Bill Morrow (as he was known to everybody) was born in Maitland NSW and was an only child. He was educated at Newington College where he had an outstanding school record. At the leaving certificate he was the first student in the state of NSW. In sport he coxed the winning Head of the River senior rowing eight. His co-students described him as 'that live-wire always active enthusiast'. He chose to study medicine at Sydney University where he continued his brilliant academic career graduating in 1927 with first class honours. It was not all study. He was honorary secretary to the Medical Society, enjoyed sailing, rowing and tennis, displayed more than average competence at contract bridge and was celebrated as an excellent dancing partner. He was appointed to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital as a resident and he was to devote his major medical skills to RPA throughout his working professional life. He was deputy medical superintendent in 1932 and was appointed to the staff as honorary assistant physician in 1934. He became an honorary physician in 1951 and honorary consultant physician in 1963.
His period of service at RPAH was at a time of intense activity and change. The period between 1947 and 1967 has been described as the 'Golden Age of Medicine' at that hospital. During this time the subspecialties in medicine came into being, these mainly developed by the honorary visiting staff. He was awarded a travelling fellowship in 1948 and in the United Kingdom and United States he visited the main centres of learning and research in gastroenterology. On his return he established with younger colleagues the gastroenterology unit which in 1961 became the AW Morrow Department of Gastroenterology. This department was and still is funded largely by the Bushell Foundation due to his distinction and influence. The department had a research director, registrars, lab space and technical and clerical staff. It was one of the first of its kind in Australia and soon gained international repute. It became an important training centre for young trainees and many important research contributions were published. He was also one of the founders of the Gastroenterological Society of Australia and was its first president from 1957 to 1958.
He quickly established himself as an excellent bedside teacher and lecturer. He was appointed lecturer in therapeutics at Sydney University in 1935 through to 1963. He was also clinical lecturer in medicine and was a major contributor to postgraduate activities within and without the Hospital. He was a member of the Postgraduate Committee and Foundation, University of Sydney. He established a busy consultant practice in Macquarie Street and soon became a master physician and a popular and most sought after consultant. To maintain his high standards of patient care he would rise in the early hours of the morning to read journals and he made regular local and overseas visits to medical conferences.
Country consultations were not uncommon in those days and he would drive to all parts of country NSW usually at weekends taking his registrar with him for experience. He had a long period of distinguished service with The Royal Australasian College of Physicians. He was a foundation fellow in 1938, served on the board of censors for fourteen years from 1952 to 1966 being censor in chief from 1962 to 1966. Elected to council in 1957 he served a presidential term from 1966 to 1968.
He had joined the Sydney University Regiment in 1929 and enlisted in the AAMC AIF in early 1940 and was appointed to the 2nd/5th AGH as officer commanding the medical division. Following a period in the Gaza area of Palestine the hospital was sent to Greece in 1941. The swift German invasion of Greece led to a retreat of Australian forces and at Piraeus the ship evacuating the unit was bombed and its commanding officer, Colonel W Kay was killed. Lieutenant Colonel Morrow took command. The hospital complement reached Crete and was again under heavy bombardment from the air until evacuated safely to Alexandria. For his command during this hazardous period he was awarded the DSO. The hospital later returned to Australia. He then held posts of commanding officer, 119th and 121st AGH with the rank of colonel. In 1943 he became ADGMS Land Head Quarters and in 1944 consultant physician Advanced Land Head Quarters. He worked closely with Brigadier Neil Hamilton Fairley (qv 1) of Medical Australian Forces with the main task of maintaining the health of the Australian Army in PNG and the Pacific area. As in all other areas of endeavour his war service contributions was outstanding.
Arising out of his particular interest and skills in medical therapeutics he was appointed to two important new Commonwealth Health Department committees in 1950, the Australian Drug Evaluation Committee and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, and he was chairman of both committees for eight years. He worked in close association with the director general of medical services, Sir William Refshauge. He was still able to find time for involvement in other professional organisations. He was a councillor and president of the NSW branch of the Australian Medical Association. He held consultant physician appointments to the Repatriation General Hospital, Concord, Canterbury District Hospital, Marrickville and Western Suburbs Hospitals.
His personal life was full, happy and highly successful. In 1937 he married Jane Brown and it proved to be a wonderful marriage. They had three daughters - Ann Jane (Rankin), Dr Christine (Butler) and Elizabeth (Nabarro). Jane provided the background of a secure comfortable home. She encouraged him in all his activities and protected him from overfatigue and strain. He relaxed in his study surrounded by bookshelves and in Jane's garden. To be dined and wined in their home was a most pleasurable experience. In 1971 Jane died of cancer and this was a severe blow. Fortunately he married Margaret Chauvel in 1974 and they had three happy years together. Bill was able to relax and enjoy activities other than work. He played regular golf at Royal Sydney. He enjoyed horse racing and was a member of the Australian Jockey Club. One of his sayings was 'horses for courses'. He watched polo. He played bridge regularly with his friends and was a member of a gourmet club. He loved the Australian Club which he joined in June 1942, became vice president in 1969 and president from 1972 to 1975.
As one who was clearly associated with Bill for thirty years I would describe him as the Osler physician. He was the perfect consultant, helpful to patient, the patients family and the referring GP, always courteous, considerate, calm, and human and never becoming too personally involved. He was never hurried and I never saw him angry or upset. He frequently conferred with colleagues and was always generous and supportive to his residents and students. He had a broad general interest in life. He was loyal to his Christian faith and the St Marks rectory. In his younger years he certainly had ambitions and he achieved them all. He was a 'man of affairs' and would have made an excellent governor general. Essentially conservative, he was liberal in outlook. He enjoyed good company and good food and wines. While he was proud of his knighthood so well deserved, he was the same to everybody, tolerant and appreciative. He was one of the great physicians and figures of his time.
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