Born: July 30, 1921;

Died: May 31, 2020.

Dr RUNA Mackay, who has died aged 98 after a life of service and dedication to the Palestinian people, will be remembered by all who had the privilege to know her for her quiet determination, dignity and courage. She first arrived in Nazareth in 1954, for what she would thought would be a six-month stay. Finding that “work in Nazareth could become my life’s work”, she ended up staying for 30 years.

Diminutive in stature and huge in spirit, her family roots lay deep in the soil of south Kintyre. Her grandfather, Rev. John Train, was a minister at a United Free Church there; her mother, Anna Train, was born there.

Runa was born in Hull, where her father, Duncan, was an ophthalmologist. She graduated in medicine from the University of Edinburgh in 1944. Some of her earliest clinical experiences as a medical student were in the last few years before the introduction of the NHS at the Livingstone Dispensary for Edinburgh’s poor, run by the Edinburgh Medical Missionary Society (EMMS) in the city’s Cowgate.

In 1954, while nearing the end of a period as professorial medical registrar at the Manchester Children’s Hospital, she received a letter from a doctor at the EMMS hospital in Nazareth, asking if anyone could do a locum for him while he took six months’ leave. Being free, she offered her services, as a paediatrician rather than as a missionary. She returned to Edinburgh for a year in 1957, realizing that, with 3,000 births per year, she needed to supplement her training with obstetrics.

Although Nazareth was, and is, in the new State of Israel, 99 per cent of the patients and the local staff were Palestinian Arabs, so that “one absorbed the history, the culture and the ethos of Palestine, day-by-day.” As a trusted woman doctor she was able to treat patients who would otherwise have gone without medical care.

After 20 years in Palestinian hospitals, she decided that she wanted to work in the community and helped to set up the Galilee Society of Health, Research and Service. She also worked for the Israeli Ministry of Health because she felt she would have more power to improve conditions for the Palestinians in the villages surrounding Nazareth.

After retirement in 1985 she did an honours degree at Edinburgh University in Arabic and Islamic Studies, graduating in 1990 with a dissertation on “Rhazes, the 10th century physician and father of paediatrics”, probably the greatest and most original of all Islamic physicians.

During the long university vacations, she started working for Medical Aid for Palestinians and in 1987 she joined Dr Swee Ang Chai, an orthopaedic surgeon from Singapore, and Susan Wighton, a Scottish nurse, for work in refugee camps in Lebanon, especially Qasmiyeh camp, just north of the ancient city of Tyre.

In September 1990 she went at MAP’s invitation on an assignment as a “sort of consultant paediatrician” (one month in three) to a small children’s hospital in Hebron. In 1992 she returned to Qasmiyeh camp working for two years as part of MAP’s Lebanese programme.

After active medical practice, she became a MAP Trustee, regularly visiting Lebanon and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. She started MAP in Scotland and began a series of annual fundraisers at Holy Corner in Edinburgh, calling on her network of contacts, regularly raising over £5,000 in a morning and only stepping down from organising it in her mid-90s. In 2014, MAP gave her its lifetime achievement award, recognising almost 60 years of service to the Palestinian people.

In the Scottish Parliament there are three large ceramic panels commemorating Scottish women whose contribution to the common good has been outstanding. The words “She is tiny, a Woman in Black, silently standing for justice, working for peace” are for Dr Runa Mackay. The organisation Women in Black was started in Israel in the late 1980s by Israeli and Arab women opposed to the occupation of Palestine, and promoting non-violence in international conflicts.

Runa’s faith was fundamental to everything she did, and she was a committed member of the Iona Community; a regular participant in the Women in Black vigil in Edinburgh; a member of Medical Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons, and a tireless campaigner, well into her tenth decade, against Trident and for peace and justice.

She had a worldwide network of friends and an authenticity of purpose and grace which set an example to thousands. Her lightness and integrity were infectious and inspirational.

Her book “Exile in Israel” (1995) was published by the Iona Community and is still available online. Reflecting on 40 years’ living and working as a doctor in Palestinian communities in Israel, Lebanon and the West Bank, it is not only a clinical but also a historical, political and cultural memoir – an expert guide by someone who was there.

Humble, with an irresistible twinkle, she leaves an extraordinary legacy of commitment to justice and peace. She was a wonderful doctor and a very fine and much-loved person. She liked to quote the Persian poet Rumi, “Beyond right and wrong, there is a field. I will meet you there.”