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Memories of a knight and his lady

Memories of a knight and his lady by Paul Hughes. ISBN - 978-1-78645-076-0

Write your name in this book as soon as you buy it, otherwise someone may behave like Maurice Muller when he visited Wrightington in 1960 and pocket it! Harry Craven was stunned to find that Professor Muller had simply ‘pinched a prosthesis and socket’ when left momentarily unattended in the newly built biomechanics lab. John Charnley (JC) wouldn’t believe the story, until both components were returned a fortnight later with an example of Maurice’s own version lying beside them in the box. Just as Maurice ‘pinched’ JC’s prosthesis to copy it, your friends will pinch your copy of this book but may well fail to return it as it is something to treasure!

“Memories of a knight and his lady” is a 360-page compendium of first hand reminiscences from those who had worked under Charnley, or visited to learn the technique. These tales are interspersed with pictures of the man and his supporting cast, the hip and of Wrightington. For students of history, these sources are unique and wonderful, including pieces by Mike Wroblewski, Harlan Amstutz, Dick Rothman, Bill Harris, Thierry Judet, August Sarmiento, Chris Faux and Kevin Hardinge to name a few. Their short pieces give us insights into the world of these leaders of the last generation, who themselves were juniors in the world of Wrightington in the 1960s. The military style of ward rounds, clinics and theatre protocol are balanced by the hospitality of the Charnley’s. Many recall how their return home to their own distant continent to take up hip arthroplasty was met with hostility and derision from their senior colleagues.

Pivotal incidents in the history of orthopaedics are triangulated by several individual sources, recollected over 50 years later. The stories are told of how clean air surgery was developed to combat sepsis, and heparin to combat pulmonary emboli. A short incision was referred to as a ‘Gunston’ after the Canadian registrar who was foolish enough to reduce the length of his approach. The great man’s closed treatment of a common fracture’ is recalled by several. Not the book – JC broke his own 5th metatarsal when stamping on a tape recorder that he had hurled to the ground in frustration having dictated at length into an empty machine. Wrong site surgery also gets recalled: JC operated upon his wife’s slipped disc, then turned her over and removed a troublesome bunion before she awoke. Jesse DeLee assisted at the operation. In the recovery bay Jill awoke to inform loudly him that he had operated on the wrong foot.

The insights into the development of the hip make an informal adjunct to the formal history books. Harry Craven tells of his budget of £180 a year for building test rigs, after spending £6,000 on building and equipping the biomechanics workshop. For materials, he was frequently found scouring the local scrap yard scrounging metal for parts! Harry’s description of JC in tears at the failures of Teflon over Christmas in 1960 ring painfully true, as does his testing of high density polyethylene against JC’s specific wishes. History has confirmed how Harry’s persistence, together with JC’s dental cement insight catapulted Wrightington into history. Sadly both John and Jill, the ‘Knight and his Lady’ of the title, are no longer with us. So three cheers for Paul Hughes for putting together this wonderful compendium which makes these wonderful figures leap off every page.


Reviewed by Professor Justin Cobb