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Alexander McCalister

BMJ 2018; 360 doi: (Published 06 March 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;360:k1016
  1. Peter McCalister

Alexander McCalister (“Alex”) was born in Belfast and grew up in rural Northern Ireland in relatively poor surroundings. His first home in Antrim was a dwelling with no electricity nor running water. His mother cooked over an open peat fire, using a cauldron and a griddle—and Alex thought she did a very good job of it. If water was needed someone was sent 300 yards down the road to a spring, and came back with water in a bucket. For washing clothes and themselves, the family collected rainwater.

Alex thought this was an admirable way to grow up—in fact, he would recommend it. His family had suggested he might wish to become a carpenter, but his inspirational head teacher thought he should consider medicine as a career instead—something he did not think he would be able to afford. Fortunately, he won a local government scholarship, which allowed him to study at Queen’s University Belfast, where he lived with an aunt.

After an outstanding career as a student he was awarded MB ChB with 1st class honours in 1948. There were no honours awarded by Queen’s medical school for five years thereafter, a fact that contributed to Alex having a reputation for being …

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