Tuesday, January 1, 2013 | By: Rudi Butt

Dr. George Mackay, A Gilbert Blane Gold Medal Recipient (1851)

Updated (partial) on January 1, 2013

Notable Doctors From the First 100 Years
A Biography of

George Mackay

Qualifications: M.D., University of Glasgow (1835); M.R.C.P., London, (1860)

Mackay (b.dt/unk. – d. April 26, 1879, Wellington, Somerset) was given charge of the medical ship HMS Melville at the end of the Second Opium Ward (1856-1860) and remained till 1865. Melville arrived Hong Kong in 1857 and began its service as a military hospital ship attached to the East Indies Squadron until she was sold in 1873. The proceeds of the sale were used to acquire the Seamen's Hospital, which reopened as the Royal Naval Hospital. Mackay was no stranger to China and Hong Kong, he served as assistant surgeon of HMS Samarang during the First Opium War and was awarded the China Medal 1842 along with twenty other officers and 136 sailors and marines on board. Samarang took part in the capturing of Chuenpee Hill Forts 穿鼻炮臺 on July 1, 1841 and the bombardments of the Bocca Tigris 虎門 on February 26, 1841. In fact, Mackay was never too far away from combats while on sea duties ever since he joined up the Royal Navy right after graduating from Glasgow: surgeon, HMS Bellerophon, bombardment of Odessa, landing at Varna; senior surgeon, HMS Agamemnon (1854), landing at Old Fort, battle of Alma; inspector of transports, bombardment of Sebastopol, capture of Kertch and Yenikale, blockade and fall of Sebastopol; all during the Crimean War. After leaving Hong Kong, Mackay became Deputy Inspector at Royal Hospital Haslar, and Deputy Inspector-General of Hospitals and Fleets. On February 3, 1870, he was appointed Honorary Physician to the Queen. He became Surgeon-Major of Madras Establishment in an unknown year and was promoted to Deputy Surgeon-General on February 26, 1876. He died at home in Wellington, Somerset, from pneumonia on April 26, 1879. The journal Mackay wrote while serving as surgeon on HMS Powerful, “ Medical Journal of HMS Powerful, from 1 October 1849 to 8 March 1851, by George Mackay” won him a Gilbert Blane Gold Medal in 1851. Blane, a Glasgow alumnus himself (M.D. 1778) was the founder of Blane Medals for best Journals by Navy Medical Officers.

There was another George Mackay, M.D., F.R.C.S. Edinburgh, F.S.A.S. (Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland) who existed later than our Mackay (he was still around in 1941, while our Mackay died in 1879), and who might be a descendant of Sir Donald MacKay of Farr. I do not know if the two George Mackay(s) were related. Should be interesting to find it out.

References:
- anglochinesewar42.com [blog].
- The Edinburgh Gazette, February 8, 1870.
- List of the Fellows, Members, Extra-Licentiates, and Licentiates of the Royal College of Physicians of London, 1872.
- The London Gazette, February 25, 1876.
- Naval Database, Melville, 1817 [internet].
- Proceedings of the Society, April 13, 1908, the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.
- University of Glasgow [internet].

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