Lives of the fellows

Hector Ross (Sir) MacLennan

b.1 November 1905 d.6 January 1978
Kt(1965) MB ChB Glasg(1928) MD(1932) FRFPS(1942) FRCOG(1948) FRCPG(1964) FRCP*(1973) Hon FRCSE(1967) Hon MMSA(1968) Hon FRCPS(1971) Hon LLD Glasg(1974)

Hector MacLennan was born in Glasgow. He was educated in that city, first at the High School and then at the University and, except for one year’s residence at Chelsea Hospital for Women, he spent all his professional life there, becoming consultant obstetrician at the Glasgow Maternity Hospital and consultant gynaecologist at the Victoria Hospital.

Even as an undergraduate his qualities of leadership and his ability to impress his fellows were noted, when he was elected president of the University Union. He qualified at the age of 23, passed the MRCOG examination four years later, and only two years after that was appointed to the staff at the early age of 29. At this time he delivered the Blair Bell Lecture on the subject of contracted pelvis, a condition then often encountered in Glasgow.

He served as a representative of the members on the Council of the RCOG from 1941 to 1947, and was elected a fellow in 1948. His service on many College committees culminated in his election as president in 1963 -1966. To this office he brought a fine presence and an excellent speaking manner, with a slight and pleasant Scottish accent. He was tall and broad, so that he seemed to stoop a little when speaking to anyone of less height, and a fine head of white hair set off his dark eyes and wide smiling mouth.

His memory for faces and names was astonishing, and he was a shrewd judge of men and affairs. He was cautious in decision, and always courteous and persuasive in securing consensus. During his term of office as president he travelled widely, visiting nearly every country in the Commonwealth, and he gave the Joseph Price oration in the United States. Appropriately for a Scottish president, he delivered the JY Simpson oration in the RCOG.

He was a most skilful surgeon, and as an obstetrician he earned the complete confidence of his patients in a large practice. He taught his students and assistants by his example rather than any scientific originality, but many young men fell under his spell, and many Scottish consultants owe their early training to him. As an external examiner he was much in demand, serving at Oxford, Cambridge, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen.

Hector, as he was universally and affectionately known, was knighted in 1965, and many other honours came to him, including honorary fellowships of the RCS Edinburgh, the RFPS Glasgow, and the American College of O and G, and he received the honorary degree of LLD from Glasgow University. But above all he took pride and pleasure in his appointment as High Commissioner to the Assembly of the Church of Scotland, when his fine bearing as the representative of the Queen was widely noted.

His service to medicine did not end with his presidency; he was a member of the GMC 1965 -1969, president of the RSM 1967 -1969, and he held the difficult post of chairman of the Advisory Committee on Distinction Awards 1971-1974, once again travelling much, but now through Britain. He served as chairman of an advisory committee on problems of tissue transplantation.

As a keen angler and shot he was an appropriate chairman of the Scottish Tourist Board 1969-1974, and in any Scottish hotel the deference with which he was received was almost as much on account of this office as of that of High Commissioner. He married Isabel Adam, a Glasgow medical graduate, in 1933 and they had three sons and a daughter. After the death of Isabel in 1973, who herself became widely known in the gynaecological world, in 1976 he married Jean Leckie, who had been his personal assistant for 30 years. He spent his last years in Rogart in the Highlands, where he died.

Sir Stanley Clayton

* Elected under the special bye-law which provides for the election to the fellowship of "Persons holding a medical qualification, but not Members of the College, who have distinguished themselves in the practice of medicine, or in the pursuit of Medical or General Science or Literature.."

[Times, 9 & 19 Jan 1978; Brit.med.J., 1978, 1, 181, 249; Lancet, 1978, 1, 165]

(Volume VII, page 366)

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