Margaret Macpherson was born in Carnustie, Scotland, the third of the four daughters of the Reverend Ebenezer Macpherson. The family moved to the south of England soon after Margaret’s birth, when her father became minister at St George’s Presbyterian Church in Brondesbury. She was educated at Sandycote School, Parkstone, Dorset, and was head girl when she left. She entered the London School of Medicine for Women and graduated with honours from the Royal Free Hospital. She obtained a gold medal for her doctorate, followed by membership of the College. She was the ninth woman to be elected to the fellowship.
Margaret was house physician and medical registrar to the Royal Free and the National Temperance Hospitals, and resident medical officer to the Jenny Lind Hospital in Norwich. She later became a research fellow at the Brompton Hospital, having a fellowship from the Halley-Stewart Medical Foundation. She was in charge of the children’s contact department and developed a keen interest and knowledge of childhood tuberculosis. In 1965 she became the first woman to join the consultant staff at the Brompton.
In 1939 she was appointed assistant physician to the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital and on the outbreak of war she joined the EMS when the hospital was evacuated to St Albans. She was senior physician and played a large part in administration and in the teaching of students. She also supervised the treatment of patients at the children’s sanatorium at Harpenden, some of whom attended Oster House for collapse therapy - this was before the days of chemotherapy.
In 1948 she was appointed consultant physician to the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson. She was a member of the board of governors of the Royal Free Hospital medical school and a founder member of the Thoracic Society.
Margaret’s life was influenced by her friendship with A G Phear, consultant physician at the Royal Free when she was a student. They shared a deep love of keyboard music, both being accomplished pianists. Margaret was often invited to musical evenings at his home in Weymouth Street and later she accompanied him and his wife on visits abroad, and to their unique Norwegian log cabin house in rural Surrey. Here they enjoyed possession of a clavichord especially made for Phear by the Dolmetsch family of Haslemere. A portrait of A G Phear playing the instrument was painted by Muriel Jackson; it hung in Margaret’s sitting room in Hampstead and passed to the College under the terms of her Will. This friendship was lifelong. Margaret became like a daughter to the Phears and cared for Mrs Phear throughout her long illness, and later for Phear himself.
Another of Margaret’s long lasting friendships was with Geoffrey Marshall, later Sir Geoffrey, [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.381] whom she met at the Brompton. She became a firm friend of Geoffrey and his wife and often accompanied them on golfing and other holidays.
Margaret was an outstanding person in many ways; a woman of few words, a loyal Scot, endowed with good looks and fair hair which refused to become grey, with a quiet air of authority and completely devoid of self-esteem. She was beloved by all who knew her. Her patients had the utmost faith in her and generations of students remember with gratitude her gift of teaching; this she did largely by example, the quiet and thorough examinations were always performed with consideration for the feelings of the patient.
In 1955, like so many others, she contracted the Royal Free disease (ME) and was off work for several weeks. Following this she had recurrent bouts of severe lassitude and muscle pain but this was never allowed to interfere with her activities.
In retirement, apart from occasional holidays abroad - to India, Nepal and Persia (now Iran) she divided her time between her house in Hampstead and the much loved ‘Birch Copse’, where she enjoyed gardening, bird watching and the company of her beloved whippet. Nothing gave her more pleasure than welcoming old friends both to her Hampstead home or Birch Copse. Her last few years were clouded by ill health but she retained her interest in all about her and especially news of old friends. Her sense of humour never left her, she was never heard to complain and retained her clear intellect to the end. Toby, the third of her whippets, was her constant companion.
V U Lutwyche