Donald Brownlie was raised in his family home “the Laurels” in Dungannon, Co Tyrone. It was here that he worked as a School Health Inspector but his heart was in Africa. One of his first comments to his friend Cecil Wilson was; “I cannot stay here and work with healthy children when I know there is so much need in Africa.”
Following Selection and preparation the family were located to Uganda to work at Mengo Hospital in Kampala. This was at a time when Uganda was going through a very difficult time in its history. Donald’s first Link Letter reflects the situation. He wrote:
“One of the major problems is that there has been no running water in Kampala for about seven years” and thus began a project, supported by his many friends and link churches in Ireland to provide and install a water system on Namirembie Hill where the hospital is located. That first letter concluded with:
‘It appears that the country is still very unsettled. There are many refugees living around Kampala, and there is lawlessness, shootings and killings, widespread corruption and a shortage of basic commodities. It is said that a bar of soap fetches £8 on the black market’
It was as a medical student, between 1989 and 1990, that I did my elective at Mengo Hospital in Kampala. I was introduced to Dr Donald Brownlie by my uncle John Gibson Scott …
This was the main ward in Mengo hospital where I did my wee best to help the tireless Dr Brownlie:
I assisted Dr Brownlie in the surgical theatre. Rats ran around our feet. I really did not know what I was doing I just learned on the go surrounded by blood. We had a few deaths on the surgical table. I am afraid I cannot talk about these as the hurt is too great:
I do not believe that I understood it at the time but I was also very frightened. There was so much death all around us, in many cases children and young adults.
At the Church of Uganda Guest House I played cards and “pass the pig”. The Ugandans were so very friendly and I was made to feel so incredibly welcome.
Dr Brownlie with his family relocated to Malawi where he worked in the David Gordon Hospital in Laws of Livingstonia. Coincidentally, my favourite uncle, Robert Laws Moffat was born in this hospital.
There are very few photos of Donald Brownlie, but here he is as a young man with his family, outside the family home “the Laurels”:
I will never forget Dr Donald Brownlie. He was a much finer person than I will ever be. Donald Brownlie overcame his fear to work selflessly for the ill and weak of Africa. He was a man of understatement. He had the courage of understanding.
It has been important for me to remember Dr Brownlie and the many lives that he saved.