Lives of the fellows

Michael Henry Knox Haggie

b.8 March 1916 d.18 April 2007
OBE(1969) MC(1943) BA Cantab(1937) MB BChir(1940) MRCP(1947) FRCP(1965) MD(1949)

Michael Haggie was a paediatrician who worked in Africa for the Ministry of Overseas Development. He was born in Bradford. His father, Arthur Knox Haggie, was a director of Haggie Ropes, a long-established family firm of rope-makers on Tyneside. This background interested Michael and he wrote about it when he retired (he found that Haggie Ropes had delivered a rope three miles long, eight inches in circumference and 13 tons in weight to the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1854). He was educated at Wellington College and Peterhouse, Cambridge, before going to the London Hospital Medical School and qualifying in 1940.

He joined the Royal Army Medical Corps and became regimental medical officer with the First Parachute Battalion, seeing active service in North Africa, Sicily and Italy. He was the first medical officer to jump into action in Tunisia in 1942. The citation for his Military Cross reads: “On December 1st 1942, during an attack on enemy machine gun positions, heavy casualties were incurred, and showing total disregard for his own safety he moved forward and rendered first aid to the officers and men of his battalion, being the last to leave the scene of battle. Again on December 11th, a report was received that a severely wounded man was lying in close proximity to the enemy position and, without hesitation, Capt. Haggie went out under heavy fire to render assistance and in doing so received a wound in spite of which he remained on duty.”

When demobilised, Michael returned to the London Hospital with many other ex-service doctors seeking further training. He became an additional ‘first assistant’ to Sir Alun Rowlands [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.507] and R R Bomford [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.52] and was appointed consultant physician, Folkestone, Dover and Ashford with care of neonates and children in 1952. He was considered by his colleagues as an excellent diagnostician and admired for his teaching ability.

In 1968 he was seconded to the Ministry of Overseas Development as team leader, child medical care unit, Enugu, Nigeria, during the civil war there. Enugu was the former Biafran capital and the Ministry had provided £300,000 to cover the cost of running the unit for three years. He was accompanied by his wife Adina (née Beldimano), known to everyone as ‘Bella’, who had trained as a nurse at the London Hospital. Michael was awarded the OBE for the work he had done in difficult conditions.

He was then appointed by the Ministry to work as a physician at Mbale Hospital in Uganda. But not long after starting there he was warned by a senior official to leave as soon as possible as the situation under the rule of Idi Amin was becoming so dangerous. He and Bella escaped rapidly over the border into Kenya.

During the following years Michael worked both in Uganda and Nigeria and then retired to a new home in Herefordshire in 1972. He resumed the country pursuits he enjoyed so much, including shooting and fishing, rearing sheep and caring, with Bella, for seven acres of land. The Hereford Hospital was fortunate that, for several years, he acted as a locum physician and occasionally as a locum paediatrician. He was active in local parish and county affairs, especially those related to conservation and wildlife; he became very knowledgeable about the Hereford Lammas meadows and helped to protect them from invasion by a bypass. He was a skilful cabinet maker and a collector of historical and reference books. All these activities and his natural friendliness made him well known and popular in Herefordshire.

His wife died in 2001. He leaves a son (Robert) and daughter (Adina), five grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.

John Ross

[The Times 14 August 2007]

(Volume XII, page web)

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