Obituary: James Hay, surgeon

James Hugh Hay, surgeon. Born: Ayr, 7 August, 1940. Died: Glasgow, 10 January, 2017, aged 76

Jim Hay, who has died, aged 76 following a lengthy and brave battle against the rare degenerative disease Corticobasel Degeneration, was an Honest Man of Ayr who excelled in three fields – he was a marvellous stand-off half on the rugby field, a low-handicap golfer, but, most-importantly, he was one of the leading orthopaedic surgeons in Scotland.

Jim was born and raised in Ayr, the eldest of three children born to the Ayr Burgh Water Superintendent and his wife.

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He shone at Ayr Academy, where he was Head Boy and captain of the legendary unbeaten Ayr Academy rugby XV of 1958. Going through an entire season unbeaten was special, but, what made that XV stand out was the fac that three of the players would become international team captains in three different sports.

Mike Denness went on to play cricket for Kent, and captain England; Ian McLauchlan captained the Scotland rugby XV on a record number of occasions, while Ian Ure, during a football career with Dundee, Arsenal and Manchester United, captained the Scotland football team on the first match of their round the world tour in 1967, but sustained a broken jaw in that game,against Israel.

Jim McSherry’s ‘Wee Windaes’ pub in Ayr is very-much a footballing pub, but, in pride of place on the wall, alongside pictures of Denis Law and other footballing icons, there is a picture of that Ayr Academy XV, with Jim Hay at the heart of it.

The demands of his career as a doctor meant Jim couldn’t devote as much time to rugby and Ayr Rugby Club as he wished. He was a member of the first Ayr VII to win the club’s annual Sevens tournament, in 1964.

Ayr would not win again for more than 20 years, by which time son Andy was in the victorious home team.

Mainly a social player, Jim was a stalwart of the legendary Ayr A2 XV, which never played better than when Jim and his brother-in-law, the late Bill Mowat, were in-harness and making magic at half-back.

Surgery was Jim’s chosen field of medicine. This took him away from Ayr to Glasgow. After qualifying out of Glasgow University, he worked at the Royal, the Western and the Victoria Infirmaries, but, the majority of his career was spent in Paisley, initially at the Royal Alexandria Infirmary, then, when it opened, its successor, the Royal Alexandria Hospital. He also spent 25 years as a Police Surgeon. He was a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of both Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Several very good rugby players, such as Ayr and Scotland B full-back John Brown would be grateful for Jim’s surgical skills, as he performed career-saving, and at times innovative, surgery.

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He was also one of the first surgeons to practice keyhole surgery, thereby greatly reducing recovery times in patients.

Away from the theatre, Jim’s passions were rugby, golf – he was a member at Haggs Castle and Royal Troon and reading; he was a keen student of the First World War.

But, away from work, he was primarily a family man. He and Marjory, who had been in the year below him at Ayr Academy, had four sons: Kenneth, Andrew, Alasdair and Graeme, all of whom inherited his love of rugby and golf. #

He was a regular attender on the touchlines when they played, Kenneth for GHK and Watsonians, Andy for GHK and Ayr and Graeme for Watsonians, while Alasdair, initially coached, caddied for and advised on the golf course by his Dad has forged a career as a professional golfer.

Jim’s professional services were called on by athletes across a wide range of sporting disciplines – he even advised Scottish Ballet on the physical health of their dancers.

He was team doctor for the Glasgow District XV before, in 1991, he was appointed Scotland Team Doctor for a North American Tour, on which his number two was then physiotherapist Dr James Robson.

Jim also acted as Scotland team doctor during Five Nations campaigns – the players nicknamed him Medic One – and on the Tour to the South Pacific in 1993.

His smiling demeanour and professional diligence made him a very popular member of the Scotland party.

He was a life member of both Ayr and Cartha Queen’s Park rugby clubs.

His popularity was expected to be evident at his funeral at his local Sherbrooke St Gilbert’s Church today.


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