Bernard Catchpole interview, 9 November 2012, 16 November 2012 and 23 November 2012

Dublin Core


Bernard Catchpole interview, 9 November 2012, 16 November 2012 and 23 November 2012




This is an interview with Emeritus Professor Bernard Catchpole. Born in London, he grew up and was educated in Manchester graduating in 1945. He discusses his upbringing and his developing interest in a career in medicine. He talks of the journey he took to Western Australia where he would become the second Professor of Surgery in the Department of Medicine at The University of Western Australia in 1966. Comparing the University of Western Australia in the 1960s to other universities that he had experienced, Bernard gives a good indication of the fledgling department of Medicine he entered on his arrival. He looks at the initiatives that he implemented and changes he helped to instill, to build the School of Medicine into a world leading department in a university rated number 96 in world rankings. He regards the internationalisation of the university as one of the primary growth areas of importance and reflects on the developing connections with China that he helped to instigate. He recalls setting up a tutor system and implementing changes to the method of teaching university students at the teaching Hospitals of Royal Perth and Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital. He reflects on the level of support that he saw on his arrival, citing the lack of facilities and funding available for research at the University. He recollects the isolation of the university as a whole in an academic context, and discusses the lack of interaction between departments that he experienced. He talks of a number of primary areas of research in which he was involved including his memories of the Busselton Study. He also looks at some personal areas of research and contributions to medicine in the areas of Gut Motility, Peripheral Embolism and intestinal Colic. He looks at the University of Western Australia today and how it compares to other universities on a world scale.


Catchpole, Bernard


University of Western Australia Historical Society


Copyright holder University of Western Australia


MP3 files


Oral History

Oral History Item Type Metadata


John Bannister


Bernard Catchpole


Perth, W.A.


Interview 1: 59 minutes, 3 seconds
Interview 2: 53 minutes, 52 seconds
Interview 3: 57 minutes, 7 seconds
Total: 2 hours, 50 minutes, 2 seconds

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbs

Time Summary

Interview 1

00:00:00 Background information – Bernard Catchpole. London and Manchester schooling and graduate of the University of Manchester 1945. Origins of interest of medicine. Interest in Dentistry. University experiences and enjoying education. Scholarship. Lord Kitchener National Memorial Scholarship.
00:07:00 Scholarship for Oxford. Graduation. Students pooling money for prizes. Interest in rowing. Jobs in Manchester Royal Infirmary. House officer and registrar.
00:11:33 Memories of National Service after failing to get a job. Munster Hospital Germany. Medical company in the Ruhr. Russians close the roads to Berlin. Memories of the Berlin Air Lift.
00:16:39 Posted to the Hook of Holland. Reading surgery. Anatomy and Physiology. Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons and study. British Health Service.
00:22:00 Allan Boyd offers surgery tutorship. Medical students have to live in Lister House. AH Holmes. Working and studying in Manchester. Specialist interest and examination.
00:26:35 Previous appointments in Manchester. Penicillin introduction in the civilian population. First academic paper in the Lancet 1950. Physiological study. Integration with Jepson commonwealth fellowship.
00:31:42 Memories of work in Cleveland Ohio, Canada and Boston. Barbados and Trinidad. Helped by Jepson.
00:35:05 Memories of coming to Australia. Foundation chair of University of Adelaide. AW Kay from Glasgow. Queen Elizabeth Hospital Adelaide. Norrie Robson and Bob Whelan. Memories of and comparisons Adelaide. Surgical desert.
00:41:55 Hospital consultants interview. Assistant Director of Prof Surgical Unit Barts [Bartholomew’s]. Wanting to run own surgical show. Professor Lewis in 1958. Vacancy at UWA. Memories of Perth 1960.
00:47:00 Adelaide and Perth and excitement of potential. Recollections of UWA. Family quarantined. Met Jim Crawley. Ralph Kensal. Memories of Royal Perth. Accommodation. Impression of the University. A small organisation.
00:52:00 Family of knowledge. A privilege to join. Tendency to focus on selves in the hospitals and not the university. Gods of the hospital and the staff at the university. Affiliated with the hospital. Relatively new department.
00:55:40 Part of the second push. Changes seen to the department personnel. Royal Perth and being thrown in the deep end. Start something going.

Interview 2

00:00:00 Making comparisons with surgical unit in RPH to Adelaide. Descriptions of the system in Royal Perth Hospital in the 1960s. Foreign experiences. Endorsing changes to the system. Developing Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital Perth.
00:04:00 Put on committees. No association with staff and medical departments. Con Michael’s group. Units were semi autonomous. Looking back at merging meetings with other colleagues. No common room on campus today to meet colleagues.
00:08:15 Community and sense of communal learning. Impressions made. Prescott and group of people. No infrastructure and interplay with the young people. Graham Barrett was a tutor. Developing feeling of community. Seeing other university common rooms. University house in the city. Concerned with gathering patients.
00:12:05 Each year’s examiners dinner. Bob Whelan’s discussions on interaction. Developing social gatherings in the Gairdner. Trying to liaise with staff and public.
00:15:05 Impressions of the battles for support for funding. No technical staff. Use of the animal house at RPH. Getting underway with open heart surgery. Good material needed. Recollections of situation with surgery in Perth. Funds for a tutor. Student numbers were rising.
00:20:10 Spreading with the growth of students. Beginning of the 1970s and the Mount Hospital. Competition between private and teaching hospitals. Teaching units in St John of God. Setting up private patients teaching unit. Too expensive to make changes to the system.
00:24:00 Surgeons and expansion. Bedbrook. Senior lecturer in orthopaedics. Support largely comes from hospitals. No senior lecturer in Paediatrics. Ophthalmologist McAuliffe. Luring staff to Perth – Ian Constable. The Lions Institute. Funding for people.
00:28:40 No research funds or research capabilities. Facilities increase in the 1970s. Budding hospital and university department in the Gairdner. Geoffrey Bolton. History of surgery. Memories of the Medical Library.
00:33:40 Floaters in the Gairdner. Improving on the rigidity of the system. Students were roamers around the hospital. Making the most of different approaches of surgeons. Benefits of the initiative and broadening the scope of the individual. Picking a winner with Ian Constable.
00:37:20 Benefits of tutors. Eric Tan. Graham Barrett. Eric Tan Tutor to Chancellor. Eric Tan organises international interaction. Interactions with China. Jean Scott worked the system to fruition.
00:43:00 Videoing examination and operation. Tape slides of examination. Good deal of audio visual teaching. Invited to Beijing.
00:46:45 Keeping abreast of developments elsewhere. Keeping heads up with Singapore and China. Accolade from UK. The seeds of the university success. Fiona Stanley and Neville Stanley. Barry Marshall.
00:50:30 Facility for the students. Comparisons of the German student experiences. The girls in a boiler suits or skirts. Theatre sisters prerogative.

Interview 3

00:00:00 Isolation of UWA. Members of departments do not mix. Interactions and the University House and the new club. Development of the Gairdner Hospital. Wrangling within departments and university. State services guarding.
00:07:20 John Holt and the Tronado machine. Major contribution to curing cancer. John Tonkin is interested. Heating for the curing of cancer.
00:10:20 University keeps abreast of things and technology. Gordon Lennon and the internationalisation of UWA. Growth in size and number. International player at number 96. First Nobel Laureate. Memories of the Busselton Study.
00:16:06 On call system for heart disease. Committee at RPH. The hospital was on fire. Neville Stanley fights off television crews. Memories of the Meckering earth quake. Medical advisory committee. Lack of paediatric experience.
00:20:24 University and the community. Contribution to the growth of the whole community. 1958 and Joel Griffiths raising funds for the Medical Department. Raising the levels of training for medical students. Support from the academic board. Salary and research. Public health and the Royal Perth Hospital. Academic Board makes no provision for support.
00:26:20 Interest in the school and fighting own battles. No support from the university. Arguing for funds. 0n the board of the hospital and finding resources. Sent to the eastern states to investigate good and bad points. X-ray and various developments. On the committees of the board of Fremantle Hospital. The board makes decisions on unknown agendas. Interactions developed.
00:34:00 Beijing and UWA interact. Barbecue by the Swan River. Support for Beijing surgeon in the department.
00:37:00 Robson and Whelan. Isolation of the University and the business community. Social moves and dinners. Changes when Gordon Lennon leaves. No close relationships. Faculty run by heads of departments. Conflict and a long term plan. Concerns on leaving the faculty. Dangers of X-ray 2003. Oxford papers and diagnostic X-rays. Information for GPs and X– rays. CAT Scans. Assessing diagnostic X-ray.
00:48:00 Most proud of research and the publication of papers. Making significant contributions. Memories of study on the Motility of the Gut. Peripheral Embolism. Unblocking arteries. Intestinal Colic.
00:54:22 What was happening in Intestinal Colic. Looking at UWA today and looking back at the changes and looking forward. Final words. Proud of personal role.



Catchpole, Bernard, “Bernard Catchpole interview, 9 November 2012, 16 November 2012 and 23 November 2012,” UWA Historical Society: UWA Histories, accessed July 13, 2024,