An Dotair Mor - A look at a special doctor


Dr Alexander MacLeod was the first doctor of the Isle of North Uist, looking after 3,000 people on 16 inhabited islands for more than 40 years. Hailed as the last traditional rural doctor of his kind, Dr MacLeod was also recognised as a visionary who brought healthcare to thousands.

An Dotair Mor, a one hour programme to be broadcast by BBC ALBA, tells the story of how the legendary doctor was appointed under the Highlands and Islands Medical Service in 1932 at a time when there were no vaccines available to prevent deadly diseases on the remote Scottish islands and healthcare was only available to those who could afford it.

There were no hospitals, no telephones and few roads when Dr MacLeod first arrived on Uist. With perseverance through any weathers he used all possible means to reach patients living in remote locations; on foot, by boat or horse, he tended to accidents and emergencies. With ingenuity and compassion, using only what he carried in his two coat pocket, he treated epidemics and helped deliver thousands of babies.

The programme features moving testimonies from Dr MacLeod’s patients and colleagues with archive material and spectacular footage of North Uist creating a touching character profile of a truly remarkable man.

Determined to ensure his patients had access to the very best medical care, he pioneered the air ambulance service which continues to provide a vital lifeline today. He devised new obstetric techniques to ensure the safe delivery of babies during difficult home births.

An Dotair Mor shows the extent of his courage, and when vaccines for previously incurable diseases like polio, diphtheria and measles were introduced, Dr MacLeod was quick to test them on his own five children before using them to protect his patients. He campaigned hard for the best elements of the Highlands and Islands Medical Service to be included in the new National Health Service during the 1940s so that healthcare was ready accessible to all people.

Dr MacLeod was eventually awarded an OBE for his services to general practice and joked that it was because he had ‘One Blind Eye’ having lost an eye during a shinty match when he was a medical student in Glasgow. He also remarked that it should have gone to his wife Dr Julia MacLeod, who worked tirelessly at his side and was his partner in the medical practice.

Produced by UistFilm, the programme will be broadcast on BBC ALBA on Monday 29th December 2014 from 10.00 until 11.00pm.