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Douglas Gordon McKay

Douglas Gordon McKay, surgeon, sportsman, community leader

The information about his life was provided by the late Dr. W. McLarty, his daughter Margaret Lee,(nee McKay) and the obituaries by Drs. TAR Dinning and IM Steven and G. Schwartz.


Mr. WG McKay MB.BS. FRACS. FRCS (Edin.) was born in Adelaide in 1904. In his early years he attended The Prince Alfred College. Here he was a first class scholar and sportsman in 1922 he finished dux of his class, school captain. head prefect and played as captain in their "first" football and cricket teams. His life vocation was medicine and he enrolled in the University of Adelaide as a medical student and graduated MB. BS. in 1927.

While studying medicine he continued with his sporting career but did not allow these additional duties to affect his student commitment and sport played a secondary role to his medical studies. Still he was chosen for the SA. Sheffield Shield Team as an all-rounder and the team won the Shield for the first time since 1912. He had the pleasure to dismiss Don Bradman. caught - bowled for 2 and dismiss Sir Jack Hobbs, a famous opener of the touring MCC for 101 before a crowd of 30000.

Surgery was his ambition and he travelled to Edinburgh in 1930 and became a Fellow of that College in 1932. He returned to Adelaide a year later to become a Medical Superintendent of the Adelaide Children's Hospital and later became a Fellow of the Royal Australian College of Surgeons. He is now regarded as the father of paediatric surgery. He knew every young patient by their name, did daily ward rounds and stayed in the foyer of the hospital every Friday to meet the patients' parents and answer their questions .

He developed new techniques for the surgery of infantile hernias and hydrocoeles, but his major contribution was in thoracic surgery. He was among the first Australians to perform a lung lobectomy for bronchiectasis and to operate on the heart to correct patent ductus arteriosus. Later together with Dr. I.e Messurier became noted for the repair of cleft palate. He was a popular teacher, explained his operative techniques and encouraged many prospective paediatric surgeons and specialists. He enjoyed discussing other topics not only in the hospital but also during meals at home.

Later he developed a successful private practice and became an Emeritus Surgeon to the Hospital and Life Governor of the ACH. He enjoyed visits to other Departments to see new techniques and clinical diagnostic innovations.

During the second World War (1943-1946) he spent time in New Guinea as Captain at the 2/8 Australian General Hospital and was involved in the management of war trauma and tropical diseases. Later he developed a successful private practice and became an Emeritus Surgeon to the Hospital. He maintained his association with the Hospital as Board Member and in 1978 a new ward in the Hospital was named after him.

Besides his achievements in sport and surgery. he also had a considerable interest in horse eventing. While this was primarily an interest of his wife and children he was most supportive. In 1950 he bought a pony called Banner from RM Williams. The horse was a champion pony hack at the Royal Show and won the one day event at Modbury. In 1959 his daughter Margaret, son Gordon and wife Vicky with Graeme Parkam from Gawler instigated the formation of the Gawler Three Day Event which was held there until 1996 and achieved international fame. Douglas McKay was the Medical Officer for the Event for 16 years. In 1997 the Gawler Three Day Event was moved to Adelaide and the name changed to International Horse Trials It is one of only three such high standard events held world wide and attracts international competitors.

His additional Community roles were the Life Membership of Adelaide Lady Gowrie Child Centre. Presidency of SA. Amateur Football League. Presidency of the SA. Neurosurgical Research Foundation and later Life Membership. Two additional commitments were with the SA. Committee of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Australia and the Commonwealth and SA Council of National Fitness. He is remembered by his colleagues in the medical profession and the numerous persons whose lives he affected.