Dr James Mowat, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist

Born: April 3, 1937.

Died: April 27, 2020.

DR James Mowat, who has died at the age of 83 from complications of Parkinson’s disease, never forgot his homeland heritage. He had been born in the small fishing village of Keiss, near Wick, and his upbringing there conditioned his whole attitude to life.

He studied medicine at Edinburgh University between 1955 and 1961. In his first two years in the capital – days when his means were so limited that all he had to wear was his kilt – he had to hitchhike whenever he wanted to go back to Keiss.

He went on to become a popular, and highly regarded, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist – the former at Glasgow’s Royal Maternity Hospital at Rotten Row, and Rutherglen maternity hospital, and the latter at the city’s Victoria Infirmary. Untold thousands of women had cause to be grateful to him for his professional expertise.

He was the elder son of James Mowat senior and Ida Baikie, who was born in the ‘last house’ in John O’Groats. His father was a fisherman, but was confined to work on shore after a severe heart attack in his 40s.

Young Jim, known as ‘Peedie Jim’ to differentiate him from his cousin, ‘Big Jim’, also Jim Mowat, attended Keiss School then Wick High School. Recognised as a bright lad, it was suggested to him by his headmaster that he go into banking, but he was keen to go to university.

Dr Leask, the local GP who was looking after his father, persuaded him that medicine would be a suitable career. Subsequently, he got to know Dr Leask well, as he regularly came to the house to attend to his father, and the doctor was a big influence in his decision to do medicine. He left school after fifth year to study in Edinburgh. After graduating, he trained briefly in anaesthesia and then obstetrics, during which time – across an operating table, while both were wearing masks – he met his wife-to-be, Colleen, a staff nurse. They married in 1965, and moved to Glasgow, where he became registrar in obstetrics at Rotten Row.

During these years, two of his senior colleagues became his role models and mentors and played a major part in his subsequent career: Sir Hector McLennan, one of the most distinguished Scottish obstetrician of his time, and the only Scot to become President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists; and Dr Matthew Garrey, with whom Jim had a long-standing friendship right up until Dr Garrey’s death.

In 1967, he became Senior Registrar, and when Sir Hector retired from his post at the Victoria in 1971, he was appointed to the vacancy, remaining there until his own retirement in 1997. He discharged his obstetric commitment at Rotten Row until the opening of Rutherglen Maternity Hospital in 1978. He was one of a strong team of medical, nursing, and supporting staff who provided an exemplary service to the large catchment area of the new hospital.

During all these years he was a caring, conscientious and dedicated doctor, totally devoted to his patients. He was universally popular, great company, always fun to be with, and a wonderful colleague, much sought after by his medical colleagues to provide obstetric care to their wives and daughters, the highest possible compliment paid to any doctor.

He loved his work and felt fortunate that his career had spanned the very best of times, but at 60, he was happy to close that door, and embrace his hobbies with new enthusiasm. Retirement gave him the opportunity to pursue his many interests, of which sailing in the west coast of Scotland was by far the most satisfying.

He had joined the Royal Naval Reserve (RNR) in his 20s, learning to sail and making friendships with colleagues who had sailing boats. At the Clyde-based RNR establishment, HMS Dalriada, he progressed through the ranks and retired as Principal Medical Officer with the rank of Surgeon Commander.

With his appetite whetted for small-boat sailing he joined a GP colleague and together they sailed ‘Sylph’, ‘Off Call’ and ‘Stravaiger’ before starting on boat ownership on his own.

The craft were based in Troon initially before moving to bases progressively further north at Inverkip, Tarbert and latterly Craobh.

In his own boats, firstly ‘Echo’, which had been the name of his father’s boat, then ‘Encore”, and with Colleen commandeered as cook, his dream was fulfilled, exploring the inner and outer Hebrides, a sailor’s delight, occasionally venturing further afield with his two regular shipmates and other colleagues to destinations as far afield as St Kilda, France, the Faroes and Norway.

He revelled in exploring remote inlets and anchoring in deserted coves sharing a glass or two of good malt whisky with his two long-term sailing buddies.

His love of Scotland, and his Northern roots, propelled him to learn Gaelic. When meeting anyone with even a smattering of the language he would greet them with wild enthusiasm, keen to practice his vocabulary.

The day he died a hearse, as had been his wish, took him from Glasgow by the North road he knew so well, to the village home he loved. He was buried with a graveside service in Keiss cemetery, within sight and sound of the sea, next to his brother Jackie, who had died seven weeks earlier.

He is survived by his much-loved wife Colleen, his adored children, James and Elaine, and his cherished grandchildren, Finn and Rosa.

Chris Garrigan, George Gray and Alan Macdonald