Dr. William Samuel McConnell
"Probably the most skillful exponent of this difficult art [dental anaesthesia]"1





Other sources

  1. Information from James McConnell
  2. 'Lest we forget', audio recording of the papers presented by Sir Ivan Magill, Sir Robert Macintosh, Dr. Michael Nosworthy and Dr. W.S. McConnell

Family trees

McConnell /Gawn family tree
Family trees of the McConnell and Gawn families

Other information

55 Chartfield Avenue
The house at 55 Chartfield Avenue

Photo in possession of our family

James McConnell Sandra Keates wedding
The wedding of James McConnell and Sandra Keates, Winchester, 1966

Photo courtesy of James McConnell

Peter McConnell hole in one
Peter's 'quiet eight iron'

Cutting from a local paper, October 1st 1997

Dr W S McConnell


Dr. William Samuel McConnell

Life and career

My grandfather William Samuel McConnell was born in south London in 1904 into a medical family. His father Dr. James McConnell was a general practitioner in Battersea, and his mother Janie Meharry was the daughter of a Belfast doctor. He entered Guy's Hospital Medical School in 1922 and qualified as a surgeon 1927. In the years following he began to specialise in dental anaesthesia, becoming, by the end of his career, one of the foremost anaesthetists in the profession. He was one of the first to receive the title Doctor of Anaesthesia in 1935.1,i

Mayfair Gas Company

In 1933, together with Sir Robert Macintosh and Bernard R.M. Johnson, he co-founded the Mayfair Gas Company, the nickname for one of the first partnerships of anaesthetists in the profession.3 This private practice, specialising in general and, in particular, dental anaesthesia, was based in Upper Brook Street, Mayfair, later moving to Wimpole Street and then to Beaumont Street. The MGC became known for sophisticated and efficient dental anaesthesia, and Bill (as he was known in the profession - Robert Macintosh was 'Mac') developed techniques for working with frightened children, becoming one of the most skillful dental anaesthetists of his day. The article on the MGC by F.W. Roberts, who worked at the partnership from 1936 to 1947, provides a fascinating insight into this branch of medicine in the 30s and 40s.4

In addition to private work, my grandfather worked as Honorary Assistant Anaesthetist at Guy's from 1934, and briefly at the Royal Dental Hospital; he was also much in demand as a lecturer. During the war he was in the Royal Army Medical Corps, working as an adviser on anaesthetics, and training army medical officers in India. He was made FRCA in 1948.2 He was also honorary visiting anaesthetist at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore.1 He retired as a senior consultant in 1969, and was president of the anaesthetics division of the Royal Society of Medicine from 1969 to 1970.1

Mac, Olive and Peter McConnell
Mac, Olive and Peter McConnell, 1934

Photo in possession of our family

His highly 'listenable' style of lecturing can be seen (and heard) in the 'Lest we forget' lecture event at a meeting of the Royal Society of Medicine, Anaesthetic Section, on 6th December 1974. In addition to Dr. McConnell's paper on the use of divinyl ether in dental anaesthesia, papers were presented by Sir Ivan Magill (blind nasal intubation), his former colleague at the MGC Sir Robert MacIntosh (spinal analgesia), and Dr. Michael Nosworthy (cyclopropane).5,6 An audio recording exists, sadly not of very high quality.ii


'Mac', as he was known in the family, met Olive Stannard, daughter of William Lanagan Stannard, at Guy's in 1926, where she worked as a nurse. They married in 1932 in Stratford-upon-Avon (quite what the family's connection with Stratford was, is not yet known). Their two sons Peter and James were born in London in 1934 and 1937: Peter's birth certificate records that the family were living in Mansfield Mews in Marylebone, and he was christened at Hampton Lucy near Stratford. Just before the war the family lived in Park Crescent, and the time of the [September] 1939 Register, Olive was living in Studham near Luton with the children and both of their grandmothers. Peter and James ('McConnell major' and 'McConnell minor') later went to Ashfold school near Aylesbury, during which time the family lived in Tingewick near Buckingham.

After the war, helped by connections in the medical profession, the family moved to a large house in Chartfield Avenue, Putney, where they lived until Mac's death in 1982. A patient and meticulous man, Mac was skillful with his hands, building among other things a steam-driven motor boat and a garage extension made out of steel sheets from wartime water tanks.i His sons, in particular James, who became an engineer, inherited this skill. Mac was also keen on music, and he and Olive took part in staged productions of Gilbert & Sullivan.

McConnell family
Sandra, James and Jo, Mac and Olive, Alba, Mark and Sara McConnell, at Tower Barn Lodge, ca. 1971

Photo in possession of our family

Peter McConnell
Peter McConnell

Photo in possession of our family


Peter McConnell, my father, was born in Marylebone in 1934. He attended Cranleigh School and Pembroke College, Oxford, where he read chemistry. While at Oxford he met my mother, Alba Pennycuick (daughter of Sir John Pennycuick), who was at Lady Margaret Hall reading French. They married in 1958 at Alba's parents' house in Maids Moreton, Buckinghamshire (see wedding photo on the Home page), a few miles from where Peter had lived during the war. Following national service spent in Cyprus, they bought a house (Tower Barn Lodge) in Farnham Common, Buckinghamshire. Their two children, Sara and Mark, were born in nearby Beaconsfield.

Peter worked in the chemical industry, initially at ICI Paints in Slough, travelling extensively in eastern Europe and the Far East. From 1975 to 1995 the family lived abroad, in the French Jura, Brussels and finally Cleveland, Ohio, where Peter extended his travels to include South America. He retired in 1995, having already had an operation to remove a tumour. He and Alba bought a cottage near Beaconsfield, near the golf club which was the mainstay of their social life. (His golf had lost none of its edge: he scored a hole-in-one at the 16th at Denham at age 63 - see cutting left). Unfortunately Peter's cancer had not been completely checked, and he died in 1999. As well as a keen and skillful golfer, Peter was a gardener, a gourmet, and a music lover.