William Mackintosh Mackean

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 21 June 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d3874
  1. Susan Mackean

Bill Mackean seemed to want to keep to surgery hours from the moment he came into the world, in the family house at 55 Shaw Street, Everton, on 20 July 1928, while his Scottish GP father, Robert, was doing the evening surgery downstairs.

After Liverpool College, he qualified at Liverpool in 1951, and after house jobs, did his national service in the Royal Navy aboard the frigate HMS Loch Quoich in the Indian Ocean. He famously carried out two appendicectomies while at sea with nothing but ether for an anaesthetic. Both patients survived.

Bill was in the middle of a refresher course in obstetrics at Mill Road Hospital, immediately after his national service, when his father had a serious road accident. Bill had no choice but to drop everything and take over the Everton practice, with no knowledge of the ways of the NHS. Kindly colleagues showed him how to write prescriptions; he joined the newly formed Merseyside and North Wales Faculty of the College of General Practitioners, which had been founded to bring GPs together and to change the image of general practice from a cottage industry manned by doctors who had fallen off the consultant career ladder to a respected specialty.

Bill greatly enjoyed the stimulating contact with his fellow GPs, working with them to provide local opportunities for postgraduate education and research. Together they explored ways to improve the organisation of their practices, learnt about teaching medical students, and persuaded the medical school to allow students to shadow GPs “on attachment”. The myth that anyone could learn all he or she needed to know about general practice in a fortnight was abolished. GPs no longer worked alone; practice staff grew to include receptionists, secretaries, and practice nurses. Bill held regular meetings with district nurses, midwives, social workers, and health visitors, and his practice, now in Walton Road, Kirkdale, became a true part of the community.

As the practice was too small to support two fulltime GPs, Bill also worked as a Treasury medical officer and part-time occupational health physician, and continued to serve in the Royal Naval Reserve, reaching the rank of surgeon commander.

He was proud to have been elected a fellow of the Royal College of General Practitioners, and honoured to serve from 1992 to 1993 as president of the Liverpool Medical Institution.

His passions were long distance running (he ran seven marathons in his 50s) and fell walking. Local history was a constant interest, and his presidential address to the Liverpool Medical Institution was on the Golden Mile—the area served by the Shaw Street practice from its inception in the 18th century—from Scotland Road to the heights of Everton and the gentry of Abercromby Square.

Bill leaves his wife, Nan, whom he married in 1958, and their five children, two of whom are GPs. He will be dearly remembered for his pride in his city and its history, his love of his profession, and his devotion to his family and patients.


Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d3874


  • Former general practitioner Liverpool (b 1928; q Liverpool 1951; RD, FRCGP, AFOM), d 2 November 2010.