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Mair Eleri Morgan Thomas

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (Published 18 May 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h2627
  1. Anna Eleri Livingstone

“We do not take women at the Royal Dick. Try the medical school down the road,” said the registrar when Mair Eleri Morgan Thomas (Mair Livingstone) tried to transfer to veterinary studies from zoology and botany at Edinburgh University in 1937. So began her medical journey, which took her from medical school to a house officer post in ear, nose, and throat medicine at the Royal Infirmary, where she slept in a side ward, as doctors had banned her from the mess residence as a woman, and nurses from the nurses’ home, as a doctor. With no days off, she even entertained her poet friends in this grim abandoned room, which she painted with cartoons of mice, recognisably representing the foibles of senior surgeons in theatre. It was wartime, and as many male doctors had been called up, she covered several posts as resident medical officer in Aberystwyth General Hospital. She loved eating the plentiful farm sourced food there after Scottish shortages, working among friends, and family, discovering the intrigue in the town and reviving her Welsh. Her own parents had met there at university. She returned to Scotland to embark on a career in bacteriology, and ran the laboratory at Bridge of Earn military hospital, where she distilled elderberry wine into potassium permanganate jars in quiet times between returning troops.

She was born at the end of the first world war in Llanddewi Brefi, Ceredigion, and was fiercely Welsh. Her mother, daughter of the manse, had been a teacher and suffragist and her father, a poor boy from Harlech, became a brilliant industrial chemist who died young. The family moved to Scotland so he could take on management at Scottish Dyes. At age 10 Mair she went to St Trinnean’s School …

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