Trevor Baylor Benson was born in Rodney Street, Liverpool. - an auspicious start to a medical career. His father was a bank manager, and the young Benson had a somewhat peripatetic life. Most of his childhood was spent in the Lancashire cotton towns and he attended Bury Grammar School before proceeding to the Manchester Medical School and Manchester Royal Infirmary. He qualified in 1949 and was appointed house surgeon to Sir Harry Platt - a clinician who influenced him greatly. He saw national service with the Royal Air Force at Nocton in Lincolnshire. He was designated junior orthopaedic specialist and obtained a wide range of clinical experience. Two important events occurred while he was stationed in Lincolnshire: he met Ruth Oliver, a Bart’s trained nurse, and then quite inexplicably he sustained a massive pulmonary embolism. He was regarded as fortunate to survive this illness and thereafter bowed to medical advice that he would never be strong enough to pursue a career in orthopaedic surgery.
He married Ruth in 1953 and sought an opening in general medical practice. He became a principal in Helsby the following year, 1954. This was, and still is, a sleepy Cheshire village acting as a dormitory area for the heavy manufacturing localities of Ellesmere Port, Runcorn and Warrington. He was happy there. He and Ruth brought up three children and grew the most splendid tomatoes.
He was a widely respected local family doctor and founder member of the Royal College of General Practitioners. He continued however to retain his interest in musculo-skeletal problems and returned to hospital based medicine with a clinical attachment at the Manchester Royal Infirmary. Remarkably and characteristically, he decided that he would obtain the membership of the Royal College of Physicians. That he should even contemplate such study more than two decades after qualification raised a number of eyebrows, but he became MRCP(UK) at the first attempt; following it, in 1970, with the diploma in physical medicine.
Services in rheumatology and rehabilitation in the Mersey region had been notoriously poor. In 1975 the Regional Health Authority appointed him its first consultant in this specialty. It was a wrench for him to leave general practice, but having done so he devoted himself wholeheartedly to the development of services for rheumatology and the younger physically disabled. His paper on ‘The younger disabled unit at Fazakerley Hospital’ in the British Medical Journal, 11 August 1979, in collaboration with E Williams, has become a classic reference on the subject. He was greatly surprised when invited in 1981 to join the standing medical advisory committee at the Department of Health. Shortly afterwards he was elected FRCP.
A kindly, courteous and quiet man, he wore a benign smile and often appeared bumbling and absent-minded. He had a rigorous intellect but found great difficulty in organizing himself or his workload for maximum efficiency. It was this mixture of friendliness, intellectual purity and gentle eccentricity, which endeared him to family, patients and colleagues. He was survived by his wife and three children.
Sir Gordon Wolstenholme