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Cheating Death

Scotland and Medicine

THERE IS AN old Scots saying that could not be more apt and to the point: “There’s nae remeid for stark deid” - the only thing there is not a cure for is death itself! Yet such was the repute of healers in Scottish society that in the ancient Galoshan mystery plays performed over hundreds of years and revived in a performance by friends of mine at Traquair House in the early 1980s, the Guid Doctor actually has the power to cheat death….

Alexander Fleming
Sir James Black

A perfectly trephined Bronze Age skull that was found on the Isle of Bute, proving that our first brain surgeon was from Rothesay and was practicing in the year 2000BC!

Aince I wes deid, sir, noo I am alive; Blessed be the doctor that made me revive.

Exaggeration, perhaps. But, growing up in Ayrshire’s Irvine Valley and aware of the local man Alexander Fleming’s work with penicillin, it was only when I travelled in Spain and saw the heroic status he enjoyed there that I came to realise how much the twin Scottish traditions of medicine and science has touched people profoundly beyond Scotland. The same could be said about another of the 20th centuries iconic advances - the invention of betablockers by Sir James Black, former Chancellor of Dundee University, whom I had the pleasure of meeting. For in my radio series Cheating Death several years ago I celebrated Scottish medical history from sacred waters and clootie wells in ancient times to the rise of Edinburgh as the medical metropolis of the world through to the great advances of the 20th century like beta blockers and ultrasound. It is a history we can all take pride in, especially those who continue the tradition as doctors, surgeons, scientists, nurses, therapists and carers.

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About iScot Magazine

The one with the 'Sneering Brittannia' on the front cover. Enjoy this cornucopia of Celtic content and read about the real Scotland from a Scottish lens.