Obituary: Dr Alexander ‘Donald’ Westwater, doctor and surgeon

Dr Alexander 'Donald' Westwater. Picture: Contributed
Dr Alexander 'Donald' Westwater. Picture: Contributed
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Born: 5 July, 1921, in Edinburgh. Died: 19 May, 2015, in Edinburgh, aged 93

Better known as Donald, he was a true example of a polymath. He was brought up in Inverleith Gardens, north Edinburgh, by his mother Agnes, sister Louise and father Lindsay, a thrice wounded veteran of the Royal Scots, and grandson of Alexander, the foremost medical missionary working in China.

Educated at the Edinburgh Academy, he had a keen interest in fishing and shooting instilled by his father and many days on the river banks of Perthshire in his youth. At the academy he was a member of the school shooting VIII and shot at Bisley in the Ashburton shield.

On leaving, he studied for a combined dental and medical degree at Edinburgh University Dental School, pausing to volunteer for the RAF in 1942 when he travelled on the Queen Mary, at that time a troop ship, to Canada, where he was based in Edmonton and trained on Harvards, gaining his wings later as flight sergeant on Wellington Bombers.

After returning to the UK he was stationed around Avebury, Wiltshire flying mainly on patrol, however, due to a shoulder injury, he was taken off duty and eventually allowed to return to Edinburgh and finish his dental and medical degree as the war ended.

As a doctor and dental surgeon, LRCP&S Ed, HDD, FDS, FRCS Ed, he started working at his father’s dental practice in Walker Street and once established, set up his own practice in 1 Manor Place in the West End and practiced there until his retirement, aged 75.

In 1950 Donald married Doreen Stark, also a dental surgeon, whom he had met at the dental school. Peter, his first son, was born in 1955 and a second, also called Donald, in 1959, after which they moved to a new family home, Greystones, in Trinity.

Donald was a keen salmon and trout fisher, spending many hours on the lochs and rivers of Scotland. He was also a target pistol shot, a founder member of the Musselburgh pistol club and the Scottish Pistol Association in 1964.

He won many Commonwealth and European pistol shooting medals, representing Scotland at the XI Commonwealth Games in Edmonton, 1978. His son Donald gained his first cap for Scotland shooting target rifle in 1985, so becoming the first father and son combination to shoot internationally for Scotland, albeit in different disciplines.

A similar position occurred when his other son Peter was given his first cap for Scotland as an international fly fisher in 1988, the year his father, Donald, captained the team – again the first father and son combination in this sport for Scotland.

Donald was a long term member of the Leith Fly Fishing Association and represented Scotland at Commonwealth and World fly fishing championships, fishing in the Home Countries International a total of 13 times and receiving amongst the highest number of Scotland caps ever awarded.

He was always up for beating the “auld enemy” which they did on at least three occasions, twice on Lough Conn and once on Loch Harray.

Recent comments from previous colleagues in both sports confirmed he was a true gentleman and always keen to help new members of either sport, giving them all the help and advice required.

A prolific artist and sculptor, he spent many hours creating landscapes mainly of the North West and Border regions of Scotland; but wherever he travelled he would be armed with sketch book, pencils, paints and brushes. Very often, when the fish were not showing, he would lay down his fly rod and start to sketch, following up with an oil or watercolour once he returned home.

Donald was always interested in gardening and created a wonderful landscape at Greystones and later at his home in Marchmont, housing many frogs in his pond which he adored. He was particularly pleased when he gained a daughter-in-law, Anna, who was qualified in horticulture, which resulted in them spending many hours walking together around the Royal Botanics in Inverleith and gardens in the south of England.

Donald was extremely fit and had plenty of stamina for hill walking in the Highlands. On his 80th birthday he climbed two Munros with his son Peter and his other daughter-in-law, Betty, and granddaughter Jennifer.

When he was into his 90s he could be seen regularly walking around the streets of Marchmont, climbing Blackford Hill, or in the Queens Park keeping up his fitness.

After retirement at the age of 75 he took the opportunity to travel and went as far afield as the USA, the Antarctic, Mexico, the Middle East and the Himalayas where he trekked in Nepal.

This allowed him to follow yet another of his interests, that of photography. His artistic eye helped him to produce many stunning photographs of beautiful scenery from around the world.

Donald had a great love of children and many of his patients were young so he developed a very gentle and patient way of managing their treatment while trying to alleviate the pain resulting from caries and the general lack of fluoride, particularly in the 1960s and 70s.

Once he started having grandchildren he would travel many miles to see them every weekend and for holidays both in Scotland and England where his own son Donald had settled.

The artistic streak did not stop at painting, sculpture or photography; he also wrote three books for his sons and grandchildren, never published, as they included one or two Disney characters so that his children would recognise familiar people in the story.

These books were laboriously hand-written, one in calligraphy and beautifully illustrated throughout with watercolours.

During his last few months he was blessed with a great-grandson and even with severe dementia he was able to recognise him, delighting in his arrival.

Latterly Donald resided at Lorimer House nursing home, where he relaxed and was able to joke with the wonderfully caring staff on a daily basis. After a short illness Donald passed away peacefully on 19 May.

Donald is survived by his two sons Peter and Donald, his grandchildren Laura, Jennifer and Alexander and great grandson Jameson.