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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

Death of a Past President

Tuesday, 15 October 2013


Last week, I received the sad news that Dr Jim Birley – one of our former Presidents – passed away on 6 October at the age of 85.


Dr Birley was a remarkable man who is remembered fondly by the College and everyone who he worked with.


Educated at Winchester College, Oxford University and St Thomas’ Hosiptal, London, he first became interested in psychiatry while working in Germany, in the army, as a (conscript) Junior Medical Specialist.


After obtaining the MRCP (London) he worked for a year with Dr William Sargant. In 1960, he went to the Maudsley Hospital where he stayed for the rest of his career.


He was actively involved in the work of the College for many years. He was Dean from 1982-87, and President from 1987-90. He was made Honorary Fellow of the College in 1991. That same year, he retired from clinical work but he remained active in medical circles and was elected President of the British Medical Association for 1993-1994.

Dr Jim Birley, RCPsych President 1987-90

I will always remember Jim as a man who truly epitomised intelligent kindness. If you have any memories of him, please share them with us by emailing the Website Manager, who will upload your thoughts to this blog.



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Re: Death of a Past President
Dr. Jim Birley was the loveliest of men and I feel privileged to have known him. We shared a love of roses and first met in his garden in the Black Mountains where, thanks to a few gentle hints from Dr. Birley, I won a competition for identifying the roses growing there. He let them "do their thing" as he said,
scattered on the hillside in a quite unique way. I feel very sad that I shall not see him again but grateful that for a few years I enjoyed our chats in the village shop. Such a lovely gentleman.
Re: Death of a Past President
Definitely one of the best! :(
Re: Death of a Past President
A bit late I know, but...
Quite some years ago I was in Lock's Garage, an idiosyncratic country store in South Herefordshire, and spotted a face I thought I recognised as the husband of a patient of mine. I (re)introduced myself and was flabbergasted to be told that, on the contrary, I was addressing a former President of the College! Two years later in Edinburgh, Jim was there in the front row as I collected my Fellowship, grinning broadly and giving me a double thumbs up. Great man.
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