Lives of the fellows

Douglas Blair Macaulay

b.17 June 1904 d.5 April 1985
MB ChB Liverp(1926) MRCP(1948) FRCP(1966)

Douglas Blair Macaulay was a well known consultant allergist to the Liverpool teaching hospitals, having previously spent some time as a general practitioner in Crosby. He was born in Perth, Scotland. When Blair was only thirteen weeks old his father died and, because his mother had a job, young Blair was brought up by his grandparents and aunts who all held deeply Calvinistic principles so that, as Bryan Walker wrote in the Transactions and report l979-80 of the Liverpool Medical Institution: ‘Everything that was fun was sinful: no cards, no smoking, no drinking, no dancing and church three times on a Sunday. It was therefore no wonder that when he arrived at the Medical School he fell in with a particularly jolly band of students, one of whom he later married.’ She was Mary Hope Simpson (her father an MP, her brother second master at Rugby) and they established an excellent practitioner partnership, with other associates, which lasted from 1927-47. Blair gave time and thought to allergy, while ‘Maisie’ was largely interested in women’s problems, writing two good books, The Art of Marriage, London, Delisle, 1956 (a revised and enlarged edition, and later published as a Penguin Handbook No.PH35 in 1957), and Marriage for the Married, London, Dei isle, 1964. Both of them volunteered for Army service during the war but were rejected on the ground of high blood pressure. Nevertheless, when not engaged in his arduous practice, Blair was apparently well enough to act as a major in the Home Guard, in charge of the first aid post at Seaforth Docks - no sinecure in the bombings of 1941.

Blair’s career changed when, in 1946, he was invited to run an allergy clinic at the ENT hospital. In 1948, very sensibly, he obtained his MRCP; he was a regular attender at the writer’s Sunday morning teaching sessions. He therefore qualified as consultant allergist to the United Liverpool Hospitals with the coming of the NHS. He soon developed a thriving and widespread practice, and further appointments followed at the Chest, and Bootle Hospitals. In 1946 allergy had not yet gained official approval as a specialty and many of his senior colleagues equated it with quackery, but that word very soon disappeared from their vocabulary. Blair taught well, and he was very knowledgeable about the importance of psychological factors on allergic disorders.

In presenting Blair for life membership of the Liverpool Medical Institution in 1979, Bryan Walker recalled an interesting episode in his life: ‘While on a visit to the USA as British representative on the International Committee of Allergology, Blair received a note at his Washington hotel saying that President Kennedy wished to see him urgently. Blair, suitably flattered, hastened to The White House and was ushered along innumerable corridors by armed gaurds, each with a ‘marksman’ badge on his uniform. At each stage of what seemed an interminable journey, Blair could not help but wonder what particular allergy he was going to have to deal with - asthma? hay fever? or merely a wasp sting? At last he arrived at a small ante-room. The door of the next room was open and there he could see the most powerful man in the world talking to his physician, an eminent New York woman practitioner. Presently she came out and very apologetically told Blair that they had been wrongly informed that he was a rheumatologist and that the President, after all, did not wish to consult him. And so a somewhat crestfallen Blair Macaulay had to retrace his steps, still with his armed guards, all the way back again.’

In his spare time Blair wrote good poetry, knew a great deal about flowers and plants, and cultivated a perfect garden. A great sadness overtook him in 1983 when his son, Michael, died suddenly of cardiac arrhythmia. He was survived by his wife and elder son, a pathologist in Canada.

Sir Cyril Clarke

[Brit.med.J., 1985,290,1593; Liverpool med.Inst.,Trans.and rep., 1979-1980]

(Volume VIII, page 296)

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