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UHI announce the death of Colin Mackay who played a ‘pivotal role’ in forming the university


By Scott Maclennan

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Colin Mackay has died aged 87.
Colin Mackay has died aged 87.

Tributes have been issued for Colin Mackay CBE FRCS – a surgeon who played a key role in the formation of the University of the Highlands Islands – who has died at the age of 87.

A statement from UHI said Mr MacKay “played a critically important role in creating the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI)” while also having a distinguished medical career for which he was awarded a CBE in 2000.

Mr MacKay was educated at Hillhead High School in Glasgow and graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1961, and trained in the West of Scotland as well as one year in Boston where he held a Medical Research Council Travelling Fellowship.

Returning to Scotland, he spent 26 years as a consultant surgeon at the Western Infirmary and Gartnavel General Hospital. He was involved in teaching, research and education, and served on public bodies including the Greater Glasgow Health Board and the General Medical Council.

He retired from clinical practice in 1996 when he was elected President of the College. Following his Presidency, he became the Chair of the UHI Millennium Institute Board of Governors from 2001-2009, during a period in which UHI developed from being a project to a higher education institution.

Speaking of this period UHI said: “Colin played a pivotal role in creating the foundation for university title in 2011, and it is entirely fitting that his contribution was recognised in 2012 when he was awarded an honorary fellowship, along with former Principal, Professor Bob Cormack.”

It continued: “Colin’s legacy lives on today and is apparent in the life and work of the institution and its place amongst other universities in Scotland and as an anchor institution within the Highlands and Islands, Perthshire and Moray.”

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow lowered the flag to half mast outside its building in the city centre as a mark of respect to the former President of the College from 1997-2000, overseeing its 400th anniversary celebrations in 1999.

It said that “during his distinguished career, he was a renowned gastro-intestinal surgeon, and he also served as a College Council member and Treasurer. He was awarded the CBE in 2000 for services to medicine.”

The college outlined the breadth of his career saying: “In addition to clinical work, Mr MacKay was involved in undergraduate teaching, research and postgraduate medical education.

“He also served on many committees and public bodies, among them, the Greater Glasgow Health Board and the General Medical Council. Colin retired from clinical practice in 1996 when he was elected President of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.

“He was awarded the CBE in 2000 for services to medicine.”

Mike McKirdy, the current College President, said: “It is with great sadness that we learned of the passing of Colin MacKay, a leading figure in surgery and a well-known and respected former President.

“He was renowned for his technical skill as a surgeon and his commitment to comprehensive patient care. He was also known for his great diplomacy and good humour. He will be greatly missed, and our thoughts are with his wife Helen and his family at this sad time.”

He is survived by his wife Helen, a retired specialist in care of the elderly medicine, and their three grown-up children, Colin, Elspeth and Helen.


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