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      Uist and Benbecula News

A dedicated family of GPs who practised medicine in North Uist for 70 years has been recognised with a memorial.

Dr Alexander MacLeod, from Lewis, set up his North Uist practice with his wife and fellow GP, Julia, in 1932 and delivered most of the island’s babies. They retired in the early 1970s and were succeeded by their son, John, who was a North Uist GP until 2000.

A memorial has immortalised the MacLeod family’s remarkable service to the community. This significant recognition was officially unveiled by Dr John Gillies, a North Uist native, who was delivered by Dr Alexander MacLeod.

Dr Gillies said John and his father were well-respected fellows of the Royal College of GPs. Dr Julia had also served as a GP for many years, standing in for her husband when he visited patients on Berneray, Baleshare, or other small islands around North Uist.

Dr Gillies added: “Dr Alec was usually known as ‘an dotair mor’ (the big doctor) because of his height and bearing, or ‘Zadoc’ (a nickname acquired as a university student in reference to Zadok, a Levite priest in the Bible in the time of King David and Solomon).

“Dr Alec was a man of great observational powers and stamina and cared for his patients 24 hours a day through a time when most had no transport, no telephones and no electricity, visiting on foot and sometimes on horseback.

“He delivered many of the children born on the island and had a formidable reputation as an obstetrician.

“He was responsible for the first air ambulance flight to the Western Isles in the 1930s when he arranged for an aircraft to take a patient in Glasgow who was too infirm to travel by land and sea back home to Clachan in Uist. That patient was Reverend Calum Gillies. The flight is commemorated in a memorial cairn beside the one to be unveiled to the MacLeods.”

Image credit: James Duncan