Obituary: Mary Barlee, 86

Dr Mary Barlee
Dr Mary Barlee
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A FORMER doctor who was awarded an MBE for her charity work with the disabled has died at the age of 86.

Mary Barlee, nee McLean, was born on December 1, 1926 in Haddington, East Lothian, the daughter of Edith and Dr William McLean, who was awarded the Military Cross for his heroism during the First World War.

The Second World War broke out during her teenage years and she and her twin brother, Ian, were evacuated to Dunoon to stay with an aunt and uncle. On her return to her parents’ house, she enrolled in Knox Academy and was made school Dux in 1944.

Though she harboured ambitions to become a nurse, her father convinced her to become a doctor instead and she went on to study medicine at Edinburgh University, graduating in 1949 alongside her elder brother, James, whose studies had been interrupted by war service in the RAF. Her first job was at Inverness Royal Infirmary, where she served as a houseman in gynaecology and then medicine. Mary then returned to Edinburgh to work in obstetrics at Simpson’s maternity hospital, before becoming registrar in obstetrics at Stirling Royal Infirmary.

Following the death of her father she decided to train as a GP to help out at his Haddington Practice, and returned home in 1954 after training in Newtongrange. During this time she revolutionised the practice, introducing an index system card for patients where previously the doctors were expected to rely on their own memories.

However, in 1957 she decided to return to university to gain a diploma in public health, which led to her becoming a registrar in infectious diseases at Edinburgh City Hospital. It was during her time there that she met her husband, George Barlee. After they became engaged, she gave up her career in medicine and moved to Dunfermline to work in the department of public health.

The couple moved back to the Capital following their marriage in 1961. After the birth of their son and daughter, Mary became involved with the Mothers’ Union and the Brownies, where she served as Badge Secretary for Edinburgh.

In 1974, she began a long-standing association with the Drum Riding for the Disabled Association centre in Gilmerton. She was soon involved in fundraising and became a trustee in 1979. Two years later she went one step further and was appointed organiser of the charity itself.

In 1999, she received a long service award to celebrate her 25 years with the organisation.

Prince Charles presented Mary with an MBE in 2002 and she remained a trustee of the Drum centre until her retirement in 2005.

Mary passed away on February 17. She is survived by husband George, son Roger, daughter Rosemary and grandchildren Kenneth, Rachael and Andrew.