Conel Alexander was of Northern Irish background. He was the son of Arthur Francis O’Donel Alexander, an educationalist. At the time of Conel’s birth his parents were living in Kobe, Japan, where his father was a lecturer in English at the University of Kobe, but within a few weeks the family came back to the UK and Conel never returned to Japan. After spending some years in Northern Ireland, the family settled in Dorchester and Conel was educated at Hardie’s School. Although he won the Hardie scholarship to Oxford University he did not take this up, and in 1942 he entered the Middlesex Hospital medical school, University of London. His medical education was interrupted by an attack of pulmonary tuberculosis, almost certainly contracted during his pathology attachment, and this ultimately made him unfit for National Service.
After qualification he held house appointments at Aylesbury and the Royal Free Hospital but his tuberculosis relapsed and he required a lobectomy, which prevented him from working for the next twelve months. In 1950 he was appointed SHO at Nottingham General Hospital and in 1953 he returned to the Royal Free as RMO, and later as medical registrar. From 1958-63 he held a rotational post as senior medical registrar at Sheffield and was subsequently appointed consultant physician to the Leicester Royal Infirmary, Leicester General Hospital and Market Harborough Hospital.
Although he was appointed as a general physician, his special interest was endoscopic gastroenterolgy and he was expert at the difficult art of using semi-rigid endoscopes. With the advent of flexible machines it was possible to extend the service and make it more comprehensive. It went from strength to strength and by the time he retired in 1989 his original service had expanded to cover full facilities in both the main hospitals in which he worked.
When he arrived in Leicester he joined a large district service, but in 1975 undergraduate teaching commenced. He became an enthusiastic and committed teacher, devoting a great deal of time to undergraduate and postgraduate teaching. He also became involved in much of the work of committees, some of which he chaired. He was president of the East Midlands Society of Physicians, of the Leicester Medical Society and of the Leicestershire branch of the BMA. He was a popular and highly respected physician, especially in his chosen field of gastroenterology. He had an extensive commitment to the NHS but was also in great demand in private practice.
In his younger years he had been an excellent chess player and reached county standard, but during his later years his main interests were fishing and gardening. A keen and expert fly fisher, he could be seen in the season on Cornish and Scottish salmon rivers and often his friends had the culinary benefit of his efforts. He was also an enthusiastic member of the Leicester Literary and Philosophical Society; for many years he served on its committee and ultimately became its president.
He married a fellow doctor, Sue Munro, who was a general practitioner. They had four children, a daughter and three sons. Conel was a devoted husband and father, and his very pleasant, relaxed personality attracted a large circle of friends. Sadly, his life was dogged by illness; first his tuberculosis and later a resection of an aortic aneurysm. On retirement he fought a losing battle with lymphoma.
F D Rosenthal