This week I have been looking at the correspondence files of RCOG President, Sir Hector Maclennan, the redoubtable Scottish President who took the College through a time of major restructuring of nursing services and hospitals throughout the UK between 1963 and 1966. One feature of the correspondence that has struck me is the extent of camaraderie and friendship evident between him and many of his peers, with letters written on first-name terms and debate about medical matters conducted with an air of cordiality and good-will. However, one letter in particular took my eye, and this was written by Maclennan in July 1966, towards the end of his presidency.
A confidential letter to Frank Denny, consultant at the St Mary Abbot’s Hospital in Kensington, sought to appeal to his sense of paternity and friendship: the President’s only daughter, Elizabeth had just announced her first pregnancy – ‘…being a very independent young girl, she has, on the recommendation of her family doctor, booked up to go into St Mary Abbot’s. Having done this she then asked me if this were a reasonable thing to do!’ He asks Denny to ‘be a good chap and keep a fatherly eye on her?’ Denny of course obliged, inviting Elizabeth to visit him and discuss her pregnancy.
Elizabeth Maclennan had married the producer, John McGrath who she had met at university in Oxford. John McGrath has been described as a writer, producer and director for stage and screen, known for his socialism and poetic writing, and his wife starred in his film Blood Red Roses in 1986 and encouraged him to explore Scottish socio-political issues. She also had roles in the Butterfly Kiss (1995) and Last of the Summer Wine (1973), and helped to found the 7:84 Theatre Company (1971) and 7:84 Scotland (1973), performing in plays with the company throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Her brothers were equally successful – Robert was a Liberal Democrat MP, Kenneth a banker, and David was also a co-founder of the 7:84 Scotland Theatre Company and known playwright and producer. Her daughter Kate McGrath is also a successful producer and director.
Photograph of Elizabeth Maclennan, courtesy of the Scottish Theatre website, photographer Barry Jones
So no more obstetricians in the family, but it seems as though Hector would have taken many a young medic under his wing!