Alexander Reid Cunningham and Caroline McGregor had 3 children, Sheena (Gaelic for Jane), Lena (short for Carolina) and William, my father. Apparently he could not wait to be big enough to thump his bossy sisters. By the time he was big enough though, he no longer wanted to.

As an aside, my great grandad had a brother called George, who was a bit of a celebrity in Ayrshire. He was a poet and well-known entertainer and went by the name of Pate McPhun. I mention this because my father had an enduring passion for literature and also wrote poetry for a hobby.

Bill was educated at Kilmarnock Academy and passed the entrance exam for Glasgow University aged sixteen and a quarter. He then had to wait a year to be old enough to go there. Whilst at University he continued with his sports, rugby and golf, but also became very involved with the Glasgow University Magazine (G.U.M) eventually becoming Editor, the first medic to do so at that time.

As Editor, Bill was in charge of taking the completed magazine to the printers, where he waited until it was type-set to find how many inches there were left to be filled, whereupon he would sit down and write poems to fill them. He wrote under several noms-de-plumes and I still have bound copies of some of these annuals.

My mum used to come over to the university and sit with my dad whilst he studied. It was only later on that she discovered inside the huge medical book he was supposedly studying with great interest, a smaller paperback that he had actually been enjoying.

My father had the typical Scot’s passion for golf and was able to combine this with his work schedule very effectively. Morning surgery followed by home visits, lunch, a round of golf and then evening surgery was the preferred routine. In the evenings, after some TV watching, he would retire to his study to read and to write poetry. He very much favoured writers such as Kipling and Chesterton.

Bill did not retire from practice until his early seventies, when he developed Parkinson’s disease. Both he and his wife, Margaret, were very fond grandparents to my sons, another Alex and a Tom. They had them for lunch every Sunday, for instance, which enabled me to get housework done, and returned them in time for evening meal which we all ate together. They were also wonderful at looking after the boys when they were ill, so I could go to work; my own personal doctor!


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