An Dotair Mòr

12th December 2015 by Judith Harvey

An Dotair Mòr

GP sought to establish first practice on island. No electricity. No telephone. Nearest hospital 12 hours away by boat, weather permitting. Obstetric skills and Gaelic essential.

That, in essence, was what The Highlands and Islands Medical Service was offering. Plus a house, a rowing boat and car (of limited use as there were few roads), and a basic income so that the doctor could afford to treat those who couldn’t give even a chicken in payment.

Copyright Neil Preismann

Copyright Neil Preismann

Dr Alexander Macleod took up the post in the Outer Hebrides in 1932. He was responsible for 3000 people on North Uist and 16 outer islands, some home to as few as two families. He’d spent a year in Antarctica, then worked as a locum in cities and country. As we know, locumming teaches you flexibility and independence. But he didn’t find his new job easy. He later admitted that at first moving to North Uist felt like a big mistake. He was always finding fault. Then he realised that it was he that was out of tune with island life, and he settled down.

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