Physician, teacher and doctor on Scotland's 1967 football tour

Born: September 5, 1934;

Died: January 23, 2018

Loading article content

DR ARCHIE Downie, who has died aged 83, was an occupational health physician who served as doctor for the Scotland international football team on their remarkable 1967 overseas tour. The squad, which included a young Sir Alex Ferguson, returned home triumphant, having won every one of their nine matches.

Born at home in Cathcart, Glasgow, to James Downie, a metallurgist, and his wife Mary, Archie Downie was educated at Kings Park School and at the age of 16, he won the Glasgow Dickens Society prize for his essay on A Tale of Two Cities.

Summer jobs included paper rounds and a short stint as a deck-hand on the Clyde Puffer Lascar in 1956 whilst a medical student at Glasgow University, where he studied between 1952 and 1958. He was also a keen runner with Bellahouston Harriers. He married Elizabeth Jackie Greenlees in 1960 in the Glasgow University chapel.

His first medical appointment was at the Victoria Infirmary in Glasgow, where he won the ‘bedpan and mop’ curling championship along the polished ward floors (suffering the wrath of the matron as a result). He also trained in paediatric surgery at the Glasgow Children’s Hospital at Yorkhill, which he often cited as his best job. He excelled and thrived in the role, not least one Christmas when he volunteered to play Santa and was duped instead into playing the ‘Good Fairy’ on the children’s ward.

Between 1967 to 1972, Dr Downie was the rural GP covering the southernmost parts of Galloway, based in Drummore, Scotland’s most southerly village. These were amongst the happiest days of his life. He was much respected by the farming communities that he served, and was often to be seen out on his rounds driving the narrow winding streets with one of his two infant children in the back seat.

It was during this time that he furthered his lifelong passion for football, first volunteering as the club doctor at Stair Park for Stranraer FC. He was appointed honorary medical officer for Scotland’s International Tournaments of 1963, 1969 and 1970.

When Bobby Brown took over as manager in 1967, Dr Downie then served as Scotland’s team doctor for the 1967 world tour of Asia, Oceania and Canada. The team won all 9 matches in Tel Aviv, Hong Kong, Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne, Wellington, Auckland, Vancouver and Winnipeg.

Dr Downie was also a lifelong Rangers supporter and the club doctor for Queen of the South FC between 2001 and 2006. His allegiances were torn in the 2008 Scottish Cup final at Hampden Park, when the two teams clashed.

Following his time as a GP, Dr Downie's career progressed into the field of occupational health, largely within the oil and petrochemical industry. He led the development of programs at Esso’s refinery in Libya (1972-74) and at their UK Fawley refinery (1974-79), as well as at the Arabia American Oil Company (ARAMCO) in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia (1979-85) and the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (1997-99), in the UAE.

Whilst based in Dhahran with ARAMCO, he also served as the region’s leading expert on decompression sickness, helping to administer treatment to oil rig divers that suffered from the condition when working offshore. The final seven years of his long and distinguished career were spent in the electronics and telecommunications industry, with Nortel in the UK (1987-94).

He originally studied at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and went on to teach occupational health to GPs and doctors at Glasgow University, the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, University College Dublin, the Institute of Occupational Medicine (Edinburgh) and Brunel University.

Over the years, he supervised many MSc and PhD students helping them to gain further academic qualifications in the field of occupational health. In recognition of the significant contributions that he made to the practice of occupational medicine, he was elected as a Fellow of the Faculty of Occupational Medicine (FFOM) in January 1991.

In his final years, Dr Downie suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, during which he was cared for at home and latterly by the wonderful staff at Lochduhar Nursing Home, in Dumfries. Through the mist of his mind, he continued to smile and laugh and never quite lost the twinkle in his eye. The temperature that the illicit stills boiled over at; his dream Rangers Football Team (Brown, Young, Shaw ….) and the matches of the 1967 world tour were often repeated aloud as he fought to keep a tight hold of his most precious memories. He maintained his appreciation of classical music and the poetry of Robert Burns to the very end.

Dr Archie Downie is survived by his beloved wife Elizabeth (Bette), his much loved children Cameron and Rod, his daughters-in-law Melanie and Gwen, and his adored grandchildren Logan, Isla and Callum.