Michael John Fairey CB. MA. 20.9.33-19.11.22

An Appreciation.

Feb 2023 -Michael John Fairey - An Appreciation.


Michael Fairey, the former President of the Friends of the Royal London Hospital and Honorary Member of the League of Nurses, died in November 2022 after a long battle against age and Parkinson’s disease.

Michael attended Queen Elizabeth's School Barnett (Boys Grammar School) and then entered Jesus College Cambridge.  In 1958 he married Dr Audrey Kermode and they had a daughter Anne and two sons, Mark & Jonathan.  Then in 1990 he married Victoria Hardman.

In 1952 he became a Junior Administrator at St. Thomas’s Hospital and then Group Development Secretary at the Westminster Hospital. His next appointment was in 1960 at the London Hospital. From 1962-72 he was Deputy HG and then until 1974 he was the last House Governor of the Hospital. That experience must have sowed the seed for his life-long devotion to it.

He was the beloved husband of Victoria and father to Anne, Mark and Jonathan. The Times notice posted by his son Mark Kermode, neatly described him as ‘a much loved and admired man, described by all as a true gentleman. He dedicated 40 years of his life to the NHS’. 

He then became the Regional Administrator of the North East Thames Regional Health Authority and from 1984-9 was at the Department of Health and Social Security. In 1989 in recognition of his work in the Civil Service as a Deputy Secretary, he was awarded the CB (Companion of the most Honourable Order of the Bath). In 1991 he moved back (without interview) to the Royal London Hospital as its first Chief Executive. The Chairman at that time was the former Admiral of the Fleet, the singular Sir William Staveley. Unsurprisingly, now back in the hospital which he had already done so much to strengthen, he flourished. About 1962 Mike had correctly predicted the coming medical data revolution and he had one of the first hospital computers at installed at the London. That perspicacious foresight was fundamental to its later success. However, in 1994 Michael left the CEO role but he did not go far; he became the Secretary of the London Hosp Medical College.

Appropriately, on retirement in 1996 he became the Commissioning Editor of the British Journal of Health Computing. He liked to remember that one of the seminal papers he had written in 1969 was with the distinguished clinician Dr Thomas Airey. He would grin as he referred to it as the Airey–Fairey paper. He was always busy volunteering for something, either with the Soldiers Sailors and Airmen's Families Association (SSAFA) or as Chairman of the Governors of St Catherine’s Church of England Primary School, Ware. There the school motto is from John 10.10; ‘I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.’ I think he would have liked that.

At his Requiem Mass on 12th December 2022, Mike’s son Jon read the beautiful words of the poem ‘When Great Trees Fall’ by Maya Angelou. Next, the Prayer of the Order of the Bath was coupled with the Prayer of the London Hospital. That touching prayer from the Victorian era has been heard in the wards of the hospital over many decades as a beacon of hope by many thousands of patients.

In his eulogy, besides emphasising Mike’s lasting and unwavering dedication to the Hospital and Medical College, Mark noted that his father had an encyclopaedic knowledge of everything from astro-physics to Bix Beiderbecke. He had always enjoyed church music and for more than 20 years had pleasure singing in the church choir. He had a particular love of Japan and he and Vicki, his undoubted soul mate, had many happy times travelling Asia and visiting Walberswick...‘A lot’. Mike was a Freeman of the City of London and a non medical member of the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries. He was the Vice Chairman of the Parochial Church Council, a Trustee of the Alumni of his Cambridge College, a member of the Athenaeum and a volunteer Mentor for the Princes Youth Business Trust. For 12 years he served in the Oxfam Bookshop (he was a collector of eccentric books) and he was a Rugby fan. But less well known was that his choice of house was determined by his enthusiasm for model railways. Mark concluded that he was kind, funny, proud, and stubborn and although he could be grumpy, he was always true and polite - with that reassuring smile.

Miss Trudy Wood, the former Director of Nursing at the Royal London Hospital and past President of The League of Nurses remembers Mike as a most loyal servant of the hospital over many years. She observed that he was always very supportive of the staff and particularly the nurses. She said during his final years he became an Honorary Member of the League of Nurses which he continued to support after his retirement. She asserted it was a privilege and a pleasure to have worked with him.

Mr Jonathan Evans, the former Archivist to the Trust, reports that Mike and Vicki were very supportive of the Archives and Museum, and that Mike even joined the committee. Jonathan recalls Mike’s 1994 hospital leaving party in the Grave Maurice when, to much amusement, Mike said it was the first time he had had to give a speech in a pub!

For my part, as a young doctor in training and then a junior consultant, I remember Mike as a man of resolution and solutions. I had the feeling the hospital and medical school were in the hands of a person who absolutely loved the place and we could all be sure he would do his very best for it. I look back to those times with gratitude and thank him and Victoria for the kindly and supportive way they dealt with me and those in my sphere. Truly, I do not think the Royal London Hospital will see his like again. I would like to have said to him ‘Thank you Mike; a great innings’

The Friends’ offer their sincere condolences to Victoria, his children Anne, Mark and Jonathan and to his grandchildren.

Prof. Trevor Beedham.             President, Friends of the RLH.                 1st Feb.2023