Alumni Services

James Taylor

James Taylor was first in his family to go to university and his medical career has taken him from the Congo, where he had to be evacuated from, back to Edinburgh and finally to Western Australia where he has settled in retirement.

Name James Taylor
Degree Course MBChB, PhD
Year of Graduation 1955, 1974
James Taylor

Your time at the University

I was the first in my family to go to university and it was a life changing experience. I was offered a place in all four Scots medical schools but chose Edinburgh because of its historic reputation in medicine. After travelling in by train in first year I moved to live with a widowed aunt in Links Street, Musselburgh and cycled to university through Duddingston and Holyrood Park every day.

I soon made friends with students from Edinburgh fee-paying schools, English public schools and local state schools and met students from other faculties at weekly Christian union meetings and at vacation conferences. Older student colleagues had served in the forces, some during the 2nd world war.

The student Union (Mens Union at that time) was also a great place to chat with fellow students over a frugal lunch. I needed to find paid employment in the vacations and worked regularly in the Post Office or as a railway porter. In the clinical years I worked as a student in the outpatients' department of Falkirk Royal Infirmary, learning to stitch up wounds and put plasters on fractured wrists and forearms.

I had been a patient with a mastoid abscess in this hospital in 1944 and this was where I later met my future wife, a Glasgow clinical biochemist. Back in Edinburgh, the old trams were still running and on rainy days I caught the Levenhall tram at the hay weights and it took me to the old GPO. I ran up the bridges from there to Teviot Place for my nine o'clock lectures. I even learned to shut out noise and study on the tram.

In the old Royal Infirmary we had excellent clinical teachers; my favourite was Sir Derrick Dunlop who inspired us as much by the gentle way he dealt with patients as by his lectures. Many of our classes were in outlying hospitals like the Western General or Princess Margaret Rose. On the way to Fairmilehead I always enjoyed the view of the Pentlands looking up Morningside Rd.

For me Edinburgh was always a special unique city and I came to feel I belonged there. We students even took over Princes Street on charities day and I enjoyed watching a Scots Nat student "blowing up" a fake post box wrongly inscribed EIIR. I abandoned soccer in favour of rugby on Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings and had the great privilege of playing outside the Scots international fly half Norman Davidson and my friend Peter Paterson Browne in the inter ward ten a side tournament which we won. Sir Derrick took our team to a high class restaurant in George St to celebrate.

Tell us about your Experiences since leaving the University

I retired aged 70 after three different medical careers. The first was service for 6 years as a medical missionary in what was then the Belgian Congo after studying tropical medicine at a French speaking university in Antwerp. I taught Congolese medical assistants in a 120 bed hospital at Yakusu near Stanleyville and worked as a GP surgeon. I had to be rescued by Mike Hoare and his mercenaries with my wife and four children on November 26th 1964 when the Simba rebels began killing missionaries and colonists in nearly Kisangani.

I could never have enjoyed such a varied and challenging 45 years as a doctor without the thorough medical education received in Edinburgh from 1949 to 55.

James Taylor

We were evacuated on the back of a truck which fired a machine gun along the way, then in a helicopter and flew out from an airport occupied by Belgian paratroopers to Europe to be interviewed as unwilling celebrities. After spending Christmas in a rented house in Mayfield Road our son went to Sciennes school where his teacher asked him to write about what he did in the holidays. She then wrote to us complaining that our son was disturbed by watching too much violence on television.

My second medical career was teaching medical students - for ten years in Teviot Place and then, after completing my PhD, for 18 years in Perth, Western Australia. I had done wide ranging research on spinal development and deformities, spinal age changes and spinal injuries and I was invited to join a team in a pain clinic in Perth treating patents with chronic spinal pain. So for my last eight working years I was a pain specialist while continuing my research and part time teaching.

Now that I am elderly (83) when I go to see a doctor there is more than a fifty fifty chance that he or she will be a former student of mine. I could never have enjoyed such a varied and challenging 45 years as a doctor without the thorough medical education received in Edinburgh from 1949 to 55.

Alumni wisdom

Enjoy the challenges and privileges of university study, sharing with fellow students in a unique beautiful city. Live a balanced life of study, sport and social activities giving study a high priority; your education is not confined to the classroom. It will stand you in good stead through all life experiences.