on John's relationship with his parents.  Ted was luckier - his sister Mary had been very ill and so his mother brought the children back to England in 1931 for their education.   His father was to go on working in Shanghai, returning only at the end of Japanese internment in 1945. 

In Heather Gani's book on the Sons of Missionaries, Ted described his years at Eltham as "on the whole happy ones".  As his mother lived nearby, he was allowed to go home on Sundays and so didn't experience the same feeling of parental abandonment as his brother.  He took pleasure in recalling the time he saw Liddell when he came to present prizes at a sports day.  Liddell was invited to run in the old boys race.   Eager, younger Old Elthamians lined up in the belief they had a chance of beating the older legend.  Liddell took off his shoes, ran barefoot with his jacket folded neatly over one arm -  and still out-ran the other contestants.

An interest in medicine, a love of mountains and a desire to work in the east were lifelong passions that emerged in Ted’s formative years at school.  He studied medicine at the Middlesex Hospital and after military service towards the end of the Second World War, trained as a surgeon.  Although, by the time he had qualified, the People’s Republic of China had been founded, he persuaded the London Missionary Society to post him to a hospital in China.  So in 1950, after six months in Beijing in language training,  he started work in a hospital in Tianjin.  Here, he lived in Eric Liddell's old house, feeling obliged, at an early opportunity, to dispose (in a bonfire) of some of Liddell's remaining papers and books which might have fallen foul of the new regime.  With the Korean War underway, this was not a good time for a British citizen to be in China and Ted soon found himself sent on “indefinite leave” on a steamer down the coast to Hong Kong.

In Hong Kong, in  March 1951, he became part of the staff at the Nethersole Hospital and met Barbara Knight, a teacher in the school next door.  They married in January 1952.  She was to remain his constant companion and most ardent supporter until her death in May 2012.  They had three sons - Mark, Andrew and Peter.

His early days as a surgeon in Hong Kong were those of the hero innovator – he had no anaesthetist and little equipment to speak of.    He worked hard to improve standards, built up relationships and developed his own professional standing.  In the early 1960s he was President of the Hong Kong Surgical Society.   Ted continued work as a surgeon until he retired but for the last fifteen years, he concentrated solely on cleft lips and palates.

From the mid 1960s onwards, he became involved  in major hospital building, rebuilding and relocation projects in Hong Kong.  Ted also developed a passion for health care outside hospitals.  He spearheaded the development of community nursing in Hong Kong  as well as an innovative community health project.   He was very interested in what could be learnt by developing countries from the communist health care system  and also how the Chinese system could benefit from Hong Kong’s experience -  this led to numerous visits into China, forging links between the hospitals in Hong Kong and China, resulting in lasting relationships.

Ted was not an overtly political person and his preferred style was to avoid confrontation, quietly but persistently arguing the case against received wisdom and established interests. But this often left him feeling frustrated that conflict had not been resolved.  As a Justice of the Peace (appointed in 1978), his role was to make regular inspections of prisons.  In the late 1980s, he was appointed to jointly lead a special commission of enquiry into the brutal putting down of a riot by Vietnamese boat people in a detention centre - an experience that left him pained and bemused by the way some in authority could behave.

A fluent Cantonese speaker and a competent speaker of Mandarin, he communicated effectively at many levels.  It was clear from the large congregation at his memorial service in Hong Kong in February that, in his unassuming way, he had touched many lives and built many bridges across the racial and cultural divides in colonial Hong Kong and that his legacy continued to influence health care.

Ted received the OBE in 1979 and an honorary degree from the University of Hong Kong in 1985.  Barbara and Ted retired from Hong Kong in 1989 to live in Taunton, Somerset. Here Ted was able to pursue two Hong Kong passions – an interest in fossils and archaeology – and another  that had been denied him in high rise Hong Kong – gardening.  He enjoyed meeting other Old Elthamians in local events.  They both maintained close links with Hong Kong, returning on a number of visits over the years.

Mark was born in Hong Kong in 1954. He was of the generation where following in father’s footsteps was still a natural expectation.  Mark attended Eltham College as a boarder for his sixth form years, having previously studied at King George V School, Hong Kong. 

Mark enjoyed his time at Eltham -  perhaps more than his parents thought he should have done, as they rapidly came to the conclusion he might have worked harder had he stayed at school in Hong Kong.  Nevertheless, after a gap year working in medical labs in Hong Kong, Mark embarked on a medical course - also at the Middlesex Hospital.

After a pre-registration job in Norwich, Mark went with Sarah , whom he had married in 1977, to work as a medical officer for the Papua New Guinean government at Kavieng, New Ireland – an adventure that tested his skills, and kindled an interest for both of them in exotic locations and the challenges of development.   Back in the UK, he pursued his training at Guildford and Portsmouth  and after gaining his FRCS, he started to specialise in orthopaedics.

Mark was a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at the Royal London Hospital for 23 years building up his interest in children's orthopaedic surgery.  Although active in most areas of paediatric orthopaedic and trauma surgery, he had a particular interest in the surgery of neuromuscular disorders, particularly cerebral palsy. For some twenty years Mark was also a visiting consultant in Jersey.

He published around 60 papers in the professional journals, presented at numerous conferences and meetings and had a keen interest in education and training, examining for the European Board of Orthopaedic Training.   Over the past five years, Mark revived the family connection with Hong Kong health care through regular visits teaching orthopaedic trainees.  From 2009-2012, Mark was Honorary Secretary of the British Society of Children's Orthopaedic Surgery.  He was the British Orthopaedic Association Representative for the charity Scope and was President of the Orthopaedic Section of the Royal Society of Medicine in 2006.

In order to free up time to explore other interests, whilst still maintaining some work in paediatric orthopaedics, Mark had decided to take early retirement from the NHS.  He had lost patience with what he saw as incompetent bureaucratic meddling in hospital systems.  From 2009-2012 he had participated in six trips to Albania with the charity FRODO, assessing and operating on children with disability and for 2013 he had planned some other projects in the developing world.  His illness cruelly overtook these plans.

Colleagues have talked about his "sound and judicious opinion and wise counsel" and referred to him as the “bearded, quietly spoken, humorous, kind and caring surgeon”. 

For Mark, the world was to be enjoyed and life made the most of.   He had a wide and constantly evolving range of interests - his greatest love was flying and he had a private pilot's licence.  He was a keen musician, skier and diver.   He visibly took pleasure in things big or small - you saw that in the way he would greet people, the animated way he would explain something or talk about a band or album he had just discovered or something that his sons Luke and Jamie had introduced him to. 

Both Ted and Mark had a lively sense of humour.  Ted’s puritanical heritage of Scottish and Yorkshire blood  was not a likely breeding ground for this.  I never met his father so don’t know what he was like but his mother had a wicked twinkle in her eyes at times and some of that was apparent  in Ted.  Ted felt he had to contain himself in public but in the privacy of the home, when his guard was down, he could be hilarious.   Mark’s humour could be mischievous and was often predicated on a very healthy sense of the absurd.  He was wary of those who took themselves too seriously which did not stop him from speaking with authority when he had to.  Indeed, Mark had the amazing knack of maintaining a serious exterior when those around him collapsed.

Barbara and Ted were never very keen  on the converting dimension of their missionary work. They could be abstemious and at times, presented their sons with some puritanical expectations that, as teenagers, were difficult to live up to, and much more fun to circumvent.  However, there was never a requirement or even an expectation to conform to the religious package - and Mark certainly didn't.   This didn’t mean that Mark didn’t think or feel – he was a man equally of conscience and compassion and his quietness belied a much more forthright and outspoken character than his father’s.   And whilst there was always an endearing mystery and mysticism about Ted and what he was thinking, with Mark things were more straightforward and easier to understand.

Sarah and his boys were the great stalwarts of support through the dark days of Mark’s illness, a time during which he also lost both parents.  Mark's real character shone through in his abiding love for Sarah and their sons, his perpetual kindness and concern for those around him, his continuing interest in the world, his ability to make the most of a bad situation and even to the last, that sense of humour.


Edward Hamilton Paterson (Born 5 August 1920, Lushan China; died 12 January 2013, Taunton).

John Mark Hamilton Paterson (Born 21st January 1954, Hong Kong; died 15th October 2013, London)


Andrew Paterson -  16 November 2013