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Biographical entry McGavin, Sir Donald Johnstone (1876 - 1960)

Kt 1921; CMG 1919; DSO 1917; MRCS 2 November 1899; FRCS 8 December 1904; LRCP 1899; MB London 1900; MD 1901; FRACS foundation 1927.

19 August 1876
8 May 1960
Wellington, New Zealand
General surgeon


Born on 19 August 1876 in Birmingham, son of John McGavin, he was educated at King Edward's High School and the University of Birmingham. He trained at the London Hospital, winning a gold medal and university scholarship. During the South African war he served as a civilian surgeon with the army, immediately after qualifying. He took the London MD in 1901 and then emigrated to New Zealand to a country practice in Hawkes Bay. He married a New Zealand lady in 1903, came home to take the Fellowship in 1904, and then settled at Wellington where he was appointed to the staff of Wellington Hospital and soon became a leading surgeon in the city.

During the first world war he served in Egypt and Salonika before appointment as Assistant Director of Medical Services with the New Zealand Division in France. He was four times mentioned in dispatches, was awarded the DSO for his services at the Battle of Messines (1917), and created CMG in 1919. He was Director-General of Medical Services in New Zealand 1919-24, and was knighted in 1921 and promoted Major- General in 1923. In 1941 he became Chairman of the Medical Council of New Zealand, and had also served as President of the New Zealand branch of the British Medical Association. He was honorary surgeon to the Governor-General of New Zealand, and a member of the Prisons Board and the Pensions Appeal Board. From its foundation in 1927 he was honorary secretary to the New Zealand section of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons for nearly twenty years. After retirement he became Chairman of the Dominion Mail newspaper and was President of the Wellington Club.

McGavin married in 1903 Mary Allan Chapple, daughter of John Cole Chapple of Otago and sister of W A Chapple who practised at Wellington and later became Liberal MP for Stirling in the House of Commons. Lady McGavin died in 1955, leaving one son Donald McGavin FRCS, surgeon to Leicester Royal Infirmary. Sir Donald McGavin died suddenly on 8 May 1960 aged 83, at his home 300 Oriental Parade, Wellington.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times 10 May 1960 p 16 B; Brit med J 1960,1, 1576 with appreciation by Sir Gordon Gordon-Taylor; NZ med J 1960, 59, 348 by T D M Stout, with portrait and a note by Sir Gordon Bell].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England