Lord Amulree - BGS President 1948 - 1973 (Part 1)

Basil William Sholto Mackenzie, 2nd Baron Amulree, KBE, MD, FRCP, was the only son of the barrister and industrial arbitrator William Warrender Mackenzie, (1860-1942) Secretary of State for Air in Ramsay MacDonald’s first Labour government, who became the first Lord Amulree.  Sholto was a modest, agreeable man, good with people despite a severe stammer, which he mastered.  He was described as looking like the fictional detective Lord Peter Wimsey: tall, erect and with a monocle.  He had a wide circle of friends, knew Picasso and Graham Sutherland, and spoke excellent French.  He lived in his flat in Chelsea where he had a magnificent collection of pictures, drawings and ceramics.  He never married.

It is perhaps not widely known that after qualification in 1925, Amulree was an assistant pathologist at UCH and the Royal Northern Hospital.He joined the Ministry of Health in 1936, where he worked on cancer services, health risks associated with living for periods of time in air raid shelters and ultimately on the care of the ‘chronic sick’ in Public Assistance Institutions.This brought him into contact with Marjory Warren, Lionel Cosin, and Trevor Howell, and became their most trusted ally in the Ministry. Amulree with Dr Edwin Sturdee, his senior colleague at the Ministry of Health, fired the opening salvo on behalf of the chronic sick and aged in a Parliamentary Presentation in 1946.It can be argued that this Presentation was the spur to a stream of subsequent publications and reports relating to the medical care of the elderly.He was quite clear that care of sick elderly people was ‘a matter from which the hand of the bureaucrat should be kept as far as possible’!

He espoused many causes by speaking in the House of Lords and writing extensively in newspapers, journals and books.He supported the construction of the Channel Tunnel, and the opening of Buckingham Palace when the Queen was not in residence – an opinion not greeted with any enthusiasm by the Palace authorities at that time.Many of his speeches in the House of Lords were quoted in local newspapers.On one occasion he was ‘gagged’ by the Ministry of Health in 1950 and prevented from speaking to a Liberal party meeting on the subject of Give the Pensioner a Square Deal because it occurred during the then current General Election and he still had a part time appointment with the Ministry. In retirement he continued writing and wrote of Dr Archibald Cameron (1707-1753) that he had ‘the unenviable reputation of being the last person to suffer execution for loyalty to the House of Stuart’.

Video footage of Lord Amulree can be found here: