Lives of the fellows

Angus McGregor

b.26 December 1926 d.25 April 2017
BA Cantab MB BChir(1950) DPH Liverp(1956) MD(1958) FFCM(1972)

Angus McGregor was regional medical officer for West Midlands Regional Health Authority. He was born in Llanishen, Cardiff, Wales, the elder of two children of William Hector Scott McGregor and Olwen May McGregor née Richards. He was educated at Harborne Collegiate School, Birmingham and King Edward’s and Solihull schools. He qualified in 1950 from St John's College, Cambridge, followed by his brother, Malcolm, who went on via paediatrics to become a consultant psychiatrist in Doncaster. His father was a school medical officer in Birmingham and his mother was a rare breed – a single-handed female GP during the Second World War in Hall Green, Birmingham whilst his father was away with the RAMC in North Africa, Naples and Sicily.

He spent his preclinical years at medical school in Cambridge, but elected to go back to Birmingham for his clinical years. He started medical life as a house surgeon at the Birmingham General Hospital where he met a young nurse, May (Mary Bridget) Burke, on the night staff of one of the wards. She who would ply him with Horlicks on his nightly round while they debated religion and ethics. He then went on to be a house physician at Kidderminster General Hospital. When he married his nurse in 1951 she found out that he hated Horlicks and he was only there for the pleasure of her company: thus started 66 years of devotion to each other.

They moved to Dover for his National Service, serving in the RAMC until 1953. He then entered a short period of general practice in Fox Hollies Road, Birmingham with his mother until he decided general practice was not for him and moved into public health.

He worked in Chester as assistant medical officer for health (MOH) and senior medical officer from 1954 to 1957, in Swindon as deputy MOH from 1957 to 1958, in Hull as deputy MOH from 1958 to 1965 and then as MOH, public sector medical officer and port medical officer, Southampton from 1965 to 1974. Whilst in Southampton he took a sabbatical, spending several months in India studying tropical medicine. In the reformations of 1974 he moved into the post of district community physician for East Dorset and in 1979 moved to Birmingham as the regional medical officer for the West Midlands.

Angus was deeply involved in the design of the secondary care system in the West Midlands and many of the existing hospitals owe their recent history to him. He was noted by his family at least for his inability to stand fools gladly. He was able to get to the nub of the matter in a few short pithy sentences whilst having a deep, dry sense of humour and an enormous sense of duty and responsibility. He gave generously to charity all his life and was always deeply conscious of the needs of those less fortunate than himself. He was a member of the Royal British Legion and a fellow of the Royal Society for the encouragement of the Arts, Manufactures and Commerce for 31 years.

The only time I remember him to back down from an awkward situation was in 1988 when I was studying for my final medicine viva at Birmingham. He insisted that I take a break and accompany them both to a local National Trust property, Baddesley Clinton for a walk and afternoon tea (a favourite pastime of theirs). When going into the entrance kiosk to the house, he backed out and suggested we walk around the grounds first as he had recognised the senior clinical tutor in charge of my final exams also taking his family for a walk and an afternoon tea. My mother always insisted it was the only time she ever saw him retreat.

One of Angus’ greatest achievements and legacies was his expansion of the community medicine (now public health) training scheme in the early to late 1980s when the profession was in need of a boost. The scheme dramatically increased in size over four to five years and laid the foundation for a strong public health community in the West Midlands and wider afield. (Indeed, the present president of the Faculty of Public Health is one of his first cohort.)

He also championed the cause of health education (promotion) back in the days when it was a minority sport. During his tenure as regional medical officer in the late 1980s he became more involved in academia as a visiting professor at Keele University’s department of postgraduate medicine and wrote, with Tony Bunbury, Disciplining and dismissing doctors in the National Health Service (Keele, Mercia, 1988). Other publications included: ‘Poliomyelitis vaccination in Hull.’ Med World. 1962 Apr;96:293-9, ‘Total attachment of community nurses to general practices.’ Br Med J. 1969 Aug 2;3(5665):291-3 and ‘Slowly but surely. Southampton scheme for linking a computer to child health records.’ Community Medicine 1971. 136.9.133. He was a member of the board of the Faculty of Community Medicine of the Royal College of Physicians from 1982 to 1988.

Angus used to enjoy tennis and badminton in his early career and was a keen piano player and adept at DIY. He enjoyed reading including fiction – science fiction and detective stories/thrillers were a favourite. Whilst not a fundamentally religious man himself, he had a great interest in and studied many of the religions, philosophies and belief systems in the world. He also would visit museums and art exhibitions and as a small child, I remember him taking us to see the treasures of Tutankhamun when they came to the British Museum. He was keen on visiting historic monuments and was a member of the National Trust for many years.

He and May were devoted to each other and enjoyed debating the merits of British Medical Journal articles between themselves and with others. His wife, May, only survived him by a few months; he was survived by his daughter, Catherine, a GP, and two grandchildren, Charlotte and Nicholas.

Catherine McGregor

[With thanks to Kevin Kelleher; Who's who A & C Black, 2000]

(Volume XII, page web)

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