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Fond farewell to 'Mac the Knife'

PUBLISHED: 13:36 13 April 2009 | UPDATED: 13:40 03 July 2010

Master surgeon Hugh McDonald known locally as “Mac the Knife” died peacefully in James Paget University Hospital on March 28 at the age of 94.

He was born in London on May 29, 1914 and educated at Bishop's Stortford public school, where he was a boarder and was trained at Guy's Hospital, where he was an outstanding student, passing his examinations for the Fellowships of the Royal Colleges of Surgeons of both Edinburgh and London at the age of 26.

Master surgeon Hugh McDonald known locally as “Mac the Knife” died peacefully in James Paget University Hospital on March 28 at the age of 94.

He was born in London on May 29, 1914 and educated at Bishop's Stortford public school, where he was a boarder and was trained at Guy's Hospital, where he was an outstanding student, passing his examinations for the Fellowships of the Royal Colleges of Surgeons of both Edinburgh and London at the age of 26.

Following a few years spent in general medical practice in London, he was posted by the Emergency Medical Service to the former Great Yarmouth General Hospital. The old and dilapidated state of the hospital building horrified him, Great Yarmouth having suffered very heavy bombing throughout the war.

In 1948 - the same year that the National Health Service was established - he was made up to Consulting Surgeon. This was the first full time consultant appointment in the area as most consulting was done by consultants who visited Great Yarmouth on a weekly basis from the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital.

He had very little assistance in the early days yet covered most branches of surgery. This included not only bowel, breast, vascular, chest and urological surgery but, in the early days, he did gynaecological and some orthopaedic surgery. In addition, he performed the post mortem examinations until the early 1970s.

During his innovative career he furthered surgical knowledge with two important advances. He devised an operation which saved the lives of those suffering the ill effects of consuming putrescent fish. He also developed a greatly enhanced technique for the major operation of partial or total gastrectomy.

He worked extremely hard and all who worked with him were impressed by his great surgical dexterity. There can be few families in Great Yarmouth who did not have some contact with him and benefited from his surgical skills.

He was also a very good golf player and artist.

His colleagues referred to him as “Mac” whereas the local population knew him as “Mac the Knife”.

He retired from the Health Service in 1979 but continued to play golf for many years. In addition, he carried on painting and drawing, looked after his garden and cared for his late wife, Vera.

Hugh McDonald married for a second time following the death of his first wife. His second wife predeceased him. He leaves two daughters and a son from his first marriage, and grandchildren.


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