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Professor JJR Macleod on his bench in Duthie Park, Aberdeen
A bronze and granite memorial honouring John JR Macleod, the little-known Scottish physiologist who co-discovered insulin in 1922, was unveiled on 12th October in Aberdeen’s Duthie Park to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of Professor Macleod’s 1923 Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology. It is the world’s first monument honouring the life and legacy of the Granite City’s insulin pioneer.
The life-size bronze statue now takes pride of place within a newly expanded area of the park known as ‘Macleod’s Corner’. The site features a seated figure of Macleod on a Royal Parks bench, with a Press & Journal newspaper at his side bearing a headline that refers to his 1923 Nobel Prize. The statue sits upon a terrace made of reclaimed granite donated by Aberdeen City Council, with a landscaped ‘World Insulin Way’ leading to the site.
The ceremony to unveil the statue took place on a beautiful autumn day in Duthie Park as the Granite City Pipes & Drums band performed an original tune composed especially for the event: “Macleod’s Theme”. The unveiling was followed by a marquee reception in the park beside the statue, where guests enjoyed a wonderful three-course luncheon and a programme of speakers and video presentations hosted by comedian Fred MacAulay and Scottish Television (STV) news anchor Norman Macleod. Speakers came for far and wide including the inspiring 90-year-old Professor John Dirks of the University of Toronto where the project that led to the discovery of insulin back in 1922 had taken place. Professor Dirks had flown over from Canada specifically for the event to honour JJR Macleod.
Many of the speakers stressed the critical importance of the discovery of insulin in combatting diabetes which until that point in 1922 had severely limited life expectancy of those afflicted and has since then saved countless lives. The drive to honour Professor ‘Jack’ Macleod, as he is known, was led by John Otto, Founder & Chairman of the JJR Macleod Memorial Statue Society, who along with co-founder Kimberlie Hamilton raised funds and steered the project from concept to completion. In John’s words: “As someone who has been dependent on daily injections of insulin for the past 50 years, it has been a surreal but gratifying experience to watch this long-held dream become a reality. I feel a deep sense of gratitude to JJR Macleod for giving me life, along with millions of others with type 1 diabetes around the world.”
Family descendants of JJR Macleod who travelled to Aberdeen for the ceremony
Among the 300 guests at the invitation-only event were ten of JJR Macleod’s family members, many of whom had travelled up from England, including great nieces of Professor Macleod; Clan MacLeod was represented by Charles Wolrige Gordon, first cousin of Chief Hugh MacLeod of MacLeod, and Alasdair McLeod, President of the Associated Clan MacLeod Societies. Our thanks go to John and Kimberlie who worked tirelessly over a long period to complete this project, raising £172,000 in the process, including a contribution from Clan Macleod Societies of Scotland and England; thanks also to Ayrshire sculptor John McKenna spent more than a year working on the bronze figure and bench, and all the many sponsors and supporters from the local community and beyond, including academics from Aberdeen University and around the world, Aberdeen City Council and local dignitaries, and a huge team who worked tirelessly to make this event a success.
JJR Macleod, Alasdair McLeod and Charles Wolrige Gordon representing the Chief and Clan MacLeod Societies at the commemoration in Aberdeen
Perhaps the final word on an inspiring day comes from Her Majesty Queen Camilla who wrote: “This statue is a fitting tribute both to [Macleod’s] achievements and to his deep connection to this beautiful city, and I am delighted that his momentous contribution to medicine is being publicly celebrated in this way”.
For details about the JJR Macleod Memorial, visit https://www.jjrmacleodmemorial.co.uk
12th October 2023