William Mackie Buchanan

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (Published 19 May 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h2669
  1. Neil Buchanan, Rebecca Freshney, Sarah Orr

William Mackie Buchanan (“Bill”) had just embarked on his first ship in Glasgow, as a navigating cadet, when war was declared in 1939. He would survive his ship sinking, off Cape Town, in a collision owing to fog; a later vessel was the last to leave Rangoon immediately before Japanese occupation. After the war he studied medicine in Glasgow and joined the Federal Medical Service in Nyasaland (now Malawi). His navigating skills were later put to use when he was coopted as captain of the SS Ilalla to convey troops to the north of Lake Nyasa during the Nyasaland emergency of 1959. The Illala remains the major vessel to ply Lake Malawi to the present day. In 1963, Bill and his wife, Mary, a paediatrician, moved to Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), where he trained in pathology, submitting an MD thesis that demonstrated that Bantu siderosis was related to the custom of brewing beer in iron drums in that part of Africa. He was subsequently head of the Department of Pathology of the University College of Rhodesia (then affiliated to the University of Birmingham). In 1972 he returned to the UK as a consultant pathologist at Stobhill General Hospital in Glasgow, where he stayed until he retired in 1988. He had a busy retirement of walking and travels, as well as enjoying opera, numismatics, and, above all, his family. He was devoted to the church, as an elder in Glasgow and an active member of his daughter’s congregation in Brentwood, where he spent his final years. He predeceased his wife by mere months and leaves a son (a doctor), three daughters, and nine grandchildren (two of whom are doctors).


Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h2669


  • Former consultant pathologist Stobhill General Hospital, Glasgow (b 1923; q University of Glasgow 1952; DPH, MD FRCPath), died from cardiac failure and pleural abscess on 29 November 2014.

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