OXFORDSHIRE BLUE PLAQUES SCHEME

(John) Chassar MOIR (1900–1977)

Gynaecologist, pioneering researcher, and surgeon

11 Chadlington Road, Oxford

Moir portrait
By courtesy of the Moir family

Chassar Moir was born in Montrose, Angus, to John Moir, wine merchant and grocer, and his wife Isabella, née Pirie. He attended Montrose Academy and went on to read medicine at Edinburgh University at the age of seventeen, becoming FRCS in 1926 and later Fellow of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. He gained experience at various hospitals around Edinburgh, including the Leith Hospitals and a GP practice in a socially deprived area of Lothian, and later as a GP in Redhill, Surrey.

In 1932 he took up a research post at University College Hospital, London. He had long been interested in the potential of ergot, a rye grass fungus, for stemming post-partum haemorrhage, the cause of many deaths in childbirth. He collaborated with the biochemist Harold Ward Dudley and they developed the fast-working drug Ergometrine. They made it available worldwide without patent or any commercial considerations, saving countless lives then and in the present day. As The Lancet recorded in his obituary, ‘It was one of the great medical advances of the 20th century and was a true gift to world medicine.’ He later made further significant improvements in the field, introducing an improved nitrous oxide apparatus to relieve pain in childbirth and pioneering the use of X-rays. A renowned operative surgeon, he developed techniques for the repair of debilitating birth injuries. His textbook on surgical repair is a classic work.

In 1937 he had been appointed first Nuffield Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Oxford and was in charge of the newly expanded Nuffield Maternity Home at the hospital. After the outbreak of war he arranged for a maternity unit to be set up at Ruskin College premises when the Infirmary was overwhelmed by numbers of pregnant refugees arriving in Oxford from London. He instituted a flying-squad service to be sent out to attend critical home deliveries. He would often go out alone on call at night and return to his regular duties at 9 am next day. Over 2000 emergencies were successfully attended over 35 years and the practice was adopted by other hospitals. During his thirty years at the Radcliffe Infirmary he was a great innovator and teacher, a very kind, courteous, and notably handsome man regarded with esteem and affection by staff, colleagues, and patients. He received many honorary degrees from British and overseas universities and was awarded a CBE in 1961. He was proud to be a Fellow of Oriel, serving as Vice-Provost 1962–65. He was made an Elder at St Columba’s Presbyterian Church.

In 1933 he had married Grace Hilda Bailey, a nursing sister. They had two sons and two daughters. 11 Chadlington Road (below) was the family home for nearly twenty years (1938–1957).

Moir's home in Chadlington Road

In retirement he moved to ‘Farnmore’ in Charlbury. He would travel up to London to work in an honorary capacity almost until the time of his death. His funeral service was held in Charlbury and he was buried in the family lair (burial ground) at Sleepyhillock Cemetery, Montrose. The British Medical Journal obituary stated: ‘Moir was a great and gentle man who did more than anyone living today to save the lives and relieve the miseries of women.’

Sources:

  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article by Irvine Loudon
  • The Lancet (10 December 1977)
  • Chassar Moir, Biography and Personal Family History by Priscilla Moir Sharp (privately published 2015).

The plaque was unveiled at 11 Chadlington Road, Oxford on 6 July 2019 by John Moir, son. The tribute was given by David Barlow, Nuffield Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Emeritus. Jane Moir added a family perspective. Among those attending the ceremony were many family members and friends.

Speeches made at the ceremony (PDF)
Photographs taken at the unveiling:
Press reports
Picture awaited

Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board

CHASSAR MOIR
1900–1977

First Nuffield Professor
of Obstetrics and Gynaecology

Pioneering researcher
and surgeon

Lived here
1938–1957

© Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board

 

Email: oxfordshireblueplaques@gmail.com