HAMISH WATSON was one of the foremost cardiologists of his generation. He had an international reputation in the management of children with congenital heart disease.

Forty years ago, paediatric cardiology was not a medical specialty with consultants located throughout the country as it is today. Doctors had little to offer children with congenital abnormalities. Their main diagnostic tool was the stethoscope which could not diagnose complex cardiac abnormalities. This was changed by cardiac catheterisation. This is a technique involving the insertion of narrow tubes into the heart. Hamish Watson used this technique for treatment as well as diagnosis. He was the first doctor in the United Kingdom to use catheters as therapeutic tools in patients.

He created holes between the chambers of babies' hearts to maintain their lives when, without treatment, they had abnormalities incompatible with life. Nowadays, cardiac catheterisation is an established technique in the treatment of adults and children with many forms of heart disease.

Watson had a varied and eventful life. His parents owned a dairy business near Edinburgh. They had two sons and sent Hamish to George Watson's College. He entered Edinburgh Medical School and graduated in 1945. After qualification, he spent his National Service in West Africa. When he returned to Edinburgh, he brought a menagerie of animals for Edinburgh Zoo, professing to be well qualified to manage the chimpanzees as they were

primates. He joined the Territorials as a medical officer with the Scottish Horse, which later amalgamated with the Fife and Forfar Yeomanry. For his years of service he was awarded the Territorial Decoration. After West Africa, he continued his medical work at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

In 1947, his parents bought Nethermains of Kinnaird, a mixed farm which nestles below the

Sidlaw Hills in the fertile Carse of Gowrie. Hamish Watson took over the farm and joined Sir Ian Hill's team of cardiologists at nearby Dundee Royal Infirmary. While other physicians went abroad for holidays, Dr Watson collected the harvest. He was a countryman at heart.

In 1951 he married Dr Lesley Wood. His passion for the management of children was fired by the death of their only son, Michael, from a very complex congenital cardiac abnormality.

Hamish Watson's textbooks on heart disease were published in many languages and one large volume, Paediatric Cardiology, published in 1968, became a

standard text. He was the world authority on the management of the disorder called Ebstein's Anomaly of the heart.

Paediatric cardiology gradually became recognised as a distinctive medical specialty and his contribution was acknowledged when he became the first president of the European Association of Paediatric Cardiologists and a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology. He was joint chairman of the British Cardiac Society in 1987 and was also a council member and trustee of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh for many years.

Later in his career, he extended his work to the management of adults with coronary disease and started the first Coronary Care Unit in Tayside.

He also planned the current Ninewells Hospital unit.

He had the foresight to appreciate that a doctor's education did not end with the acquisition of an MB ChB degree, an archaic belief which appears absurd today. He was appointed Postgraduate Dean at Dundee University and laid the foundations, developed by others, for the

reputation of the university in postgraduate medical education.

He was respected for his energy, commitment, enthusiasm, and clinical skills. In a more authoritarian and deferential age than today, patients expected their consultants to have presence. They received it in abundance from Watson, aided by impeccable attire. He had a twinkle in his eye, fixed eye contact, and the ability and confidence to give clear advice, without equivocation, to patients and their families. If he decided that a child's heart was normal, the family were discharged from the clinic without a shred of doubt or anxiety.

Patients were referred to him from the Highlands and Islands, as well as Tayside, and he conducted regular clinics in Inverness, rewarding himself later with a day of fishing in local lochs and rivers.

However, horses were his main leisure pursuit and he was an enthusiastic rider from childhood. He was aged 10 when he had his first season of hunting and was a ''whipper in'' when only 15. He was a familiar figure at point-to-point events, both as rider and medical officer, and became joint Master of Fox Hounds with Fife Fox Hounds. His enthusiasm was undiminished by riding injuries.

Tragically, his active lifestyle was terminated suddenly in a dreadful road traffic accident seven years ago. After arranging to buy a hunter, he made a detour to buy some plants on his journey home. No other vehicle was involved when his car left the dual carriageway. He was unconscious for three weeks and left permanently paraplegic and in almost constant pain.

With characteristic fortitude and resilience, he continued to entertain friends at Kinnaird, where he received unstinting support from his wife, Lesley.

He was devoted to his family and was unfailingly loyal to friends and the institutions in which he played a prominent part.

He is survived by his wife Lesley, daughters Penny and Jill, grandchildren Leonie, Caroline, and Pippa, and his brother Alan.

Dr Hamish Watson, cardiologist, huntsman, and farmer; born June 26, 1923, died May 23, 2001.