Lives of the fellows

Hamish Watson

b.26 June 1923 d.23 May 2001
MB ChB Edin(1945) MRCP Edin(1953) MD(1962) FRCP Edin(1962) MRCP(1965) FACC(1969) FRCP(1974)

Hamish Watson was an eminent consultant cardiologist who spent most of his professional life in the Royal Infirmary and Ninewells Hospital, Dundee. He was born in Edinburgh, the son of a prominent business, John T R Watson and his wife, Annie Ewing Spence. He was educated at George Watson's School before attending Edinburgh University.

Hamish was a handsome man of great style and courage and a life-long field sports enthusiast, having begun hunting with the Linlithgow and Stirlingshire hounds at the age of 10.

After qualification, his National Service was spent in West Africa as RMO, Nigeria regiment. In his leisure time, he played polo and when he returned to Edinburgh, he brought a small menagerie for the zoo. He professed to be well qualified to look after chimpanzees, as they were after all primates.

In 1949, he joined the Territorials as MO to the Scottish Horse. A fellow officer recalled how, at annual camp, he had returned after a wet day on manoeuvres to be welcomed by the immaculately dressed MO, starched linen on the table and champagne on ice.

Hamish was certainly a colourful personality but this hid high intelligence and serious purpose. His junior hospital posts were in Edinburgh, where he came under the influence of the eminent cardiologist Rae Gilchrist [Munk's Roll, Vol.X, p.164]. His early research was on anticoagulant therapy.

He married Lesley Wood in 1951 and in 1953, moved to the department of medicine, St Andrews University, in the Dundee Hospitals to work under Sir Ian Hill [Munk's Roll, Vol.VII, p.262]. This enabled him to join his father, now retired, in farming in the fertile Carse of Gowrie.

At this time he showed his entrepreneurial and administrative skills as a committee representative of junior hospital staff, improving working conditions and remuneration. Characteristically, he was not afraid to challenge leaders of the profession who, in his opinion, showed undue reluctance to change.

Hamish's career changed abruptly when, tragically, his only son died from severe congenital heart disease. After postgraduate study in Sweden, his chief interest lay in paediatric cardiology. With colleagues in the department of radiology, he carried out pioneering work investigating congential heart disease in infants using image intensification angiography. His other research interests lay in haemodynamics, dysrhythmias and intracardiac electrocardiography.

He consulted widely in north east Scotland and, after clinics held in Inverness, his reward was a days fishing. His Paediatric cardiology (London, Lloyd-Luke (Medical Books),1968) was widely acclaimed, as was Clinical anatomy of the heart (Edinburgh, Churchill Livingstone, 1978) which he wrote with Robert Walmsley of St Andrews.

He played a large part in establishing the European Association of Paediatric Cardiologists and was its first president. The first meeting was in Rome and he had the privilege of an audience with the Pope and discussed the ethics of treating badly handicapped infants. He was Dundee University's first post-graduate dean and he showed loyalty to Edinburgh as councilor and trustee in its Royal College of Physicians.

In retirement, he hunted regularly and was a joint Master of Fox Hounds. He and Lesley were expert fly fishers and they established a beautiful garden in their home at the foot of the Sidlaw Hills. Tragically, his active lifestyle ended abruptly in a car accident that left him paraplegic and in constant pain, which he bore with stoicism. He was nursed lovingly by Lesley and died from terminal pneumonia in the coronary care unit that he had designed many years previously.

K G Lowe

[The Daily Telegraph 19 June 2001]

(Volume XI, page 607)

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