Fred Allen was born at Belfast, the son of William James Allen, merchant, and Annie Holden, and educated at Queen’s University. In 1917, while still a student, he interrupted his studies to serve as a surgeon-probationer in the Royal Navy. At the end of the first world war he returned to Queen’s University and graduated MB BCh BAO in 1920, proceeding MD in 1923, and specializing in paediatrics. He was elected a Fellow of the College in 1939, and was appointed to the Nuffield Chair of Child Health at Queen’s University in 1948. He was paediatrician to the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children from 1924, and physician in charge of infants to the Royal Maternity Hospital, Belfast, from 1927 until his retirement in 1963, when he also retired from the Chair of child health at the University.
Between 1939 and the end of the second world war he undertook important administrative duties in connection with the organization of medical manpower in the Province, was hospitals officer to the Ministry of Public Security with responsibility for hospital arrangements in connection with Civil Defence, and involved in planning work for the coming National Health Service. He was one of the first members of the Northern Ireland Hospital Authority, a member of the Ministry of Health Advisory Committee on Child Guidance and Speech Therapy and of the Nuffield Regional Council and Medical Planning Committee. He served on the NI Tuberculosis Authority and for years was an active member of the Association of Physicians of Great Britain and Ireland, and of the British Paediatric Association. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine and a former President of the Ulster Medical Association.
One of Fred Allen’s most notable qualities was his burning zeal to see a durable image of paediatrics established in Ulster, and in this he succeeded. He had a gift for friendship, and great fortitude and resilience in adversity. Like many strong personalities he had his prejudices or preconceived ideas, for which he was ever willing to strive, and at times some of his colleagues may have chafed under his obduracy. But with his patients — the children — he was never so and was, indeed, greatly loved by them. His crowded out-patient clinics testified to the value the doctors in Ulster put on his opinions. In 1963, the year of his retirement, he won the Dawson Williams prize. Among many publications was his book Aids to the Diagnosis and Treatment of Diseases in Children.
In 1929 he married Anne Evelyn Maud Calvert, daughter of James Calvert whose son, E.G.B. Calvert, was also elected a Fellow of the College. His wife, Eve, supported him as loyally throughout his active life as she did in his declining years; they were fortunate to have 43 years of great happiness together. He retired to live at Cultra, in a lovely house overlooking Belfast Lough. At home, surrounded by his pictures and treasures, he pursued his main interests outside medicine; his garden, his reading, and entertaining friends. Fred and his wife were perfect hosts. There was a gay spontaneity about their entertaining and all who had the pleasure of joining them on these occasions will remember their generous and elegant hospitality. They had no children.
Sir Gordon Wolstenholme
[Brit.med.J., 1972, 1, 316; Lancet, 1972, 1, 210, 332; Belfast News Letter, 11 Jan 1972; Belfast Telegraph, 11 Jan 1972]