Dr Malcolm Bruce Yorston

Personal Details

Dr Malcolm Bruce Yorston MBChB FFARCS DA 

12/08/1924 to 23/05/2021

Place of birth: Worsley, Manchester

Nationality: British

CRN: 523222

Education and qualifications

General education

Kelly College, Tavistock, Devon; University of Bristol (began degree course in Mechanical Engineering); University of Aberdeen.

Primary medical qualification(s)

MBChB, Aberdeen, 1953

Initial Fellowship and type

FFARCS by Examination

Year of Fellowship


Other qualification(s)

DA(RCP&S), 1955


Professional life and career

Postgraduate career

SHO in anaesthetics, Aberdeen Royal Infirmary 1954; registrar (1955) and subsequently senior registrar, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh; appointed consultant to Southampton in 1962. 

Professional interests and activities

Malcolm was BMA Clinical Tutor in Southampton. He also developed and ran the final FFARCS course in the Wessex region, taught in the Nurse Training School, and  was a member of the NHS University Teaching Media Group which produced a number of medical teaching films for showing in the UK and Africa, these films receiving awards from the BMA and European organisations. 

Other biographical information

After three terms of engineering studies, Malcolm left abruptly to help run the oil refinery at Avonmouth during WW2, offloading tankers, refuelling naval and merchant vessels, pumping different fuels around southern England through pipelines, and being responsible for fire and damage control. Two of the existing team had been killed in an air raid.

He subsequently joined the Royal Artillery as a gunner, was commissioned and posted to the Indian Army, being one of a team of five who completed emergency repairs to the main engine of a troop ship en route to Bombay. He later served in the Indian Artillery in Assam and on the North West Frontier. It is the author’s understanding that Malcolm fought against the Japanese in Burma and had some bad experiences, but like many veterans he preferred not to talk about them,  saying only that he crossed Burma with a bren gun and was invalided out of the army at the end of WW2.

On return to Bristol he was not allowed to resume the engineering course, because of his reduced physical fitness. Instead he went to the University of Aberdeen to  study medicine. After qualifying, he received minimal training in his first anaesthetic post, being told to stick to ether for the first six months, and never forgetting his first day: an ENT list in the morning and two A-P resections of the rectum by the senior surgeon in the afternoon. It paid to learn fast and witnessing an ether explosion (probably static induced) made him “a bit cautious” for the rest if his career. He recalled the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh as the home of cyclopropane, high spinals and mitral valvotomies on beating hearts with a small knife attached to a finger. It was a time of few consultant vacancies and many time expired senior registrars, in particular a very able chest surgeon in his tenth year.  In Southampton he worked at the chest hospital using the original Melrose rotating disc oxygenator which demanded great concentration to keep the blood levels correct. He continued to work until he was 72, receiving special dispensation from the Department of Health to do so. He also worked for short periods in two mission hospitals in Tanzania and Kenya, remembering anaesthetics in remote areas being given by nurses using ether from an EMO apparatus. When gas cylinders became available he obtained discarded Boyle’s machines from the UK as well as, most valuably, discarded oximeters. For some years theatre staff in the Wessex region collected other discarded, but still useful, items of equipment for sending to Africa.

In his early years Malcolm loved loved fast motorcycles, owning a Vincent HRD, a Norton OHC and a BSA Gold Star, but grew out of this obsession when he became a consultant because the roads in the south of England were too crowded, even in the early 1960s. He also had a life-long passion for mountains, first climbing in Scotland and then in the Alps as well as ski mountaineering. He also travelled to Sikkim and Patagonia, developing an interest in high altitude medicine.

Malcolm was a widely respected and capable doctor who was especially helpful to the author. He married Jessie Millar (a doctor, who had been a medical student with him) in 1954 and they had two children, one of whom became a vitreo-retinal surgeon.

Author: Robert Julian Palmer

Sources and comments:

[1] Personal communication from Dr Yorston.

[2] Obituary by David Yorston. BMJ 2021; 374: n2009 where a photo is available: 

Malcolm Yorston | The BMJ