McColl Doctors 1926

The Remarkable Story of Two Hanmer Doctors


The McColl Window in Hanmer Church

With the closure of Tallarn Green Church several treasures now have no home. The Bible given by grateful Tallarn Green patients of the McColl doctors of Hanmer has been moved to St Chad’s Church and placed near to the McColl window. I have assembled as much information as I can for inclusion in an interpretation page. The following is part of that.

I would be grateful for additions and corrections. For 41 years from 1926 till 1967 Hanmer had medical care from the McColl family. Dr Robert McColl came to the Cumbers House Hanmer in 1926. He took over from Dr Clark who had been there for many years. Dr Clark visited his patients in a horse and buggy. Dr Robert brought new ideas such as connecting the surgery to the pipeline of water from Lake Vyrnwy to Liverpool, which was being laid across Sandy Lane.

Dr Robert McColl was born in Scotland in 1896 and trained at Glasgow University. His father was a Minister of the Church in Paisley just outside Glasgow. There was only enough money for the Hugh, the older brother, to go to university, so Robert went into a shipping office as a clerk until he joined up in 1914. The war took him to France in 1914, Gallipoli in 1915 and back to the Somme in 1917 and 1918. He won the Military Cross at the Somme in 1917. After the war Robert qualified as a doctor when the government paid for soldiers to go to university.

Dr Robert McColl’s wife was born Julie Anthony Vérel in 1894 and lived in the Newtown area of Glasgow. She was the granddaughter of a French businessman and shared cousins by marriage with Dr Robert. With his wife Julie and children Anthony and Colin Dr Robert was a well-respected member of the village and involved fully in village life. Mrs Julie McColl worked hard as a founding member of the Hanmer Tennis Club and was tireless in fund raising to provide the new tennis courts. Their son Anthony became a leading musician at Covent Garden. Their younger son was later known as Sir Colin McColl and became chief of the Secret Intelligence Service (M16).

Dr Hugh McColl trained in Edinburgh as both a surgeon and physician. When he qualified as a doctor he joined the army medical corps and served both in France and Salonica.. By a truly remarkable chance the two brothers met on the Front in France during the First World War, having not seen each other for two years. Between the two World Wars Dr Hugh had a surgery in Helensborough on the Clyde. During the Second World War he was asked to take a full-time surgeon’s job in Oban in Argyllshire and took this on while keeping his family in Helensborough.

After World War II, Dr Hugh McColl joined his younger brother Dr Robert McColl in the Hanmer medical practice. With his wife Kathleen Dr Hugh McColl settled at Willington Lodge, where on Tuesday and Saturdays he held a surgery. During the rest of the week he worked with his brother at the Cumbers surgery. With their two daughters Ann and Flora they became very well known and respected members of the community.

Dr Hugh McColl was the older brother by three years, having been born in Scotland in 1893, and died in hospital on the 15th June 1964. Dr Robert died suddenly in 1967 whilst still working in the Hanmer medical practice. Shortly before that Dr David McCarter had joined the medical practice, which he eventually moved to his new home and surgery nearby in Sandy Lane Hanmer. Dr Redman took over the practice in 2009 and continues the provision of medical services to the community.

Honour Physician

Detail of McColl Window in Hanmer Church

The two brothers are buried with their wives just down the West side of the path that leads down from the South door of St Chad’s Church Hanmer. The grateful patients of these two remarkable brothers erected a memorial window in St Chad’s Church Hanmer in their memory. The window depicts St Luke the physician kneeling before the risen Jesus. Above St Luke is his winged bull emblem. Symbols of the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Surgeons Edinburgh also appear. The quotation ‘Honour the physician with the honour due unto him’ is from Ecclesiasticus chapter 38 verse 1.

Entered 30th November 2014 by Bill