Alexander Macphail M.D.Glas., F.R.F.P.S

In June, 1927, Dr Alexander Macphail gave Iona, White Sands of Iona, by George Huston, to Glasgow museums. (1)

GL_GM_1708
© CSG CIC Glasgow Museums Collection

Alexander Macphail was born on 31 August 1872 to Janet Macphail nee Merry and her husband Dougal Macphail(2). They lived at 185 Hill Street, Garnet Hill, Glasgow. He was educated at Garnet Hill School, Partick Academy and Hamilton Crescent in Glasgow (3).After his father died, in 1887, he lived with his older brother Donald, a general Practitioner ,and his young family in Coatbridge.(4) In 1890, he matriculated in the medical faculty at Glasgow University and graduated (with high commendation) four years later. While still a student he edited the Glasgow University magazine ((GUM). He was a member of the Kelvin Jubilee students committee.(5)

Shortly after graduating, he took a post as surgeon on the s.s.Clan Mackenzie, sailing between the ports of Columbia and Suez. On the ship he encountered a case of confluent smallpox in a Lascar seaman. He wrote this up in the Lancet (6).

His first appointment was a demonstrator in the Anatomy Department at Glasgow University, a post he held until 1900. In 1900, he became Dean of the St Mungo’s Medical School, based at the Glasgow Royal infirmary in the east end of the city, a post he held until 1907. (7)

In 1907, London and Anatomy beckoned and he took up a post as lecturer in Anatomy at Charing Cross Hospital and King’s College, London. In 1912 he moved to St Bartholomew’s as lecturer in Anatomy a post he held until 1922.(8) During the First World War, he was a Captain in the RA MC attached to the ninth Battalion Highland Light Infantry .(9) In 1922, he proceeded MD at Glasgow University. His thesis was entitled “Historical and other notes on the Administration of the Anatomy Act “and is in the Glasgow University library. (10)

alecport
Dr Macphail. British Medical Journal 10 Septmber 1938. RCPS Glasgow. (Elliot and Fry)

In 1922, he was appointed HM Inspector of Anatomy for England and Wales (11) and a medical officer in the Department of Health.y The obituary in the British Medical Journal gives full acknowledgement of the manner in which he undertook the task. After the scandals of the early 1800s, the Anatomy Act of 1832 undertook the provision of bodies for dissection in medical schools. After World War I, the arrangements for obtaining such subjects had broken down and medical schools were facing a difficult situation. The Ministry of Health asked the Boards of Guardians for their cooperation in allowing unclaimed bodies of inmates in institutions to be released as subjects for dissection. (12) Tact and diplomacy were required and Dr Macphail exhibited both; an extra obituary in the Lancet (13) talked of” that rare combination of refinement and gentleness with moral courage and on occasion righteous indignation” which he showed. Prof FG Parsons told in the British Medical Journal(13) of Dr Macphail’s wish that his own body go to Oxford to be dissected. “Macphail felt that until an anatomist had himself been dissected, we should have no answer to the demagogues who accused us of cutting up the friendless poor”. Thus did he practice what he preached.

During his working life he served Anatomy in many roles. He was Chairman of the Board of Studies in Human Anatomy, University of London: Secretary and Vice President of the Anatomical Society of Great Britain and Ireland (15). He published in the Journal of Anatomy.

His recreations are listed as painting and music. He was a water colourist and exhibited at the Ministry of Health exhibitions (16). In 1934, (16) he was appointed Professor of Anatomy at the Royal Academy in London (the first Professor of Anatomy at the Royal Academy was William Hunter, another Glasgow man).(17) This involved giving 10 lectures a year to students in October and November. This was an appointment of which he was very proud.

Dr Macphail’s life reflects his upbringing so it is pertinent that his father was a native of Mull and a well-known Gaelic bard. The choice of painting to donate to Glasgow museums must have been influenced by his family origins.

References

  1. Minutes of Glasgow City Council June 1927
  2. National Records of Scotland Statutory Births 1872
  3. Who Was Who 1929-1940
  4. National Records of Scotland Census 1891
  5. Who Was Who 1929-1940
  6. The Lancet 1986 ;June20   A case of confluent smallpox in a lascar seaman
  7. British Medical Journal 1938; Sep 10: 600
  8. Op cit
  9. http://www.archives.gla.uk/honour/index
  10. Glasgow University library
  11. British Medical journal 1922; 2 :787
  12. British Medical Journal 1938; Sep 10: 600
  13. The Lancet 1938; Oct 15:922
  14. British Medical Journal 1938; Sep 10: 600
  15. British Medical Journal 1938; Sep 10: 601
  16. The Lancet 1938; Oct 15:922
  17. The Times, July 03,1934; p9

 

Dugald Macphail

Dugald MacPhail, the Bard, was from Mull, from the parish of Strathcoil living at Derrychullin Farm. He was born in 1819. His family had lived in Glen Forsa for many years (1 ).He married Janet Merry at Tarasay on the 23 August 1853.(2) His first son, Donald, was born there. (3) He left Mull shortly afterwards. He was initially a contractor but he studied   architecture and later became a   master of works. A devout Presbyterian, he joined the Free Church following the Disruption.(4)  His movements can be followed using the places where his children were born.(5 ) The family moved to Newcastle. (6) While there, he wrote the Gaelic song An T-lanmullach (7)which has been called the anthem of Mull. This is probably best known in the translation used by Sir Hugh Roberton and the Orpheus choir “O Isle of Mull, Isle of Joy Beloved”. He then moved to work for the Duke of Westminster as master of works in Shaftesbury where he lived at 1 Church yard (8) and the family had a servant. He moved back to Scotland, to Edinburgh and then to Glasgow. The family home was in Glasgow where Alexander was born (9) but in 1871, he is a lodger at 16 Gladstone Terrace Edinburgh.(10 )In the 1881 census(11) the family are in Glasgow without him so one can surmise that this was the stable family home and he moved with his work. He is at various times found in parish registers and voters rolls(12 ) in Edinburgh and in Glasgow. He died in 1887(13) in Partick in Glasgow. But he is buried in New Monklands Cemetery in Coatbridge, where it is said his firstborn grandson was buried.(14 )

His sons and daughters were well educated. Three sons, other than Alexander, were doctors. Donald was a General Practioner in Coatbridge(15 ): John was a Physician and Surgeon in Barnsley(16 ) : Rev James Merry Macphail was a missionary in India and died there. (17 )His daughters were schoolteachers. All bear witness to their upbringing in a religious and educated household.

monument 001
Thanks to Harry Davidson, Arran

In 1929, at Tarasay, a monument was constructed from the stones of his old cottage(18). It was recently refurbished by public subscription. It stands as a lasting monument to the Bard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

  1. Macleod M C Dugald Macphail in Modern Gaelic Bards pp136-152. Stirling, 1908
  2. Ancestry
  3. Op cit
  4. Op cit
  5. Op cit
  6. Macleod M C Dugald Macphail in Modern Gaelic Bards pp136-152. Stirling, 1908
  7. English census 1861
  8. National Records of Scotland Statutory Births 1872
  9. National Records of Scotland Statutory census 1871
  10. National Records of Scotland Statutory census 1881
  11. National Records of Scotland Statutory valuation rolls
  12. National Records of Scotland Statutory deaths 1887
  13. Gazeteer for Scotland
  14. Macleod M C Dugald Macphail in Modern Gaelic Bards pp136-152. Stirling, 1908
  15. National Records of Scotland census 1891
  16. English census 1901
  17. Scottish National Probate Index. Wills and confirmations
  18. The Oban Times 2017 November 20