Gordon Lindsay

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 16 March 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c1415
  1. John Rawlinson

    Gordon Lindsay was a general practitioner in Aboyne, Aberdeenshire for 32 years, and during that time for 10 years the apothecary to the royal family and household at Balmoral. He was an exemplary general practitioner, who held the highest standards of traditional family practice, and who was consequently widely and affectionately respected in the villages of mid-Deeside, by the staff at Balmoral, and by royal “temporary residents.” He was also a general practitioner trainer who set many young practitioners (including myself) on their paths to practice.

    After Aberdeen Medical School, where he met and married fellow student Mary, he did house jobs in Chase Farm, Enfield, the wartime home of the relocated London Hospital. Three years in the Royal Army Medical Corps followed and thence back to Aberdeenshire, where he shortly became assistant to Dr Brodie Brown of Aboyne.

    Aboyne is about 30 miles southwest of Aberdeen, embraced by a sweep of the Dee. Above the Loch of Aboyne rises the hill Mortlich which looks across to Morven and the Howe of Cromar and in the opposite direction to the last and falling eastern folds of the Grampians. It is a beautiful place and every year the highland games, next before Braemar, fill its broad common. In the 1970s the village remained an archetypal “Tannochbrae” and Acheron, Gordon’s house and surgery, as close to Cronin’s Arden House as you could imagine; we even had our own version of “Janet.” To Gordon’s Dr Cameron (steady, wise, and avuncular) there was the junior partner who in his meteoric ebullience was the exact Dr Finlay foil to round off a successful partnership.

    As a young English “loon” with a love for Scotland and traditional rural practice I was in heaven and have held Dr Lindsay’s gently paternalistic style as my model throughout the whole of my career, both in practice and in general practitioner training. His teaching method, that of master and apprentice, offered a ready and generous availability of discussion and example, a model which, although not currently celebrated by modern medical educators, proved most effective. After my first conversation with him (which was, I suppose, a kind of interview, and during which I dandled our 6 month old first born on my knee and spilt my cup of tea over Mary, his wife), he dug me in the ribs and murmured “Och, I’m sure we’ll get along just fine”; and so we did. Processes of appointment to general practitioner training positions then were less complex than they have now become!

    His regular surgeries at Balmoral during the royal holiday season were woven into the pattern of daily work in the practice, and as a mark of the high regard in which Gordon was held by the Queen and her family at “the house” he was made a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order. There was, however, nothing arch or condescending in Gordon’s manner with the humblest of his patients; he dealt as tenderly with the “auld wifies” in the cottage hospital as he did with any princess with the earache.

    Much has changed in general practice in the past three decades, and I hope that any curriculum of training and any construct of a “quality framework” will include the warmth, compassion, and bright mindedness of doctors like Gordon Lindsay.

    He leaves a wife, Mary; their three children; five grandchildren; and a great grandchild.


    Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c1415


    • Former general practitioner Aboyne (b 1922; q Aberdeen 1944; CVO), died from cerebral secondary melanoma on 17 December 2009.

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