Graham McKirdy: an appreciation

WHEN Graham McKirdy’s name was announced from the podium at the 2014 Scottish Dentistry Awards, it was, he acknowledged shortly afterwards, a shock.

“Once you started to announce the winner”, he told Scottish Dentistry magazine, “I stopped listening at that point. I was just thinking, ‘Right, let’s put together what I’m going to say so I don’t make an idiot of myself here”.

Asked why he had won the Outstanding Contribution to Scottish Dentistry award, he responded: “I tend to go and get things done as best as I can. It’s a bit like a football team, you’re part of a team, occasionally you’re a captain but you’re a part of a team and everybody works to deliver what’s best for dentists and patients”.

With the passing of Graham McKirdy at the age of 64, following

a short illness, the dental profession and the wider community have lost

a selfless champion, worthy ambassador and loyal friend.

He was awarded the highly prestigious Fellowship of the British Dental Association, an honour bestowed only on those who have given “exceptional and distinguished service to the profession”. He was

a past president of the association’s West of Scotland branch and received lifetime achievement awards from the Conference of Scottish Local Dental Committees.

Graham was born in Clydebank on July 16, 1955, to Robert and Irene McKirdy; he has a younger brother, Fraser. At Clydebank High School he showed an aptitude for mathematics, and on leaving school in 1972, destined for the finance and investment sector, he began training with Scottish Mutual.

However, his own dentist in Clydebank encouraged him to think about a career in dentistry, After giving the matter considerable thought he began studying at the University of Glasgow. He graduated Bachelor of Dental Surgery in 1979. He initially worked at a dental practice in East Kilbride but soon set up a partnership in practices at Bridgeton Cross, Glasgow, and in the Burnbank area of Hamilton. After graduation he had returned to the Glasgow Dental Hospital and School in a part-time role as a visiting GP, teaching undergraduate students.

He did this for more than 20 years.

He was a skilled, empathetic and caring clinician and proved very popular with his patients, something reflected in the success of both practices, where he remained until his retirement in 2015.

Early in his career he was elected to the Local Dental Committee (LDC) in Lanarkshire, where he helped represent the interests of dentists and their patients in discussions with the health board and other authorities. Thus began

an interest – indeed, a passion – for advocacy and representation of patients and communities, dental professionals and other healthcare workers, which continued throughout the rest of his life.

He was also elected to the Glasgow LDC and took part in all manner of representative bodies, committees – many of which he chaired– and working groups within the BDA at Scottish and UK level.

This frequently brought him into discussions with senior health department officials and government ministers. He commanded great respect on all sides.

Those of us who spent time on committees with him fondly recall his many idiosyncrasies: the brightly-coloured neck-ties with comic cartoon motifs, the spectacles always perched on the top of his head, and, invariably, the jacket off and shirt sleeves rolled up – the latter

a perfect metaphor for his attitude to life and work.

Graham’s wide knowledge and experience resulted in him frequently being contacted by colleagues needing advice and guidance. He often found himself engaged in private meetings or

phone calls with stressed, anxious colleagues seeking information and counsel; his time and wisdom were offered freely and generously.

His exceptional mathematical abilities meant Graham’s particular representative interests were in the areas of practice funding and remuneration, and also pensions. He had an uncanny ability to digest and analyse pages dense with figures at

a glance and could quickly interpret these to the rest of the group around the meeting table. His learned knowledge of NHS pensions was so detailed he was later appointed to the NHS Scotland Pension Board as a member representative looking after the superannuation interests of all NHS workers.

After retirement from clinical practice he was still busy supporting colleagues and community. He maintained an interest in his profession and also was elected to the community council in his adopted home town of Uddingston, and was swiftly appointed as

its chairman.

Graham met his wife, Grace, when they were at school. They married in 1975 while both were studying. Grace, a teacher, qualified first and supported Graham until his graduation although Graham also worked part-time; he claimed he

and his brother had the largest

paper round in Clydebank.

Graham enjoyed everything in life but was never happier than with his family. He found particular joy in recent years with his grandchildren, Matilda and Forbes. He and Grace travelled extensively, to Australia, New Zealand, the Middle East and throughout Europe, and had many family holidays in America.

He is survived by Grace, daughter Heather and son Bruce, their spouses Niall and Jenna, his brother Fraser and sister-in-law Allison and his two grandchildren.