As well as being a GP, he was a police surgeon, medical officer in charge of Lochmaddy Hospital, an inveterate campaigner for safety at sea and a deputy lieutenant of the Western Isles. His talents were not confined to the island stage: he was also internationally-renowned for his knowledge of remote and rural general practice.

His reputation was such that, in 2001, he became the first rural doctor to be awarded honorary life membership of WONCA, the world organisation of general practi­tioners. A year later, Macleod was awarded the MBE for services to medicine

Although well-known as a man with the common touch, Macleod moved seamlessly from crofting to royal circles when duty called him as the Queen’s representative, a task he performed with aplomb for 30 years.

His last engagement as deputy lieutenant, just a few weeks ago, was at the funeral of Donald “Splash” MacKillop, of Berneray, who famously played host to Prince Charles when the heir to the throne wanted to learn about the crofting way of life in the 1980s.

Born on Lewis, John Alexander Johnston Macleod was steeped in medicine long before he graduated in 1963. His parents, Alexander and Julia Macleod, went to Lochmaddy as doctors in 1932. Young Macleod learned a great deal about a rural GP’s life from those days of hard slog, when doctors were on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Island logistics was a major issue in an era of no public transport and few motor cars, and roads that were barely capable of taking them in any case. It was perhaps just as well that islanders were not serial complainers and went to see a doctor only when absolutely necessary.

Macleod attended primary school in Lochmaddy, followed by secondary education at the Nicolson Institute in Stornoway. From Lewis he went to Keil School in Dumbarton.

National Service intervened and from 1957-59 he was a sub-lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserve, after which he went to Glasgow University for his MB ChB degree. These were the first of many letters that would come after his name over the years, culminating in the award of honorary fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians (Glasgow) in 2000, a very rare honour for a rural doctor.

Macleod held hospital training posts in Glasgow and London before becoming an assistant GP at Aviemore. He returned to Lochmaddy in 1973, taking over the practice when his father retired.

Now married to Lorna Ferguson from Bristol, Macleod threw himself into his work and his community. The health centre in Lochmaddy now has state-of-the-art facilities, a far cry from the closet in the family home that his father once used as a consulting room.

Macleod’s retirement as GP in 2000 was merely a blip in his busy schedule, since he continued with a wide range of activities that would have made much younger men recoil. He was much in demand at conferences at home and abroad, where his expertise on rural medicine was greatly valued.

He had a particular interest in Comann na Mara (Society of the Sea), which sought to highlight the critical importance of the sea to island communities. He campaigned vigorously to persuade fishermen and small-boat users to wear personal flotation devices for safety purposes. For this work he was awarded Personality of the Year by Fishing News in 2007 [see picture]. His fellow Lochmaddy resident and friend of 50 years, Norman Johnson, described Macleod as “an incredible man and a complete one-off”, a description with which many would agree.

After the funeral service, in recognition of Macleod’s love of the sea, Johnson and some friends took a boat from Lochmaddy pier and tied up with Macleod’s boat, Sulaire, at anchor offshore. There Johnson played the bagpipes in tribute to his late friend.

“It’s hard to think of anyone who gave so much to this community,” said Johnson. “No matter how busy he was, and he was always very busy, he had time to help others. He would meet strangers off their yachts at Lochmaddy and take them to his house. He showed exceptional leadership all his life, always encouraging people to do

better. No matter where he went in the world, he took pamphlets with him extolling the virtues of the islands and their people. He’ll be sorely missed round here.”

Fort William GP, Dr Jim Douglas, delivered the eulogy at Macleod’s funeral service, relayed to many standing outside the Lochmaddy church.

He said: “Like so many people in this community, in this country and around the world, he gave me friendship, support, advice and hospitality over the following 32 years. He was always a loyal friend and generous with his time. He always looked for, and encouraged, the best in people.”

He was buried at Clachan Sands cemetery, near Lochmaddy, and is survived by Lorna, his wife of 37 years, and their children, Alasdair, Beth and Torquil.

He was immensely proud of the 56 international caps Beth gained while playing for the Scottish women’s rugby team. He became a grand­father shortly before going into hospital in Clydebank at the end of August.


Born January 20, 1935;

Died September 2, 2009.