Obituary: Dr Mora Scott MBE, GP and former Deputy Lieutenant of Moray who served community, charity and church
Born: 9 October, 1917, in Croydon. Died: 29 February, 2012, in Elgin, aged 94
In 1978 in Edinburgh’s Usher Hall at a meeting of the Royal Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (RSSPCC – now known as Children 1st) a small woman stood up to speak. “What are we going to do about the sexual abuse of children?” she asked. There was a stunned silence. The concept was as unthinkable as it was embarrassing to the minds of most well-intentioned people 30 years ago.
But Dr Mora Scott (née Craig) had been working as a general practitioner for nearly 40 years. She knew. And as a delegate from the north-east of Scotland, she had an opportunity to add a new and challenging area of research and protection to the RSSPCC’s work. Since then, one case of abuse after another has been brought out into the open.
Mora Craig was born during the First World War in October 1917. She had a happy early childhood in Croydon with her sister and two brothers, who spent holidays at the family seaside villa called Domorinec, a quaint fusion of the children’s names.
Her childhood ambition was to be a medical missionary, a future which would have combined the two driving forces of her life, her desire to help people and her Christian faith. At primary school she was already impressing people with her intelligence and energy. A former school friend would quote one of her teachers who remembered her as “that busy little person!”
Her father, a Scottish banker, was then sent to work in Arbroath, taking his family from greater London to what seemed like the remote coast of north-east Scotland. It was there that tragedy befell her at the age of 13 when her father died of appendicitis. Her mother decided to move to Aberdeen for the sake of the children’s education.
Mora would always remember her school days at Albyn School with affection. It was there that she won a bursary to study medicine at Aberdeen University, which she entered before her 18th birthday. A young lady’s education hadn’t prepared her for learning biology, physics and chemistry in two and half years, but her mathematical mind and retentive memory more than made up for lost ground.
By the third and fourth years of her course she was beginning to distinguish herself and, in her final year, she won prizes for surgery and psychiatry. She qualified in 1940.
Meanwhile, Britain was again at war. Many doctors had joined the Royal Army Medical Corps, leaving only a few to look after patients at home. Gordon Scott was working as a doctor and surgeon in Elgin and looking after five practices. He appealed to the Professor of Medicine at Aberdeen University for an assistant. Although reluctant to work with a woman, he was heartened by Prof Mitchell’s assurances that he would send him “one of his specials”.
She arrived, equipped with a small car and an appetite for hard work. Within a short time, she would be caring for a crew of airmen who had crash-landed at RAF Lossiemouth after flying missions over Norway. Gordon Scott and his young anaesthetist would work to save their lives for 18 hours without stopping.
They were married in August 1942. They spent their honeymoon at Scourie on the west coast where Mora was introduced to another of her lifelong passions: fishing. Through good times and 40 long years of widowhood, she found solace beside the River Spey, spellbound by the river and the surrounding countryside and engrossed by the techniques for catching one of the ever-diminishing stock of salmon.
She achieved her ambition to catch one when she was 90, and last summer she landed a sea trout from the River Shiel, just before her 94th birthday.
In 1948, the new National Health Service demanded that her husband’s work should be restricted to surgery. In spite of criticism, especially from the doting women patients who adored him, Mora organised help to run her house and look after her family while she continued to practise on her own. She always strove for the highest professional standards and her active mind insisted on keeping up to date with the latest developments in medicine.
She gave herself to everyone who sought her advice, at any time of the day or night. She delivered babies in isolated caravans, walked across fields on moonless nights and strove to keep families at risk together whenever possible. One night she was called out six times. No-one was beneath her attention.
Several evenings each week were spent with the Soroptimists, the church committee and working for her charities. She also sponsored one of the children at the Aberlour Orphanage, remembering her birthday and taking an interest in her when she had grown up.
When Mora retired from practice in 1982, she was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of Moray. She increased her work for Children 1st and encouraged adults who had been abused as children to help others recover from the trauma of their experiences.
Her zest for fund-raising was irrepressible. When her rheumatologist son David was trying to find money for a hospital, a patient showed him a press photograph of a small woman who had climbed into a Lancaster Bomber to make an appeal for charity. He instantly recognised his mother.
In 2002, she was awarded an MBE and, two years later, was voted the winner of the Beacon Award for charity in Scotland.
There was another side to her personality which touched all who were invited into her home. She loved parties. Her cooking and entertaining were legendary and her interest in the theatre and local events drove her to attend concerts and shows even when, towards the end, she had to be pushed in a wheelchair.
She was taken to her last birthday party in a helicopter, which flew over the Spey where three of the ghillies who had helped her land salmon waved to her. She spent her last Christmas in Belgium and insisted on going to the opera on Hogmanay. She hadn’t forgotten there would be a free glass of champagne in the interval.
Even the day she died was exceptional: 29 February, 2012. She is survived by her three children, a son and two daughters, nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.