McWhirter – Fifth generation

Madge McWhirter

b. 18 Mar 1894, m. Cecil Cockbain, b. 18 Mar 1894, occupation Engineer. Madge died circa 17 Jan 1975, Montreal, Canada.

Madge was born on 18 Mar 1894 and married Cecil Cockbain who was an engineer. They went to Perth in Western Australia and did fruit farming for some years. While there they used to meet Aunt Sarah (JGMW-L7). They returned to Britain and lived in Edinburgh where Cecil worked with Irvine Electrical Services for several years. They were living in Edinburgh while we were living in Blackhall (1936-38). Then they went to Canada and were living in Montreal where Madge died circa 17 Jan 1975. Cecil is also dead. They have two sons: Cecil Harry and John. (JGMW pp. 22 – 24)


i      Cecil Henry (Harry) b. 9 Sep 1920.

ii     John b. 10 Sep 1922.

John Gilbert McWhirter

Occupation Insurance inspector, m. Norma Beck.

John Gilbert married Norma Beck (who is a cousin of Mrs Ena Simpson of Dumfries). He is a retired insurance inspector. They live in Ponteland, Northumberland and have two sons: Peter John and Colin Keith. (JGMW p.24) (In Jean Webster’s printout Norma’s maiden name is given as James. In her letter of 1999 Jan 17 Jean W agrees that the proper name is Beck. RWPMW, 1999 Apr 26)


i      Colin Keith.

ii     Peter John McWhirter occupation Company representative., m. (1) First wife, m. (2) 17 May 1973, in Newcastle, Katherine Rowell.

JGMW writes

Peter John is married and is about to be divorced. He lives in Benton Newcastle-upon-Tyne and is a representative of a paint-manufacturing firm. On 17 May 1973, Peter married Katherine Rowell in Newcastle. We were there. This was his second marriage. He and Kate live in Ponteland – but they have since separated. (JGMW p. 23 and 24)

Sidney Braidwood McWhirter

b. 1 Aug 1891, S.Australia., m. (1) Marion H Richardson, d. 7 Sep 1920, m. (2) 30 Jul 1924, Isobel May Close, b. 7 Nov 1903,[32] d. 26 Feb 1990. Sidney died 6 May 1988.[33]

JGMW writes

Sidney (Jean Webster’s father) has been married twice. His first wife was Marion Richardson who died on 7-9-1920. They had one daughter:- Barbara Marion born on 7-9-1920. Sidney married Jean’s mother, Isobel May Close on 30-7-24 and they had five children:- Clifford Lawrence Braidwood, Margaret Ruth, Peter Russell, Jean Isobel. Then they adopted a baby boy Murray Gordon. Jean Webster has sent me the names etc. of those seven sons and daughters of Sidney’s. (JGMW p. 202)

In Jean’s letter dated 1 Jan 1980 addressed to Keneth and Bessie Auld she says that her parents Sidney and Isobel and her aunt May are all well and active. Here there is a cutting from a newspaper with a photograph of Sidney and Isobel at their diamond (60th) wedding with Jean Webster and Margaret Clarke. (JGMW p. 201).


i      Barbara Marion May b. 25 Aug 1919.

ii     Clifford Lawrence Braidwood b. 1 Jul 1925.

iii    Margaret Ruth b. 22 Feb 1927.

iv    Peter Russell b. 2 Apr 1930.

v     Donald Charles b. 4 Jul 1931.

vi    Jean Isobel b. 18 Mar 1937.

vii   Murray Gordon b. 15 Jan 1948.

May McWhirter

b. 6 Sep1893, Australia., m. 1933, William Edward Butcher, b. 28 Oct 1895, d. 1 Jan 1972.

JGMW writes

(Information given me by Margaret Clarke when she visited us in May 1985.) May was born in South Australia as were her brothers Sidney and Clifford. She was born in September 1983. It was about 1933 that she married William Butcher. They had two children. Butcher died about 1967. May attended the diamond (60th) wedding of her brother Sydney and his wife Isobel on 30-7-1984. They had two children: Nancy and a second child who was a boy who was a Mongol [affected by Down’s syndrome (RWPMW)]. He was born in 1939 and died in 1941. (JGMW p. 203)


i      Nancy May b. 5 Oct 1933.

ii     Ian William Butcher b. 3 Apr 1938, d. 14 Dec 1940.  Transcript of JGMW’s Saga page 203: “May’s second child was a boy who was a Mongol [see above]. He was born in 1939 and died in 1941.”

John Gairdner McWhirter

b. 18 Dec 1897, Ballantrae, Ayrshire, occupation Medical Radiologist, m. 28 Jul 1926, in Straiton Churh Ayrshire, Anna Elizabeth Macmorlan, b. 2 Feb 1897, Straiton, Ayrshire, (daughter of William Macmorland and Agnes Jack) occupation Nurse, d. 14 Oct 1981, Milngavie, Dunbartonshire, ashes buried: 14 Nov 1981, Straiton cemetry, Ayrshire. John died 27 Nov 1985, Abingdon, Oxfordshire, ashes buried: Straiton Cemetary, Ayrshire.

RWPMW writes

John Gairdner McWhirter spent much of his retirement researching the family genealogy. He wrote to many people all over the world in pursuit of information and recorded it all in a large note book that he called the ‘Saga – shades of John and Anna’. This has been the main sources that I have entered into this computer databank. I have cross-referenced names using the reference numbers adopted by JGMW using his initials as a prefix.(RWPMW)

JGMW’s autobiography is printed separately. (RWPMW  1 June 2001) BIOGS/JGMW.doc (RWPMW, 28 Apr 2008)


JGMW writes

Anna attended her father’s primary school in Straiton then Girvan Higher Grade School at the same time as JGMcW her future husband. She usually went home to Straiton at the weekends by train to Kilkerran and then by foot or later bicycle. Once in a snow storm she walked in deep snow causing considerable alarm so that a search party set out to look for her. She took a short cut and missed the search party and got home safely although very exhausted. Her first job was as a clerkess with Norton and Gregory, Robertson Street, Glasgow. She and JGMcW met once at this time for tea and cinema but they didn’t meet again till 1919. On 31 January 1917 she started to train as a nurse at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Yorkhill. She had to provide her own uniform and got no pay for the first year. She loved her years at Yorkhill and was devoted to the children who were her patients. During the final stages of the three years of her nursing career in the RHSC she acted as theatre sister for Alex Maclennan of whom she thought very highly as a surgeon. After a period at the Royal Maternity and Women’s Hospital, Rottenrow till 1922 she took up private nursing and moved about to many places. Latterly she was looking after the Miss Jamesons at Tighnabruaich and stayed on with them as their nurse/companion at their request. She and JGMcW saw each other frequently during this time from 1919 till they married in 1926. Together they moved to Whithorn (10 years), Edinburgh (2 years), Glasgow (1 year), Troon (4 years) and Dumfries (20 years) where JGMcW retired. Their first retirement home was in Silverburn near Penicuik but after her mental health began to deteriorate they moved to Milngavie to be nearer their daughter Wendy. She died in Milngavie. JGMcW comments thus: Anna’s mental condition began to deteriorate during our latter years at Silverburn and became progressively worse till she died. Looking back on it I think there is no doubt that her illness fitted the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease ending in Senile Dimentia.  (JGMW).

Anna Elizabeth Macmorland was born on 2 Feb 1897 and died on 14 Oct 1981. After her primary education at her father’s school in Straiton sh went to girvan Higher Grade School in September 1910 at the same time as I went. We were in the same class. We did not seem to be on speaking terms then – at least we didn’t often speak to one another! Anna stayed in lodgings during the week; in the same lodgings for the first three years as Nannie Holmes (later Mrs MacMillan). She usually went home at weekends by train to Kilkerran and bicycle from there to Straiton, though to begin with she walked for she had no bicycle. On one occasion in a snow storm in winter she walked in deep snow and caused considerable alarm; a search party went out looking for her but she arrived home safely by a short cut, missing the search party, though in a very exhausted condition. She left Girvan in June 1914 after obtaining her Intermediate Certificate of education. Her first job was as a clerkess in Norton and Gregory’s in Robertson Street in Glasgow, where she stayed in the same lodgings in Dalhousie Street as her brother Arthur and Jessie Nisbet his future wife. I was working during the winter of 1915 at Alexandria in Dumbartonshire. On one ocassion I went to Glasgow and met Nannie Holmes and Anna. I think we probably had a meal together in Miss Cranston’s Restaurant or maybe we went to the pictures (the cinema – silent in those days) or perphaps we did both; I don’t remember. I was earning a good wage – £4 a week – making munitions and I expect I wanted to give them a treat. Nannie at that time was training as a teacher. Anna was with Norton and gregory; her salary was about 8/- (eight shillings) a week! Anyway I remember seeing her to her lodgings in Dalhousie Street before going back to Alexandria. I didn’t see her again till 1919 when the war was finished.

She wasn’t happy at Norton and Gregory’s and on 31 Jan 1917 she and Lena Nisbet (Jessie’s sister) and Jessie Loch arrived at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Yorkhill, Glasgow to start their nursing training the following day. She had to provide her own nurses uniform and she got no pay for the first year. One of her senior nurses to begin with was Poldores McCunn (Later Mrs Thomson). Poldores later qualified as a doctor. Anna was not many weeks in hospital when she developed scarlet feaver and was whisked off to Knightswood Isolation Hospital. She loved her years in Yorkhill and was devoted to the children who were her patients. She spent some time at Drumchapel where there was a small hospital for children who were convalescent from Yorkhill. During the final years of her nursing training in the R.H.S.C. she acted as theatre sister for Alex Maclennan and she thought very highly of him as a surgeon. Anna left the R.H.S.C in April 1922. She was in Yorkhill for over three years and the she went to the Glasgow Royal Maternity and Women’s Hospital in Rottenrow where she trained as a midwife and obtained her certificate from the Central Midwifes Board in January 1922. After that she worked in Miss Evans’s Nursing Home in Glasgow and later she took up private nursing by joining a bursing agency. She was sent to many different places – on 20 May 1924 to Grenoble, Heathfield Drive, Milngavie to take care of one of the children of Mr and Mrs Bryce Buchanan in whose house we later spent our short honeymoon – on 11 Jul 1924 to Norwood in Milngavie to nurse Mrs MacFarlane (of MacFarlane and Lang’s biscuits) – and many more – but I think the place she enjoyed most was Medrox in Tighnabruaich where probably in early 1925 she started nursed the two Miss Jamesons and stayed on at their request to act as their nurse-companion. It must have been early in 1925 that I went to see her at Medrox on 31 Marc 1925. I paid several visits to Medrox after that and I always had lunch in Medrox with the Miss Jamesons and Anna.

During this time from the summer of 1919 onwards I saw her frequently right up to the time we were married on 28 Jul 1926. It was on 8 Apr 1924 that Jimmy Scott sent me a telegram in Ballantrae to tell me that I had passed my final examination for MB,ChB at Glasgow University. So the next day I went off to Straiton to have a holiday with Anna at Craigfad.

Alex Maclennan removed her appendix in the MacAlpine Nursing Home on 18 Jan 1927. After her operation I went up from Whithorn to see her and found that she had had her hair cut short and shingled as was the fashion at that time.

While we lived in Whithorn she took an acitive part in the Women’s Guild with Mrs Reid and Jenny McLauchlin and Mrs Brown of Belmont. We had lots of lovely parties especially when we lived in Priory Croft. Anna and I were always asked to Dr and Mrs Lilico’s New Year parties in Wigtown. They were wonderful parties. Lilico’s daughters were always there and the other guests included Dr and Mrs Shaw, the Rev Gavin Laeson, known as the Bishop of Wigtown, and his wife, Hugh Todd, the procurator fiscal and his two sisters (whom I always called Patricia – being considerably fuddled with the champagne!), Jessie Williams and others. On one ocassion I lanced a quincy for Gavin Lawson so he accused me of cutting his throat!

In Shalimar in Blackhall, House o’Hill Gardens, Edinburgh we got to know Mr and Mrs Binnie, Shona’s parents (Shona is a friend of Wendy’s).

During the war years while we lived in Troon, Ayrshire Anna took an active part in the work of the Red Cross; Knitting and helping to make garments for our soldiers. sailors and airmen.

We lived in Dumfries for most of twenty years and Anna had many good friends especially Amelia Drainer and Elma Ross. Several of them used to meet regularly at Oughton’s for morning coffee. She was a member of a ladies’ book club, meeting once a month to exchange their books and to discuss everything but books! She and I enjoyed our country dancing i  Oughton’s once a week. We had many good parties with our medical colleagues and their wives. And there were many good parties when Peter and Wendy came home for holidays and brought their young friends with tthem. On one occasion they gave Anna and me half-a-crown each and sent us to the pictures for they wanted to enjoy their party on their own.

Champagne dinner with Anna, Peter, Joy and I at ‘The George’, Dorchester on 28th Jul 1964 in celebration of our wedding anniversary

There was a photograph of Anna taken at Nettlestead, 13 Park Crescent, Abingdon on 30 Apr 1969. (I think this is the one taken with her standing with her back to the west wall of the house before we had the windows painted. RWPMW 21 June 1999)

Anna loved Craigfad, Silverburn beside our good friends Eric and Doreen Taylor. She enjoyed our many walks through the woods and on the Pentlands. It was on 4 Jul 1969 that Anna took Nancy, her sister, to the Princess Margaret Rose Hospital in Edinburgh for an orthoplasty by Dr Douglas Savill. Anna went on to Wendy’s at 55 Hailes Gardens and then went on to get a bus meaning to get back to Craigfad. I had been working at Law Hospital that day and came back by the Lang Whang thus coming to Colintin. When I got to 55 Hailes Gardens Wendy and her children were out. I motored on and who should I find standing at a bus stop in Redford Road; and very delighted to see me; but … Anna.

I think the point of this story is that my mother had got lost and it was by sheer luck that father came across her. I feel that he thought that this was the first sign of her senile dementia. (RWPMW 1999 Jun 21)

On 7 Apr 1975 she had her left eye operated on for cateract by Geof. Miller in Bangour Hospital. She never had her right eye operated on. Tessa and Fiona came to stay with me at Craigfad while Anna was in Hospital. I gave them tapioca pudding and they ate it!

On 31 Aug 1975 Anna collapsed in the car while we were out for a run along the south side of the River Tweed. I think she may have suffered a cardiac arrest. She was taken by Ambulance to Peel Hospital and was looked at by Dr Jake Borthwick. She was not very happy in hospital and aftera week I persuaded Borthwick to let her come home. Even before her admission to Peel she was showing signs of insufficient blood supply to the brain and the incident on 31 Aug seemed to bring about a gradual acceleration of the cerebal deterioration. Her physical health remained quite good but mentally she was slowly going down hill.

However she and I were able to enjoy our Golden Wedding on 28 Jul 1976 when we all went to Galston near Castle Douglas in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright; Peter and Joy and their three children and Wendy and Lockhart and their three all came with Nancy joining in for the big day. We were in a double cottage at Galston from the 24th to the 31st of July. It was a very happy and enjoyable occasion.

Anna and I moved to Craigfad 74 Drumlin Drive, Milngavie on 16 Sep 1976. We found good friends beside us at 76; Dr and Mrs Chalmers (Doria) and their daughter Elizabeth. We were happy to be near Wendy and Lockhart in Bearsden. Anna was reasonably well but as time went on it became evident that the mental deterioration was becoming progressively worse.

The last holday that Anna and I spent together at 13 Park Crescent, Abingdon was from 24 June to 14 July 1979.

As Anna’s mental condition was obviously deteriorating I thought it might be worth while to get a psychiatrist to see her. So Dr John H Brown our GP arranged for Dr Sheila Black from Gartnavel Mental Hospital to pay us a visit. She came to Craigfad on 24 Jan 1977 and the first thing she said was that I ought to know her. Dr John Black was at one time a GP in Leadhills and Wanlockhead in Lanarkshire. When his wife was going to have her first baby she decided that she would have the confinement in Kirkinner, Wigtownshire, at the home of her parents, Mr and Mrs Dedman. Her father was the village school master. She arranged for Dr Wiolliam Lilico the GP in Wigtown to attend her and he asked me if I would give an anaesthetic when her time came. And so when Mrs Black went into labour I was called and gave her her anaesthetic (we always used chloroform in those days). Mrs Black had a baby girl who grew up to be Dr Sheila Black the Psychiatrist who came to see Anna. Unfrotunately there was nothing she could do for Anna except to confirm the diagnosis of senile dementia.

She died peacefully in her own bed on 14 Oct 1981. We interred her ashes in Straiton New Cemetry on 14 Nov 1981.

Anna’s mental condition began to deteriorate during our latter years at Silverburn and became progressively worse till she died. Looking back on it I think there is no doubt that her illness fitted the diagnosis of Altzheimer’s Disease ending in senile dementia.

(JGMW pp. 166 to 176. The pages after 176 are blank presumably intended for Anna Elizabeth’s younger siblings. RWPMW)


i      Robert William Peter b. 15 Dec 1927.

ii     Margaret Nancy Irene Wendy b. 24 Aug 1930.

Janet Marion McWhirter

b. 12 Aug 1901, Ballantrae, m. 11 Jun 1931, Thomas Archibold (Archie) Aitken, b. 11 Dec 1902, occupation Electrical engineer., d. 1 Apr 1932, Manchester, buried: Ballantrae cemetry. Janet died ?.

Janet Marion (Jenny) Born 12 Aug 1901 at Main Cottage (Miss Blackwood’s), Ballantrae where the family, for several successive years, spent the summer months while the School House was let to summer visitors. This was one way of augmenting my father’s income. Jenny trained as a physiotherapist in the Western Infirmary in Glasgow. She practiced in the Royal Infirmary in Perth for some years and later in Manchester. On 11 Jun 31 she was married to Thomas Archibald Aitken (Archie) born 11 Dec 1902, an electrical engineer with Metropolitan Vickers in Manchester. The wedding took place in Ballantrae church. Archie was accidentally killed by a lorry in Manchester on 1-4-32 and was buried in Ballantrae Cemetery. Their daughter was born on 14 Dec 32 in Sale, Cheshire where she was christened Margaret on 12 Feb 1933. After Jenny’s husband Archie was killed Jenny continued to live in Sale. Her daughter was born there. It seems clear that Margaret first went to school in Sale in the spring of 1938. Then Jenny and Margaret moved to Grandad’s (D3) house in Ballantrae and were there for June, July and August 1938. After that they moved to 16 Learmonth Crescent, Edinburgh and Margaret attended school. In later years (i.e. after Margaret became adult) Jenny resumed work as a physiotherapist at Gilmour Place in Edinburgh and continued for many years.(JGMW p. 77 to 79)

RWPMW writes

In her letters to me dated 19 Jan 19 and 6 Mar 1999, Margaret Clark (née Aitken) corrects the above saying: “In fact my mother and I returned to Ballantrae early in the war and my mother was allowed to sub-let the flat during wartime.”… “I do not know the date when she sold her house in Sale, only that it was a bad time in the late 30’s for her to sell c.1938 so that she did not have enough capital to buy in Edinburgh and had to rent instead – something that worried her in later years alas but it was the best that was possible. I remember going, one winter, to the school round from the flat; a typical town dreary building but I think I was off a lot that winter with a succession of the usual childhood illnesses, so my first real memory of learning to read and do sums on a slate was in Mrs Mc???’s class in Ballantrae Primary School. My mother moved down to Ballantrae sometime after the beginning of the war to live with Granny and Grandad.” (RWPMW)


i      Margaret b. 14 Dec 1932.

Robert McWhirter

b. 8 Nov 1904, Ballantrae, Ayrshire., occupation Prof of Radiology, m. Susan Muir (Susie) MacMurray, b. 31 Jul 1900, d. 9 Jan 2000, Edinburgh, buried: 18 Jan 2000, Warriston crematorium. Robert died 24 Oct. 1994, Edinburgh.

Robert – Born in the School House, Ballantrae on 8 Nov 1904. He graduated MB,ChB. at Glasgow University in 1927. Soon after graduation and I think before his name had time to get onto the register of the General Medical Council he came to Whithorn to do a locum for me while Anna and I had a short holiday. The first three patients he visited were all dead! He was assistant to Dr Jones in Prestwick for some time. He went to Edinburgh and took his FRCS. He studied radiology in Cambridge and London and was for some months in the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, USA. He took charge of the department of radiology in the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary in 1935. He was appointed director of the radio-therary department of ERI in 1846 and Bill Shearer was appointed to be head of the diagnostic section of the x-ray department. In 1948 he was appointed to the newly-created Forbes chair of medical radiology at Edinburgh University. He added FRCR and FRCP to the list of his degrees and went to Buckingham Palace to receive his CBE in 1963. He retired on 30 Sep 70.

He married Susie McMurray on 26 Jun 37 Susie born 31-7-1900. It’s a secret! and they live at 2 Orchard Brae, Edinburgh. They have one son: William Robert (Bill) born on 18 May 39. (JGMW p. 80 and 82)

Robert died 1994 October 24 of a respitory infection following a stroke two months earlier. (RWPMW)

Professor Robert Mc,Whirter, Department of Radiotherapy, Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh.

1927    M.B..,Ch.B.(High Commendation) Glasgow University. 1932   F.R.C.S., Ed. 1933   D.M.R.E., University of Cambridge. 1939         F.F.R. 1944   F.R.S., Edinburgh. 1954     F.C.R.A. (Hon) 1963   C.B.E. (Britain) 1964           F.A.C.R. (Hon). 1965           F.R.C.P. Ed.

Other Distinctions:

1941        Lister-Victoria Jubilee, Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh.

1943   Twining Memorial Medal of the Faculty of Radiologists.

1946            Chairman, Radiotherapy Section, Faculty of Radiologists.

1948        Foundation Lecturer, Mayo Clinic, U.S.A. 1948 Hon. Fellow, American Radium Society.

1954    Thom Bequest Lecturer, Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh.

1956         President of the Section of Radiology, Royal Society of Medicines

1956   Skinner Memorial Lecturer.  Faculty of Radiologists,

1956      A. B. Mitchell Memorial Lecturer, Queen’s University Belfast.

1956  Hon. Fellow of the Bay District Surgical Society, Los Angeles, U.S.A.

1957      President of the Scottish Radiological Society.

1958   Dorothy Platt Memorial Lecturer, Guyls Hospital, London.

1960     Leo Rigler Memorial Lecturer, Minneapolis, U.S.A.

1960   Jack Friedman Memorial Lecturer, University of Minneapolis U.S.A.

1961  Warden of the Faculty of Radiologists,

1963  Knox Memorial Lecturer, Faculty of Radiologists.

1963   Caldwell Memorial Lecturer, American Roentgen Ray Society,

Previous Appointments:

1933       Student, Mayo Clinic, U.S.A.

1933        British Empire Cancer Campaign Research Student, Holt Radium Institute, Manchester.

1934         Chief Assistant, X-ray Department, St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London.

1935  Radiologist in Charge, Department of Radiology, Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh,

Present Appointments:

1946         Professor of Medical Radiology of the Universty of Edinburgh.Radiotherapist-in-charge, South-East Scotland, Regional Radiotherapy Service.

1959    President, Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland.

1962       Consultant Adviser in Radiobiology to the Scottish Home and Health Department.

1963       Chairman of the Scottish Health Services Council Standing Cancer Committee.  Scottish Home and Health   Department.

1966~69         President of the Faculty of Radiologists.

1967   Membre Correspondent Etranger de la Societe Francaise D’Electro-Radiologie Medicale.

1968          Membre D’Honour Societa Italiana de Radiologia Medica e Medicine Nucleare.” (Copy of typescript pasted onto JGMW p. 81)

Following his death obituaries appeared in a number of newspapers including The Scotsman, the Times of London, The Independent and the British Medical Journal (see DOC numbers 16A, 16B, 16C and 16D respectively). The most comprehensive is that in the Scotsman which is transcribed below (RWPMW):

“ROBERT McWhirter was one of a small group of exceptional men and women who were pioneers of medical radiology in this country.

He was an outstanding diagnostic radiologist, but if was in the field of radiotherapy that he became an intematiol figure of distinction.

Robert McWhuter was born in Ballantrae, Ayrshire, on 8 November, 1904, the son of the village schoolmaster.  He followed his elder brother, John, into medicine and into the speciaity of medical radiology.  Robert McWhiiter graduated in medicine with high commendation from the University of Glasgow in 1927. After a short spell in general practice in Ayrshire he was accepted for training in radiology in Cambridge.

At that tinie, Lord Rutherford and his team of young physicists were exploring the structure of the atom and investigating the nature of mffioactivity.  There was much scientific excitement surrounding their discoveries and this attracted MeWhirter – it was the atmosphere which he really enjoyed.

At Cainbridge he met the radiologist Dr A E Barclay, who was to become a close friend and colleague.  The fiendship would later significantly influence McWhirter’s career.

After a period of clinical studies in the Radiology Departinent at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, he obtained, with the help of Dr Barclay, a fellowship to study diagnostic radiology at the Mayo Clinic.  On his return from the US he accepted a clinical research fellowship with Dr Ralston Paterson at the Christie Hospital and Holt Radium Institute, Manchester.  This large cancer centre had opened its new hospital buildings in November 1932.

Paterson was, at that time, developing with Dr H M Parker a new system of gamma-ray dosimetry.  McWhirter realised the fundamental importance of their work and was pleased to be able to gain first-hand experience of the Paterson-Parker “rules” for radium treatments.

McWhirter was subsequently asked to return to St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London, as chief assistant in the X-Ray Department.  It was while working there that he met Sir Geofrrey Keynes, a distinguished surgeon who was beginning to abandon the traditional surgical management of breast cancer.

Instead, he was introducing the practice of radium needle implantation of the breast, which avoided the need for amputation.  The principles of this approach appealed to Robert McWhirter although he considered that the application of X-ray beams was perhaps more appropriate than using radium needles.  Thus the foundation was laid for his life’s research.

In 1935, Dr A E Barclay was appointed as head of the X-ray department at the Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh.  One of Barclay’s early decisions was to ask Robert McWhirter to join him as first assistant.  Barclay soon felt frustrated by his responsibilities in Edinburgh and decided to return to his research in Cambridge.

The board of the Royal Infirmary, with the support of the surgical staff, agreed to offer the charge of the X-ray department to Robert McWhirter.  At the age of 31, he became head of a department which was to become one of the most prestigious in the UK.

The accommodation and equipment which he inherited were, in his words, more suitable for a museum than for use in a hospital.  Every time an X-ray film. was taken the whole room would be filled with stray radiation.  The high-tension cables and terminals were exposed and, in the damp atmosphere of Edinburgh, would frequently throw an arc of lightning across the gap with a loud crack of thunder.

He began to modernise the department.  He co-operated with colleagues in Manchester and Sheffield and with engineers of Metropolitan Vickers to design a safe and reliable X-ray generator suitable for routine hospital use in cancer treatment.

Importantly, McWhirter was then able to begin his clinical research into the management of breast cancer which eventually was to transform world opinion.

His achievement was a mark not only of his scientific insight but also of his tenacity and courage against powerful opposition.  He enjoyed the scientific debate which he conducted with other eminent cancer specialists in this country and abroad. In all the controversy, which was often heated, Robert McWhirter was always held in great respect, for every one recognised his absolute integrity.

The principles of a more conservative approach to the treatmerit of breast cancer which he promoted now have a permanent place in the history of radiotherapeutics and cancer care.

In 1946, Dr McWhirter was appointed to the newly-endowed Forbes Chair of Medical Radiology in theUniversity of Edinburgh, a post which he held until his retirement in September 1970.

Soon after his appointment he, decided that diagnostic radiology and radiotherapy should be separate departments in the Royal Infirmary.  He would then concentrate his professional activities exclusively on radiotherapeutics.  It is largely to him that  the people of Edinburgh and the south-east of Scotland have to give their thanks for building the Radiotherapy Institute (now the Department of Clinical Oncology) at the Western General Hospital, which was opened in 1953.,

Professor McWhirter attracted many postgraduate, students to his department.  He was a gifted and stimulating teacher.  About 20 of his former students became heads of departments of radiotherapy and oncology in centres in the UK and throughout the world.

McWhirter played a leading role in the Faculty of Radiologists, London, which was responsible for setting standards of professional practice in medical radiology in the UK.  From 1961 to 1966 he was Warden of the Fellowship, which supervised the standards of training in radiology and the professional examinations.  In 1966 he was elected president of the Faculty of Radiologists (which later became the Royal College of Radiologists).

In 1963, he was made a CBE for his services to radiology and, to clinical oncology. He wan elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in reconition of his contribution to research in clinical oncology.

Robert McWhirter was an international authority in radiotherapy and oncology.  His advice was often sought abroad and he advised the governments of South Africa, Australia, Eire and Nigeria. He became an honorary member of radiological societies in the United States, Italy and Japan.

In Scotland, the Medical and Dental Defence Union much appreciated his strong leadership and statesmanship during his term as president from 1959 to 1970.  He served the National Society for Cancer Relief for many years and was awarded their Gold Medal in 1985.

In this full and busy life, leisure was also important to Robert McWhirter.  He particularly enjoyed his membership of Bruntsfield Links Golfing Society and the many good friends he made there.  He was a keen and knowledgeable ornithologist who had made a unique collection of cine-photographic films of his bird-watching.

We cannot think of Robert McWhirter and all that he achieved without recognising the loving support given to him by his wife, Dr Susan Muir MacMurray, whom he married in 1937 and who survives him with their only son, Bill, who is a paediatric oncologist and head of the Department of Child Health in the University of Queensland at the Royal Children’s Hospital, Brisbane.  The whole family was a source of much joy to him. WBD”


i      William Robert (Bill) b. 18 May 1939.

Winifred McCulloch

occupation Draper., m. Jock Inglis, occupation Draper.

JGMW writes

Jock Inglis had, I think, several drapery businesses in Glasgow but later took an active part in McCulloch and Young in Stirling. Both Winifred and Jock are dead. They had no children but they adopted a girl called Vivian. (JGMW p19).


i      Vivian Inglis (adopted).

Detail on the next (sixth) generation here.

[32] Jean Webster’s computer print out. Ref. JW-7

[33] From Jean Webster’s printout. Ref JW-3