Prof Eric Mekie with his daughter Jean and son, Kenneth in front of their 142 Moulmein Road residence post-WWII.(L to R) Prof Mekie and his missus, Ms Winnie Mekie and friend at the Singapore Swimming Club, 1936.A portrait sketch of Prof Mekie during WWII.A photo of Prof Mekie, 1960s.
In late April this year, we received a call 10,922km all the way from Edinburgh . A gentleman, Mr Eoin Mekie, asked if the family could visit his late grandfather's former residence at 142 Moulmein Road.
We were surprised as we remembered 142 Moulmein Road as a heritage building that was used for clinical purposes years ago. A quick check with our emeritus and Prof Chew Chin Hin made the immediate connection to Prof Eric Mekie, who was a TTSH Surgeon in the 1930s and 1940s.
When the family came to Singapore and TTSH, Prof Chew took them on a heritage tour around Novena and shared some good old memories of Prof Mekie.
World War II
During the Japanese occupation, Prof Mekie stood by his post in the surgical unit while his family left for Western Australia. He was subsequently interned in the Changi prison in February 1942, kept alive with little food and surviving on 400 calories a day.
In September 1945, after the Japanese surrendered, Prof Mekie returned to Scotland to restore his health. He hardly spoke about his war time hardship experience but it certainly did not deter him from returning to Singapore in 1946 with his family. Prof Mekie started the restoration of the civil hospital services and medical college activities.
The Mekie family lived in 142 Moulmein Road from 1946 to 1949 while Prof Mekie continued his role as TTSH's Head of Surgery. The Franciscan nuns took over the residence in 1949 after Prof Mekie took on a position at SGH. In 1955, Prof Mekie officially bid goodbye to Singapore and went back to Edinburgh to continue his work in the medical university.
Citing a farewell quote from Prof Mekie -
Saying farewell to Singapore is a moving experience to me. For twenty years I have had my home here, and here I have had my professional interests. To leave permanently so much which has been part of myself and has meant so much to me, to say 'Goodbye' to so many who have become my intimate friends, is a wrench and a regret. My course in Singapore is run, and I must hand over to another, and younger, colleague."
Our thanks to Prof Chew and the family of Prof Mekie for sharing the photos and stories with us.
About Prof Eric
Born on 8 March 1902 in Edinburgh, Prof Eric Mekie graduated from Edinburgh University in 1925 with a degree of Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery and started his teaching and surgeon career in his alma mater and Scottish Command Hospital.
In 1935, a young and adventurous Prof Mekie learned of an opportunity in Singapore to lead the Clinical Surgery Unit in TTSH and also a surgeon role at SGH, he took on the challenge and set sail with his family to the East.