Principal Medical Officer Falkland Islands Government was born in Dundee on 28 August 1897. He was the eldest son of Alexander Moir (c.1870-1936) and Elizabeth Monro Guthrie. Alexander Moir, who was born in Dufftown (and all his ancestors came from Aberdeenshire), spent four years as a teacher in Dundee after his graduation.
Alexander Moir was employed in 1899 by the Falkland Islands Company as chief schoolmaster and book-keeper at Darwin. He served at Darwin for twenty-eight years.
During his long residence there [Darwin] he took a leading part in the educational work in the islands, where he was examiner to the state-aided schools.
The Moir family, including their infant son John, arrived in the Falklands in July 1899. Three more sons were born at Darwin – Alexander Jnr. (born October 1899); Hamish (born August 1902) and Charles Nicholas (born June 1910). Alexander Moir was a classic graduate from Aberdeen University and among the many subjects he taught at Darwin school was Latin. Alexander retired in 1927, and he and his wife returned to the UK to live in Aberdeen, where he was much in demand as a teacher and lecturer. Fulsome tributes were paid on his retirement. The FI Magazine and Church Paper in January 1928 reported:
The departure of the Moir family is a great loss, not only to the Falkland Islands Company, but to the community in general.His work as schoolmaster in Darwin is reflected in many of the present younger generation and it is no exaggeration to say that many of the pupils that have benefited from his tuition would astonish educational authorities in the UK … his courtesy and helpfulness shown to all in Lafonia and the neighbouring farms … During the 29 years he spent in the Colony his advice was always sound … He was a man of great character and charm of manner.
Alexander Moir died on 31 March 1936.
John Moir returned to Aberdeen to attend Robert Gordon’s College and Marischal College at Aberdeen University in 1914, when he was Captain of Scouts. He won a bronze medal in rifle shooting from the National Rifle Association. John joined the Officers Training Corps (OTC) and in 1916 joined the Royal Navy and served as a surgeon probationer (with the rank of Surgeon Sub-Lieutenant) in the minesweeper HMS Myrtle. Later, during World War I, he served with the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC). On cessation of hostilities, he obtained his medical degree in1921 at Aberdeen, and began work at Aberdeen Sick Children’s Hospital.
In 1923 John Moir was appointed by the Falkland Islands Company as the medical officer at Darwin. He arrived in the Falklands, with his wife Margery (ńee Fraser; 1895-1984) from Liverpool onboard RMS Ortega on 10 May 1923. Marjory was a trained primary school teacher and she and John met while studying at Aberdeen University. During their time at Darwin two daughters were born - Marjory Elizabeth Fraser in 1924 and Eiona Innes in 1927. (Eiona Moir also became a doctor). The Moir family lived in the so-called ‘new Doctor’s House’ – which was built about ten years before John Moir began work as the doctor in the settlement; the house is still standing today.
During his service at Darwin, he was reported to have ‘during this appointment performed many remarkable feats of surgery. He was noted for his horsemanship and endurance of hardship’.
John Moir and his family departed the Falklands on 26 November 1928 onboard Fleurus. Moir had to return to England for a bone graft operation to repair a badly broken leg, which was the result of being kicked by a horse. A letter in The FI Magazine and Church Paper January 1928 paid tribute to Dr. John Moir:
It seems hardly necessary to refer to the Doctor’s activities in the Camps. The help and sympathy which he gave to various Stations and shepherd’s houses will long be remembered. Climatic conditions – snow, ice or rain – never kept him back if his services were called upon. He will be hard to replace.
John Moir was appointed to the Colonial Service in 1928 and returned to the Falklands in1929 on his appointment as the Colonial Surgeon and principal medical officer (PMO) to the Falkland Islands Government.John, Marjory and their two children arrived from the UK onboard RMS Orduna on 4 February 1929.The Senior Medical Officer’s annual salary was £800 plus £200 allowance in lieu of private practice. The family lived in a government house directly opposite the 1914 Battle Monument.
Moir began a renewal programme of the facilities of the King Edward Memorial Hospital (KEMH). A new X-Ray machine was selected by Moir from a range of equipment he had seen in the UK and the machine was soon installed in Stanley.
He was a skilled surgeon, and on at least two occasions he operated on patients, in their homes in Camp, on the kitchen table.
Moir conducted the post-mortem examination of the much-respected captain of the Fleurus – Lauritz CARLSEN, who died suddenly while walking to Sulivan House, for lunch with the Acting Governor, on 10 April 1931.
A good example of the thoroughness with which Moir carried out his responsibilities as Principal Medical Officer can be seen when he became concerned that Falkland Islanders undergoing surgery appeared to suffer excessive blood-loss after operations. He reported his concerns in his annual medical report for the year ending 1933. From Moir’s report:
A factor of importance, consideration of which prior to every operation cannot be neglected, is the general tendency to bleeding … and generally at operation, bleeding has become increasingly difficult to control,
This cautious assessment had the unfortunate, and wholly unintended, consequence of arousing the harmful popular opinion that there was a major medical condition which was widespread in the general populace.
When William STILL, the colony’s dentist, arrived in the Falklands in 1937, he began a careful study of all dental and medical records and he was able to show that this was a harmful myth, and that there were not many haemophiliacs in the Islands, and, in general, patients in the hospital theatre showed no evidence of excessive bleeding.
In addition to his medical duties Moir was made a member of the Executive and Legislative Councils. He was commissioned in the Defence Force, initially with the rank of captain, but later promoted to major, when he was made commanding officer. He was also the Commissioner of Boy Scouts and a Justice of the Peace. On 3 July 1933 Moir was appointed aide-de-camp to the Governor. During the 1933 Centenary celebrations Moir took full part in many of the activities, including the golf tournament and in the full-bore rifle competition. In company with other members of the Legislative Council he accompanied Governor O’GRADY when he embarked in Lafonia on a visit to Port Louis and the grave of Matthew BRISBANE.
In November 1934 Moir was transferred to British Honduras, where he took up duties of senior medical officer in January 1935. His wife and two children had previously left the Falklands in the mail ship Reina del Pacificio on 13 February 1934.
Moir was elected president of the local Honduran branch of the British Medical Association. He reorganized the hospital in Belize, which had been devastated by a hurricane in 1931. (The 1931 British Honduras hurricane was the deadliest hurricane in the history of British Honduras, killing an estimated 2,500 people). Moir brought the medical department up to full strength, introduced modern equipment, and ‘altogether did much that was useful, lasting, and efficient.
On 25 March 1935 Moir was appointed to the Executive and Legislative Councils of British Honduras and was ‘a valuable and a much-esteemed servant of the Colonial Government’.
On 24 September 1936 Moir contracted tetanus and malaria. He died four days later.
An obituary in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) commented:
His funeral, which was fully ceremonial, was attended by thousands of people of all classes, who mourned a great man and a true and loyal friend. Moir’s coffin was borne on a gun carriage drawn by the local militia, with the Governor [Sir Alan Burns] walking behind the coffin. He was buried in Belize.
Marjory Moir returned to the UK and settled in the home of her parents in Inverness. She ran a highly successful wool, sowing and knitting shop in the city and became a highly regarded town councillor. She died in 1984.
May 2023 Biography first added to Dictionary