Alastair MacIntosh MacLachlainn (1892-1959): an unusual careerBMJ 1998; 317 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.317.7174.1714 (Published 19 December 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;317:1714
- John Cunningham Johnson, retired general practitioner
- Bamburgh, Northumberland NE69 7AE
A gap of 31 years from starting at medical to school to qualifying as a doctor is unusual. But then there was little that was usual about Alastair MacIntosh MacLachlainn. Born a member of the Scottish Lachlainn Laudail clan, whose forbearers fought for the Young Pretender at Culloden, he left his native Mull aged 11, after the death of his parents, to be educated at Cheltenham College. There he won a scholarship to read classics at Merton College, Oxford, in 1911, where he took up rowing and long distance running.
A year later he changed tack and enrolled as a medical student at Edinburgh University. He joined the university officers' training corps and in 1914 applied for a commission in the army. After being turned down because of his poor eyesight he applied again, this time to the Scottish Horse Field Ambulance Section, and took the precaution, along with other bespectacled companions, of bribing an orderly into letting him see the sight chart before the medical took place. It was a successful ruse, and as a member of the Scottish Horse he served in Gallipoli as a theatre orderly in the field hospital under Colonel (later Sir) Henry Wade. Alistair washed his only shirt under gun fire, ate the mules' fodder to supplement his meagre rations, …