Material relating to Tours of Duty in Sierra Leone and the Solomon Islands with the Colonial Medical Service, 1951-1975

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The main body of the collection is correspondence from Dr. James D. Macgregor to his family in Scotland (but also to/from others) from both Sierra Leone and the Solomon Islands. The letters are largely in aerogramme form but there are also letters in conventional form with the original stamped and franked envelopes, as well as illustrative postcards and occasional ephemera. The content of the correspondence is largely descriptive of the locations and the work involved there, and to a degree there is family-oriented correspondence. The collection is composed of:

  • Correspondence: c.197 letters from Sierra Leone, 1951-1957;
  • Correspondence: c.613 letters from the Solomon Islands, 1957-1975;
  • Tour reports to the Chief Secretary of the Western Pacific High Commission, 1960-1964;
  • Police Medical/Postmortem Reports to the Sierra Leone Police, c.200 in number;
  • Original book-file cover in which the Police Reports had been archived;
  • Sierra Leone Protectorate Handbook, 1954.

In the material relating to Sierra Leone, 1953, are some programmes for the celebrations to be held at Makeni from 1-3 June 1953 in honour of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. There is also a poster from the 'Committee of Gentlemen' about the staging of a dance on 5 June 1954 to mark the 'forthcoming Eid-ul-Fitri' with music from the 'Famous Cuban Swing Band'.

In the material relating to the Solomon Islands, there is a pamphlet about postal information issued by the Orient Line for the vessel SS Oronsay. Many of the early pieces of correspondence are written on Orient Line aerogrammes.

An edited version of all Macgregor's letters are contained on a CD within the collection.

Administrative / Biographical History

James D. Macgregor was born in Invergowrie, near Dundee, on 21 August 1927. He was the son of Margaret (Robertson) and Alexander Macgregor. His father was Headmaster of the local school, Invergowrie Public School, the school attended by Macgregor until the age of ten. His secondary schooling was at Perth Academy. Between 1945 and 1950 he studied at St. Andrews University where he graduated with the degree of MBChB.

After graduation, Macgregor worked in general practice in Perth and Bridge of Earn before becoming House Physician at Perth Royal Infirmary. In 1951, he was appointed as House Surgeon at the Royal Northern Infirmary in Inverness. Prior to his 'call up' to National Service he was serving at Scartho Infirmary (Grimsby District General Hospital) in Grimsby, north-east Lincolnshire, England. At this point, he joined the Colonial Medical Service and towards the end of 1951 he began a first tour of duty in Freetown, Sierra Leone (know then as the Sierra Leone Protectorate), at the Connaught Hospital there. By the age of 25 Macgregor had become Assistant Surgeon at the hospital. He also ran the Mental Hospital at Kissy which, even in 2006, is the only psychiatric facility in Sierra Leone. This first tour of duty lasted until March 1953.

Macgregor's second tour of duty began with his appointment as District Medical Officer for Makeni District at its population of some 360,000 most of whom were spread over a very wide area. Assisting him were two doctors and an American missionary. This second tour lasted until the end of 1954 when he joined the Colonial Service as a permanent and pensionable officer. In April 1955, Macgregor married a student from Edinburgh and the couple then travelled back to Freetown where he was to serve at the Hill Station Hospital (now called Choithrams Hospital). In 1956 he was posted to Magburaka in the Tonkolili District of Sierra Leone and to a new hospital there.

Promotion followed, and Macgregor was posted to the Solomon Islands (then known as the British Solomon Islands Protectorate) as Senior Medical Officer. The journey to Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands, on Guadalcanal, took two months by an Orient Line vessel - SS Oronsay - to Sydney, then tramp steamer. While on the Solomon Islands three children were born to the family.

In 1975 Macgregor returned to the UK with his family to take up an appointment as Chief Medical Officer for the Shetland Islands - the Shetland Health Board. In 1981 he became District Medical Officer in Perth - Tayside Health Board. He retired in 1993. In retirement he has acted as secretary for a variety of bodies and has also been Medical Officer for Tayside Fire Brigade and for Fife Fire and Rescue Service.

Conditions Governing Access

Though some restrictions may apply, open to bona fide researchers but please contact repository for details in advance.

We strongly encourage you to contact us before your visit as special access conditions and restrictions apply to some collections. Please see our information on requesting material

Acquisition Information

The material was acquired on 5 July 2006. Accession No: E2006.17.

Note

The biographical/administrative history was compiled using information provided by Dr. James D. Macgregor.

Other Finding Aids

None prepared locally, though Dr James D. Macgregor provided lists (years/dates/no.of letters) and these are contained in the collection folders and in the collection file.

Archivist's Note

Compiled by Graeme D. Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections.

Related Material

Also at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections, is a small collection of material (degree and graduation portrait) relating to Margaret Robertson, who was Macgregor's mother (maiden name, Robertson). Collection no: Coll-1088 and Accession no. E2006.16. Otherwise, since October 2003, the Western Pacific High Commission archive is located within Special Collections, Library (Te Tumu Herenga), University of Auckland in New Zealand, having been returned to the region by the UK.

Bibliography

In July 2006, the memoirs of Dr. James D. Macgregor, in diary form, Colonial window: a view from the past, awaited publication by the Memoir Club, Co.Durham, England, UK.

Geographical Names