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Commemorative Plaques Record Details

James McGrigor (1771 - 1858)

Picture of the Palque

Location : Grammar School, Esslemont Avenue side

Area : Central Aberdeen

Plaque Type : Yellow

About James McGrigor : Founder of the British Army Medical Corps. Born in 1771 in Cromdale, Inverness-shire. Educated at Aberdeen Grammar School and Marischal College, where he studied medicine. He purchased an appointment in the army and served as an army surgeon in the West Indies, Bombay and Ceylon. In 1809 he was appointed Inspector General of Military Hospitals and in 1810 married Mary Grant. In 1811 became Chief of Medical Staff of the Peninsular Army under the Duke of Wellington. He developed a system of evacuation of military personnel from the front lines. Later knighted and appointed Director General of Army Medical Services, he was also responsible for the creation of chairs of Military Medicine at the Universities of Dublin and Edinburgh. He died in 1858.

More Information : Born on 9 April 1771, his father was Colquhoun McGrigor, an Aberdeen based merchant, and his mother was Anna. Having attended Aberdeen Grammar School he studied at Marischal College, from where he graduated MA in 1788. After this he studied medicine at Aberdeen and Edinburgh. He wanted to become an army surgeon; after the outbreak of war with France in 1793 he purchased the post of surgeon to De Burgh's regiment. He served with this regiment in both Flanders and Bremen. In 1795 the regiment (by then known as the 88th or Connaught Rangers), his transport mistook a sailing signal and set off alone, arriving substantially in advance of the other troops. By this time the transport was feared wrecked. He was then posted to suppress the revolt of Grenada, but was shipwrecked along the way. The majority of the 88th were shattered and dispersed as they sailed to the West Indies: of the expeditionary force only two companies reached the West Indies. In May 1799 the 88th were posted to Bombay and then to Ceylon. In 1801 he was appointed superintending surgeon of a force of 8000 European and Indian troops sent to join the army in Egypt, where he dealt with a serious outbreak of plague. On return to Britain he was transferred to the Royal Horse Guards (Blues). He completed an MD at Marischal on 20 February 1804. On 27 June 1805 was made one of the deputy inspectors-general of hospitals (these were newly created posts), and placed in charge of the northern district. The Duke of York noticed his talents at this time and had him transferred to the south-western district. McGrigor's reputation rose and he was appointed as Principal Medical Officer of the Portuguese Army. Before taking up his post he was ordered to Walcheren, where 3000 soldiers were ill. McGrigor sailed on the HMS Venerable, which was wrecked at the mouth of the Scheldt, his second experience of shipwrecks. On his return he was promoted inspector-general of hospitals on 25 August 1809 and on 23 June 1810 married Mary, youngest daughter of Duncan Grant of Lingeistone, Moray. Together they had three sons and one daughter. On 13 June 1811 he became chief of the medical staff of the Peninsular Army under the command of the Duke of Wellington. It was during this period that he developed the system of evacuation of wounded and ill military personnel from the front lines. This system was known as the Guthrie cart, from George James Guthrie, but it was McGrigor who instituted the chain of evacuation, with stages on the way back. These were field hospitals for the less severely wounded and general hospitals for those in need of longer or more serious treatment and care. On 13 June 1815 he was appointed director-general of the army medical department. His later career was marked by a number of important reforms. First he inaugurated a system of medical reports from all military stations, which evolved into the Statistical Returns of the Health of the Army and into the current blue book system. Secondly he organised assistance to widows and dependants. Thirdly he was responsible for the development of chairs of military medicine in Dublin and Edinburgh and also enhanced the system of selection. He died aged 87 at his home at 3 Harley Street, London on 2 April 1858.