John Brander was an example of that occasional medical man of high intellect and ideals who is frustrated during his working life and never attains happiness until he retires. About 1930, after some years as deputy at Bexley Asylum in the London County Council service, he was appointed medical superintendent of Colney Hatch Asylum (renamed Friern Hospital from 1934), with some 2,000 beds and a staff of eight assistant medical officers.
In 1939 part of the hospital was taken over by the St. Bartholomew’s Hospital sector of the Emergency Medical Service. The resulting overcrowding and disturbance in administration were aggravated by damage to the structure and casualties among patients in several bombing raids. To these conditions Brander was unable to adapt himself, he had already lost heart.
For years he had tried to inspire his assistants, his nursing staff and his technical auxiliaries with his belief that lack of facilities, and the monotony of an institution with a little-changing, chronically-ill population and no out-patient department was no excuse for slackness. He had become more and more the over-fussy administrator, hypercritical of his medical committee and finding relief only in his pathology laboratory which was as well-equipped as he was allowed to make it.
The pity is he was a sound physician, well trained in the psychiatric teachings of the 1920’s, but so set in his ways that he would have nothing to do with the new treatments of insulin coma and cardiazol shock for patients to whom he could offer no efficient physical aids. Like many a Scots Calvinist he could not open his warm heart to colleagues who failed to rise to his standards.
Fortunately he enjoyed his retirement at Galashiels in his native Scotland, doing a little research work in Edinburgh*, but devoting most of his time to the cultural life of the town in membership of the Arts Club, the Gilbert and Sullivan Society, the Gala Bowling Club and the Abbotsford Scott Fellowship, of which he was president.
He had married a daughter of Mr Anderson Dickson, who had given Galashiels its swimming baths in 1916.
Richard R Trail
* Dr Brander worked for many years on the comparative anatomy of the pituitary; that work is in the Department of Anatomy at Edinburgh, but has not been published.
[Border Standard, 20 Aug. 1957; Border Telegraph, 20 Aug. 1957.]