A PIONEER in the treatment of children's diseases who created the earliest premature baby cot in York has died, aged 95.

When Dr Walter Henderson came to York the children department services were divided between separate wards at the city and county hospitals.

But he revolutionised the way paediatrics in York were developed and left a long-lasting legacy for the city's youngsters.

A graduate of Edinburgh University, Dr Henderson was appointed consultant paediatrician in November 1946 with responsibilities at the county, and later, the city hospitals.

Until 1954, the only premature baby facilities in York were two small nurseries at Acomb Hospital. But Dr Henderson's initiative changed all that and, under his supervision, a unit was developed at the county hospital for children of all ages.

By the time of his retirement in 1975, that unit comprised two consultants, a registrar, two senior house officers and a child assessment centre.

Married to Joan and with two daughters, Dr Henderson was also a visiting consultant at Scarborough for many years and held a monthly clinic at Malton Hospital.

He was an examiner in the membership examinations at the Royal College of Physicians, in Edinburgh, and for seven years held a similar position for the diploma of child health examinations at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, in Glasgow.

Assistant honorary secretary of the British Paediatric Association for nine years, Dr Henderson had served as an Army medical officer in India during the Second World War.

He was said to have devoted considerable time and effort to helping those children in York with physical and learning disabilities.

A keen gardener, walker, reader, golfer and tennis player, Dr Henderson's pioneering work with premature baby cots - with adaptations engineered by the City Hospital engineering department - will never be forgotten.

Ellen Willey, who was sister in charge of Dr Henderson's unit for many years and is founder of the Special Care Baby Unit support group, said: "He gave me my first Sister's post way back in 1960 and I worked for him until he retired.

"He was an absolute gentleman. He was so caring towards the babies - he really was a very caring man. Everybody loved him."

Updated: 10:55 Wednesday, April 27, 2005