Dr John Macwhirter – A Man of Letters

Why was Dr Macwhirter so opposed to his eldest daughter marrying a sea captain?

Why did the doctor describe the reason for his forthcoming journey to Australia as being “hen-pecked”? 

From knowing almost nothing about the Macwhirter family and with decades of research behind them, the authors have decided that the time is right to publish their findings on the extraordinary life of Dr John Macwhirter (1780–1853) and his descendants.

Very few holidays were taken without a cemetery to visit, a house to view, an archive to explore and items to wonder at in museums. Laurette and Philip Macwhirter visited the house once owned by the Macwhirter family in Edinburgh, travelled to the foothills of the Himalayas and scraped 150 years of moss and lichen from European graves, and climbed a church steeple in Calcutta to find 200 year old records. They spent one Christmas holiday trawling newspapers in Indian libraries while the electric lights intermittently went out.

These discoveries were in the pursuit of the lives and times of the Macwhirter family in India, Scotland and Australia. What they found was a young man from humble beginnings in Scotland, going out to India at the age of twenty-three as a ship’s surgeon, participating in a government mission to Afghanistan in 1808, becoming personal physician to governors-general in Calcutta, and eventually holding the position of President of the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh.

This book details the life of Dr John Macwhirter and his descendants. That’s not to say the journey is complete – a family history is an ongoing process and the authors are ever hopeful that they may yet solve the few missing links.