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Author Topic: Dr. "Jock" MacPherson  (Read 14691 times)

Ric Gillespie

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Dr. "Jock" MacPherson
« on: January 18, 2017, 10:11:57 AM »

A key figure in the British investigation of the bones and objects found by Gallagher was Dr. Duncan Campbell McEwan MacPherson MB ChB.  As the Acting Central Medical Authority, he was the senior medical officer in the Western Pacific High commission and, presumably, had the best credentials, but the job of evaluating the skeleton was given to Dr. David Hoodless. Three doctors knew about the bones.  MacPherson, Hoodless, and Kingsley Steenson MB, ChB.   We have a good handle on Hoodless's medical training.  Steenson graduated from Otago medical School in New Zealand. I've been trying to pin down MacPherson's background and it's getting both puzzling and interesting.

According to his WPHC Service History, he was born in 1900. ( I remember reading somewhere that he was born in Oban, Scotland but now I can't recall where I read that. It made an impression on me because I know Oban, a lovely town on Loch Linnhe in Argyll.)  He first appears in the WPHC Service History on Sept. 20, 1929 as Medical Officer for the Gilbert & Ellice Islands Colony. His Service History doesn't mention where he got his medical degrees but I wondered if he might have gone to the University of Edinburgh Medical School.  The director of the medical school was kind enough to pass my inquiry to the Student Records Officer who did some research.  MacPherson did not turn up in Edinburgh's records but she did find an entry in the London Gazette of July 1, 1924 which lists military appointments and promotions.  Under "Royal Army Ordnance Corps"  there is an entry:
"52nd (Lowland) Divl. Ord. Coy. - Cadet Duncan Campbell McEwan McPherson, from Glasgow Univ. Contgt., Sen. Div., O.T.C., to be Lt.  2nd July 1924"

Prof. Neil Turner at Edinburgh explained, "OTC = Officer Training Corps, a University organisation affiliated to the Services for students aspiring to become officers." 
That would be very much like ROTC here in the States.

I interpret the London Gazette entry to mean, "Cadet Duncan Campbell McEwan McPherson, from the Glasgow University Contingent, Sen.(?) Division, of the Officer Training Corps has been commissioned a Lieutenant and assigned to the 52nd Lowland Division Ordnance Company effective July 2, 1924"

This has to be our guy.  The name is distinctive, the location makes sense, and the year is about right.  ("Jock" MacPherson used the traditional highland patronymic "Mac" but Sassenachs (the English) often shorten that to "Mc.")
The puzzling thing is that there is no mention of medical degrees, although being commissioned directly to Lieutenant rather than Subaltern (2nd Lt.) may be a hint.  He goes on active duty as a Lieutenant in an Army ordnance company in 1924 and five years later he's a doctor in the Colonial Administrative Service? 
I'm going to see what I can find out from Glasgow University.
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Friend Weller

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Re: Dr. "Jock" MacPherson
« Reply #1 on: January 18, 2017, 02:47:50 PM »

"Cadet Duncan Campbell McEwan McPherson, from the Glasgow University Contingent, Sen.(?) Division, of the Officer Training Corps has been commissioned a Lieutenant and assigned to the 52nd Lowland Division Ordnance Company effective July 2, 1924"

Sen. could be an abbreviation for Senior.....
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Dr. "Jock" MacPherson
« Reply #2 on: January 18, 2017, 04:14:52 PM »

Sen. could be an abbreviation for Senior.....

That would make sense.  What doesn't make sense to me is the reference to an "ordnance company" in a "division"  (assuming we're interpreting the abbreviations correctly). At least in the U.S. Army, a "division" is often, but not always,made up of "regiments" which are made up of "batallions" which are made up of "companies."  For example, I was a battalion staff officer in Headquarters Company of the 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division.
I can see a battalion having an ordnance company but I wouldn't think there would be a single ordnance company for an entire division.  British units in the 1920s were probably organized differently. I suppose its possible that the division ordnance company included the medical unit.
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Tom Creemers

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Re: Dr. "Jock" MacPherson
« Reply #3 on: January 19, 2017, 07:19:05 AM »

A key figure in the British investigation of the bones and objects found by Gallagher was Dr. Duncan Campbell McEwan MacPherson MB ChB.  As the Acting Central Medical Authority, he was the senior medical officer in the Western Pacific High commission and, presumably, had the best credentials, but the job of evaluating the skeleton was given to Dr. David Hoodless. Three doctors knew about the bones.  MacPherson, Hoodless, and Kingsley Steenson MB, ChB.   We have a good handle on Hoodless's medical training.  Steenson graduated from Otago medical School in New Zealand. I've been trying to pin down MacPherson's background and it's getting both puzzling and interesting.

Ok, here goes my first post to this forum  :)

Here's what I found out using different combinations of McEvans McPherson, MacEvans MacPherson, McEvans MacPherson, and MacEvans McPherson

The guy's obituary can be found in the British Medical Journal, including a short resume. Look at the end of this document: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2284763/pdf/brmedj03951-0033.pdf

There is even a picture of him on sale on eBay: http://www.ebay.ie/itm/1935-Dr-Duncan-Campbell-MacPherson-British-Government-Medical-Press-Photo-/201766880523?hash=item2efa3e450b:g:U0EAAOSw4GVYGjom

And according to this document https://archive.org/stream/commence34john/commence34john_djvu.txt he received a Certificate in Public Health from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore (which is also mentioned in the obituary above)

Hope this is of help.

Tom.
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Dr. "Jock" MacPherson
« Reply #4 on: January 19, 2017, 09:03:58 AM »

WOW!  Nothing like hitting a grand slam home run first time at bat!  Lots to digest here. 
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Dr. "Jock" MacPherson
« Reply #5 on: January 19, 2017, 09:22:46 AM »

Anyone care to sponsor the purchase of the photo for TIGHAR?  With shipping it's about $25.
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Karen Hoy

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Re: Dr. "Jock" MacPherson
« Reply #6 on: January 19, 2017, 05:08:55 PM »

I will sponsor the purchase.

Karen Hoy #2610 CR
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Jerry Germann

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Re: Dr. "Jock" MacPherson
« Reply #7 on: January 19, 2017, 05:56:40 PM »

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Harbert William Davenport

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Re: Dr. "Jock" MacPherson
« Reply #8 on: January 19, 2017, 09:16:02 PM »

Grand slam in first at-bat, indeed, Tom Creemers, way to go and welcome aboard!
   Just a footnote:
The D.T.M. of Liverpool degree mentioned in Macpherson's obit is very likely the "Diploma of Tropical Medicine," since Liverpool still has a School of Tropical Medicine, founded in 1898, which in more recent years confers a Diploma of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (D.T.M.&H.).
H. Wm. (Bill) Davenport
3555R Prof of Philos, ret.
 
« Last Edit: January 19, 2017, 09:27:34 PM by Harbert William Davenport »
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Dr. "Jock" MacPherson
« Reply #9 on: January 20, 2017, 06:59:40 AM »

I will sponsor the purchase.

Karen Hoy #2610 CR

Thank you Karen.  I've ordered the photo.  It is most interesting due to the caption on the reverse.  That is often true of press photos because the captions provide the date and context for the photo..
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Dr. "Jock" MacPherson
« Reply #10 on: January 20, 2017, 07:01:56 AM »

Would this fellow have anything that Tighar hasn't looked at?

This fellow is my good friend and long-time dedicated TIGHAR member Larry Inman.  Many of the photos that have appeared on the forum are courtesy of Larry.
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Dr. "Jock" MacPherson
« Reply #11 on: January 20, 2017, 07:16:42 AM »

The D.T.M. of Liverpool degree mentioned in Macpherson's obit is very likely the "Diploma of Tropical Medicine," since Liverpool still has a School of Tropical Medicine, founded in 1898, which in more recent years confers a Diploma of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (D.T.M.&H.).

I wondered about that.  Sounds reasonable.  According to the obit, Jock's father was Hugh MacPherson J.P.  Justice of the Peace?  Acharacle is a tiny village in the western highlands at the west end of Loch Shiel - just the sort of place that would have Justice of the Peace.  (My great, great grandfather was Justice of the Peace of a similar village in upstate NY.) The nearest town of any size is Oban, about 25 miles as the crow flies but easily twice that by road.  Jock may have attended school in Oban
I'm going to piece together a timeline of what we know about Jock MacPherson's life and career.  It's pretty obvious that he was the guy the High commissioner should have tapped to examine the bones Gallagher found.
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Bill Mangus

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Re: Dr. "Jock" MacPherson
« Reply #12 on: January 20, 2017, 07:48:08 AM »

I'll just throw this though out, for what's it's worth:

Maybe Dr. MacPherson is the person who ended-up with the bones.  Maybe we should try to track down any descendants?
Bill Mangus
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Dr. "Jock" MacPherson
« Reply #13 on: January 20, 2017, 08:48:37 AM »

Maybe Dr. MacPherson is the person who ended-up with the bones.  Maybe we should try to track down any descendants?

There is nothing I'd like better than an excuse to do research in the Old Country but, although it's conceivable that MacPherson made the final decision about what to do with the bones, we know for a fact that he never mentioned them to his closest associates who were not in the loop.  Here's an excerpt from my paper:

 Looking for any record of human remains being found on Gardner, TIGHAR wrote to Harry Maude, the British colonial official who had been the architect of the Phoenix Islands Settlement Scheme. In a May 4, 1990 letter to Richard Gillespie, Maude, retired and living in Australia, recalled his close association with his “best friend” Dr. D.C.M. MacPherson, Assistant Director of Medical Services for the colony of Fiji. Maude doubted Kilts’ fanciful tale and found it “difficult to understand, therefore, why [MacPherson] never once, in our interminable reminiscences, spoke of Gallagher’s ‘bones.’.” He characterized Kilt’s account as “Such stuff as dreams are made on.”

We could probably find relatives but there is no reason to think they would be any help in finding out what happened to the bones.
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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: Dr. "Jock" MacPherson
« Reply #14 on: January 20, 2017, 09:59:47 AM »

Looking for any record of human remains being found on Gardner, TIGHAR wrote to Harry Maude, the British colonial official who had been the architect of the Phoenix Islands Settlement Scheme. In a May 4, 1990 letter to Richard Gillespie, Maude, retired and living in Australia, recalled his close association with his “best friend” Dr. D.C.M. MacPherson, Assistant Director of Medical Services for the colony of Fiji. Maude doubted Kilts’ fanciful tale and found it “difficult to understand, therefore, why [MacPherson] never once, in our interminable reminiscences, spoke of Gallagher’s ‘bones.’” He characterized Kilt’s account as “Such stuff as dreams are made on.”

Macpherson died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1943.  He may have felt obligated to keep silence about the bones out of respect for Sir Harry Luke's request to keep the investigation secret.  Or he may simply not have had a chance to get a word in edgewise between 1941 and 1943 when he was in Maude's company. Gallagher had apparently thrown in the towel during his summer service at headquarters in 1941, just before his death.  There may have been many things to talk about in the middle of WWII on an island that could well have been a target for invasion other than the decision that some "wretched relics" of a castaway on Gardner Island were probably not from Amelia Earhart.

In my experience of talking with the remnants of the expat community in Suva back in 2003, I surmised that they never were as excited about her life or death as we Americans.  That may have been true 60 years earlier in the last two year's of Jock's life.

In thinking about why Hoodless was chosen to do the measurements, one might reflect on the notion of seniority.  Hoodless was the founder of the Medical School and director of the Colonial War Memorial Hospital.  Macpherson was his assistant.  We can see that Macpherson had better credentials than his boss, but he may not have had the same social standing in the WPHC pecking order.

Of course, "absence of evidence" is not "evidence of absence."  The fact that Hoodless does not mention working with Macpherson in measuring and analyzing the bones does not necessarily mean that Macpherson played no role in that work. 

Lastly, Macpherson may have been out of the office when Hoodless took possession of the bones.  Just as he was on the boat when Gallagher died, he may have been out boating around the islands when the bones came in to Suva.
LTM,

           Marty
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