Sir Eldryd Hugh Owen Parry KCMG OBE, a CMF member, died aged 91 on 13 November 2022. I wanted to write a brief appreciation of his extraordinary life of service in universities in Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Ghana and the establishment of the Tropical Health and Education Trust (THET). His numerous achievements and awards are recorded in Wikipedia and Queen Mary College, University of London.
Many might ask what moulded this remarkable man?
Eldryd himself acknowledged several key influences.
Firstly, his parents, who were GPs in Cardiff, often worked with very deprived families before the start of the NHS. His mother set up an early palliative care service, occasionally accompanied by Eldryd, and she raised funds for the Christian Medical College at Vellore, South India. Eldryd recalls the impact of cold baths and food rationing at school during World War Two on developing his appreciation of ‘austerity’! At university – Cambridge and Cardiff – Eldryd especially appreciated the vibrant academic atmosphere in the Welsh National School of Medicine, where he saw many patients with infections. Perhaps that was where Eldryd caught TB? He was very ill and needed a thoracotomy as well as TB drugs.
Secondly, his friends. Many of his contemporaries at Cambridge became medical missionaries, and his Best Man went to work in Nepal.
Eldryd worked at several prestigious hospitals with eminent consultants who recognised his very bright intellect; they spent time nurturing Eldryd’s clinical and investigative skills. These enabled Eldryd to make massive contributions to the management of cardiac disease in Africa.
Thirdly, existing academic links with universities overseas enabled extremely talented consultants in the UK to be seconded to centres of excellence in Africa. Eldryd was therefore not surprised to be asked at interview in London, ‘Would you be prepared to be seconded to Nigeria?’.
Fourthly, his family. Eldryd married Helen, an extremely bright and gifted linguist and teacher who made massive contributions to many schools and colleges in Africa and subsequently at the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity (LICC) in the UK. She agreed that they could go to Ibadan, Nigeria – leaving just six days after their wedding! She made a welcoming home for their four children and countless visitors.
Fifthly, his colleagues – in Africa and the UK. Eldryd had the unique ability to recognise talent and readiness to contribute to clinical care, teaching and research at the many African university departments he headed up. He particularly valued developing deep relationships with senior and junior African colleagues, encouraging robust but respectful dialogue and mutual learning. The affection of his colleagues, particularly his African colleagues, is expressed in the online condolences that have poured in since his death.
Finally, but far from least, his faith. Eldryd was always explicit about his personal Christian faith and how it motivated his attitudes, relationships, and practice. He loved the expressive worship of several African churches that he and Helen attended. Eldryd gave inspiring talks to groups of students – organised by CMF and other organisations. He emphasised the value of Scripture, citing the writings of Luke (in his eponymous Gospel and the Book of Acts) as being crucial in challenging social norms when providing care for those who are ill, especially for the disadvantaged. The genuine presence of Jesus in Eldryd’s life was striking, and many who worked for or with Eldryd knew that they had become different people.
Andrew Tomkins is Professor Emeritus at the Institute for Global Health, UCL, London