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Dr James McLay: Death of popular university lecturer and ARI physician, aged 68

Dr James McLay.
Dr James McLay.

Much-loved Aberdeen physician and lecturer Dr James McLay, has died aged 68.

Tributes continue to flood in the father-of-four who worked in the city’s Royal Infirmary and taught at Aberdeen University.

‘Always there through thick and thin’ and ‘an incredible motivator’ were among the comments left as the news broke of his sudden death.

Early life

Born in Enfield, London on September 2, 1953 he was one of four children for Lucy and John McLay, an industrial chemist.

As a youngster he loved to play cricket and rugby, and enjoyed sailing as a sea cadet.

James McLay, pictured left, as a child in London.

After finishing his secondary education at St Ignatius College he began studying at the London School of Pharmacy.

No doubt inspired by his father’s field of work, further study awaited.

So, following on from his Bparm degree in 1975 he also earned a PhD from the same school in 1979.

A move to medicine

James was inspired to pursue medicine while working as a hospital pharmacist, prompting a move to Aberdeen.

In 1983 he graduated from Aberdeen University as a medical doctor.

He worked briefly in Elgin as well as a few years in Dundee before coming back to the ARI.

In March 1990 he joined the University’s faculty as a clinical lecturer.

Family life

In 1985 James met his wife Fiona also a graduate of Aberdeen University.

In 1987 they moved from Aberdeen to Carmyllie in Angus.

The couple married on October 14, 2004 in a small ceremony in Elgin, surrounded by close family and friends.

They went on to have four children, Lucy, James, Victoria and Tess.

Dr James McLay shown in a grey suit with a corsage.
Dr James McLay shown in happier times.

As a young man James enjoyed hillwalking, road cycling, gliding and fly fishing on the Don.

And later in life he pursued his love of flying, gaining his personal pilot’s licence in 2008.

Comforted by tributes

Fiona McLay spoke of her husband’s passing.

“This has all come as such a huge shock to us. It was sudden and completely unexpected.

“He will be hugely missed by students, patients, colleagues, friends and family.

“It’s lovely to hear that so many people have paid tribute to him.”

Poignant words

Dr Nick Fluck, Medical Director at NHS Grampian said his colleague will be greatly missed.

“James was great colleague with a wonderful personality.

“He was a true clinical academic. He maintained a strong interest in the clinical care of patients while continuing his research work and supporting medical education.

“His work in developing the first Physician Associate Programme in Scotland was exceptional and ahead of its time. He will be greatly missed by so many.”

World wide influence

Latterly an honorary consultant specialising in clinical pharmacology at the ARI and senior lecturer in clinical pharmacology at the university, his influence spanned the globe.

Mansour Tobaiqy is an associate professor at Jeddah University.

Supplied by Aberdeen University James McLay is shown in a shirt and tie in a formal pose.
Dr James McLay, of Aberdeen Royal Infirmary and Aberdeen University.

He said: “I was shocked to hear the news about Dr James McLay.

“James was my supervisor for the MSc and my PhD. He was a great mentor and scientist and an exceptional person.”

So missed

Speaking of her former lecturer who was an expert in high blood pressure, Gillian O’Flynn wrote: “RIP Dr McLay. Great teacher and will never forget the velvet suits!”

James juggled his university responsibilities with a busy hospital workload, part of the general medicine team working in outpatient care most recently.

Professor Siladitya Bhattacharya is the Head of Aberdeen University School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition.

Dr James McLay.

He said: “James was enormously hard working and responded to the many demands on his time with unfailing enthusiasm and good humour. He touched the lives of many University and NHS colleagues, students and patients.”

Derek Stewart also paid tribute to James on social media.

“I shall miss him so very much. A great friend and colleague who supported me personally and professionally. A really good guy with a very big heart. I am shocked and sad but grateful to have shared so much time and many experiences.”

Final farewell

Dr McLay’s funeral will take place in St Anne’s RC Church Carnoustie on Wednesday, February 9 at 11am.

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