Obituary: Dr Walter Yellowlees, 97

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A doctor who helped lead the campaign to prevent the addition of fluoride to drinking water and who was an early advocate of healthy eating has died at the age of 97.

Walter Yellowlees, known as Watty, was a pioneer in the now popular “five-a-day” approach to nutrition.

One of three brothers, he was born in Stirling in 1917, arriving in the world just weeks after his namesake uncle, Walter Primrose, was killed in action in the First World War.

Mr Yellowlees was educated at Merchiston Castle School, where he was school captain.

He graduated from Edinburgh University in medicine in 1941. While at the university his sporting talent was revealed.

He was captain of the 1st XV rugby team and opened the batting for the university’s cricket team. He was 
also elected president of the athletics club

His first professional appointment was as a house surgeon at Stirling Royal Infirmary.

But the war was to change his life and he joined the Royal Army Medical Corps in 1942. On June 7, 1944, with the 5th Battalion of the Cameron Highlanders, he landed in Normandy.

A week later, at the battle of Sainte Honorine, he was awarded the Military Cross for his outstanding bravery, tending the wounded under heavy fire.

Private George Sands also received the Military Cross for his actions that day.

He said: “I think he [Mr Yellowlees] was probably the bravest man I ever met. At least when you carry a weapon you have the feeling that you can protect yourself, even if it is a somewhat misguided thought.All that Watty had to hide behind was a small Red Cross on his medical satchel.”

Watty’s own Military Cross certificate records that he was the last man to leave the battlefield.

After the war he decided to go into general practice and remained as a family doctor for 33 years until his retirement in 1981.

He was great believer in preventative medicine, encouraging his patients to exercise and take up eating habits now enshrined in the five-a-day campaign.

In advocating the prevention of illness through exercise and sound nutrition, he devoted his energy to promoting to his patients the value of eating fruit and vegetables, reducing their sugar intake, choosing wholemeal bread instead of white, and butter instead of margarine.

He married Sonia Doggart in 1950 and together they had three children — Robin, Mike and Jane. Sonia died in 2003.

Among Mr Yellowlees’ other achievements were the establishment of the Robert McCarrison Society and the Royal College of General Practitioners.

He is survived by his children and five grandchildren — Catherine, Michael, Jamie, Kate and Kirsty. His funeral was held in Aberlady.