Obituary: Dr Frank McGurk, Scottish radiographer specialising in cancer

Francis Myrle McGurk MB, ChB, BSc, FRCP, radiotherapist. Born: 26 January 1932 in Edinburgh. Died: 24 June 2021 in East Kilbride, aged 89

Frank McGurk touched the lives of generations of patients and staff

Dr Francis (Frank) Myrle McGurk, the only child of Thomas Francis McGurk and Ellen McGurk (nee McElroy) was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. He studied at St. Joseph’s College, Dumfries and then read Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, where he graduated in 1955.

Following a brief stint in neurology, Frank’s chosen field became radiotherapy, with a speciality in head and neck cancers. His dedication to his speciality saw him touch the lives of many patients and their families in ways that epitomised his character and beliefs.

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Based first at the then Leith Hospital, where he met his future wife, Josephine, and then at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh and subsequently at Belvidere Hospital and Beatson Oncology Centre, Glasgow, Frank’s work ethic was commendable. He would visit patients at weekends and at Christmas time and his dedication was limitless.

After retiring from his Glasgow post, Dr Frank McGurk went to help people in Canada

One of his outstanding skills was his ability to connect with all staff at the hospital, from executive to domestic staff. He knew their family history and treated them like friends.

Following his retirement from the National Health Service in 1997, he spent the next six years working in a regional hospital in Thunder Bay, Ontario, and in St. Johns Newfoundland.

A far cry from the more metropolitan hospitals of Scotland, these regional centres offered Frank the opportunity to combine his love of Canada with the ability to help and treat cancer sufferers who might otherwise have had to travel significant distances to receive treatment.

Frank lived his life in service of others. Both as a physician and in his community, his humility and caring nature were present until the end. Although an only child himself, Frank had ten children and provided for them in a compassionate and uncomplaining way, despite not always agreeing with their life choices.

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Outside of work, Frank devoted time to his family, his cricket club (Uddingston), his Scottish country dancing and his faith. A devout Catholic, he even made sure that he received blessings from three priests before he finally passed away.

His children tell of his commitment to his patients, with the need to destress of an evening, when he regularly marked exam papers for student radiographers.

They also tell of his commitment to them, ensuring that whether it was a son or a daughter, they were exposed to Sunday cricket in a local park. Stories on the Bothwell and Uddingston Facebook page attest to the impact he had on the community, with many relatives of patients commenting on his ability to care for their loved ones, even where there was no hope of cure.

Generations of children benefited from his involvement with Uddingston Cricket Club as coach, umpire, kit man, cheerleader and driver. He was often to be found driving hordes of junior cricketers to points all over the West of Scotland on a Friday evening.

Frank was remarkable for his humility, fairness, humanity and selfless nature. When his wife of 53 years, Josephine, became ill with vascular dementia he cared for her as best he could, despite his own Parkinson’s disease.

The result was sometimes comical but an expression of his love for his wife and family.

Frank died after a short illness as he had lived: with humility, dignity, peacefully and quietly, surrounded by his adoring children. He is survived by his children – Andrew, Dom, Gordon, Catriona, Fia, Christy, Simon, Ken, Seon and Julia and 23 grandchildren.

The impact that any person has on this world can only be measured by those whose lives have been altered by them. The plethora of comments regarding Frank’s manner as a humanitarian, a gentleman, a friend and colleague bear testament to the way in which he positively affected the lives of many.

Vale Frank McGurk, the world is a poorer place without you.

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