Lives of the fellows

Laurance David Wellwood Scott

b.1 July 1908 d.29 May 1991
MB ChB Glas(1932) FRFPS(1936) MD(1940) MRCP(1941) FRCP(1955) FRCPG(1963)

Laurance Scott was the son of Alexander Scott, who had graduated in medicine in 1872 from Glasgow University, and his wife Agnes née Collins. Laurance was born in Glasgow and educated at Park School and Glasgow Academy. He followed his father into the Glasgow medical school, graduating in 1932 and obtaining his MD with high commendation in 1940.

He was initially attracted to a career in paediatric medicine and was appointed house physician to Geoffrey Balmanno Fleming [Munk’s Roll, Vol.V, p.136] at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Glasgow. Fleming recommended Scott to T K Munroe, who held the regius chair of medicine, and as a result he was appointed as the Hall Tutorial Fellow in the Western Infirmary, Glasgow, a post he held from 1933-36. Munroe was succeeded by Sir John McNee [Munk's Roll. Vol.VIII, p.317]. Laurance Scott became the extra dispensary physician.

In 1940 he married Janet (Jenny), née Cochrane, who was ward sister in McNee’s unit. They had two sons and a daughter; one son entered the medical profession. Laurance was rejected for military service during the war having lost the sight of one eye as a result of a childhood illness. He served as a captain in the Home Guard and remained at the Western Infirmary throughout the second world war. Although a general physician he also ran the hospital diabetic clinic, but on becoming a dispensary physician he moved over to D K Adams’ unit [Munk's Roll, Vol.VI, p.4], a move which he did not regard with great favour.

In 1943 the MOH for Glasgow, Sir Alexander MacGregor, was anxious to upgrade the services in the Southern General Hospital, then run by the Corporation of Glasgow health committee. W R Snodgrass and Adams, from the Western, provided a consultant service to the Southern but Adams became increasingly involved with Stobhill General Hospital and Snodgrass was anxious to withdraw to the Western. Four young doctors were appointed as junior visiting consultants under Snodgrass: Laurance Scott, T N Fraser [Munk's Roll, Vol.VII, p.196] Sam Lazarus from the Western and Alex Brown [Munk's Roll, Vol.VI, p.69] from the Royal Infirmary. Their services to the Southern were part-time and ended in 1948 just prior to the start of the NHS. Each of these doctors contributed considerably to the service of the hospital and started specialist and outpatient services.

When they left, Laurance Scott opted to stay on at the Southern and gradually increased his time there. Snodgrass soon retired and with the inception of the NHS three junior assistants in medicine were appointed full-time and two new full or part-time senior consultant posts became available: Eric Oastler (q.v.) and Laurance Scott were appointed. Oastler retained his connection with the Royal Infirmary but Scott decided to break with the Western and concentrate on the SGH. He also continued in private practice, as he did throughout his professional career. It would be fair to say that the two never quite managed to pull together although they were equally responsible for developing their own services and enthusiastic in setting up arrangements for undergraduate teaching, which came to the hospital in 1950.

From the start Laurance saw the need for senior staff to become involved in the management of the Health Service. He served first as a member and then as vice-chairman of the hospital management board until these structures were disbanded in 1974. He also served on the Western regional hospital board from 1961-69. His committee style was quiet but positive and he was influential in contributing to the successful development of the SGH. He gave great encouragement to juniors and their ideas, even when he did not fully approve of them -as was the case with intensive care - but he was a man of strong views and if he took a dislike to or disapproved of an individual it was very hard to get him to change his attitude.

As a doctor, physician and teacher he was a sympathetic and kindly man. In the immediate post-war years he helped many ex-service doctors towards their higher degrees; inviting them to the Southern where he not only taught but ran mock examinations to train them in the techniques of answering questions and presenting case material. He had always been an excellent bedside teacher and he was to develop this increasingly to the advantage of the hospital. He was respected by undergraduates and post-graduate trainees for his remarkable diagnostic skills and his ability to convey this to young people.

He was very loyal to his staff, provided they were prepared to work and to take responsibility. As a result he had many excellent juniors pass through his hands, several of whom went on to become academics of distinction. He ran only one outpatient clinic at the hospital; this was on a Saturday morning when he expected a full turn out of staff to back him up. It was not his most popular activity but was a useful demonstration to juniors of a caring consultant physician at work. He was also interested in the development of geriatric services and was involved in the creation of a geriatric unit in a disused fever hospital adjacent to the SGH, which was eventually led by one of his own staff who was appointed consultant in geriatric medicine.

Laurance was a member and regular attender of the Association of Physicians and of the Scottish Society of Physicians. After retirement he took a great interest in the early history of the Glasgow Faculty (now College) and made an extensive study of historical papers, searching for the power behind the origins of the organization which achieved its Royal Charter in 1599. He never quite believed that Maister Peter Lowe succeeded in this on his own initiative. His article, issued as a pamphlet, concluded that the deus ex machina was no less than King James - the Sixth and First - who was known to be much concerned with the poor state of surgical services in the Kingdom. The scholarly style of the paper gives a rare glimpse into the academic ability of its writer, who was very much his own man. His other interests outside medicine included collecting pictures, antiques and eastern carpets. He was also a specialist in Celtic brooches.

R Hume

[Brit.med.J., 1991,303,51]

(Volume IX, page 461)

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