J.J.R. Macleod Memorial unveiled to public in Duthie Park

13/10/2023
Left to Right: Physician and medical historian Dr Ken McHardy, Lord Dean of Guild Sylvia Halkerston, Sculptor John McKenna's wife & studio assistant Claire McKenna, architectural technologist Kevin Otto, Lady Provost Hazel Cameron, Vice-Chancellor and Principal George Boyne of the University of Aberdeen, Lord Provost of Aberdeen, Dr David Cameron and sculptor John McKenna. Seated Left to Right: Kimberlie Hamilton, Co-Founder of the JJR Macleod Memorial Statue Society & John Otto, Founder & Chairman of the JJR Macleod Memorial Statue Society. (Photo: Neil Gordon at aberdeenphoto.com)

A BRONZE and granite memorial honouring John J.J.R. Macleod, the little-known Scottish physiologist who co-discovered insulin in 1922, was unveiled today in Aberdeen’s Duthie Park to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of Professor Macleod’s 1923 Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology. It is the world’s first monument honouring the life and legacy of the Granite City’s insulin pioneer.

The life-size bronze statue now takes pride of place within a newly expanded area of the park known as ‘Macleod’s Corner’. The site features a seated figure of Macleod on a Royal Parks bench, with a Press & Journal newspaper at his side bearing a headline that refers to his 1923 Nobel Prize. The statue sits upon a terrace made of reclaimed granite donated by Aberdeen City Council, with two replica Victorian-era park benches nearby and a landscaped ‘World Insulin Way’ leading to the site. 

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Ayrshire sculptor John McKenna spent more than a year working on the bronze figure and bench, which he created using the centuries-old “lost wax” casting process. McKenna used formal photographs as well as images from family photo albums to achieve the statue’s striking resemblance to “Jack” Macleod.

John Otto, Founder & Chairman of the JJR Macleod Memorial Statue Society, who along with co-founder Kimberlie Hamilton raised funds and steered the project from concept to completion says, “As someone who has been dependent on daily injections of insulin for the past 50 years, it has been a surreal but gratifying experience to watch this long-held dream become a reality. I feel a deep sense of gratitude to JJR Macleod for giving me life, along with millions of others with type 1 diabetes around the world.”

The privately-funded project was made possible by a host of sponsors and supporters from the local community and beyond, including Jamieson & Carry, Mearns & Gill, King Foods, Charles Michie’s Pharmacies, University of Aberdeen, Balmoral Group, W.M. Donald Ltd, Deeside Road Construction, Colin Lawson Transport, John A. Smith & Sons and Conrad Ritchie. The memorial’s granite terrace features pavers and perimeter stones engraved with sponsors’ names as well as 28 sand-cast bronze medallions displayed on the memorial’s ‘World Insulin Wall’. One of the medallions recognises acclaimed Aberdeenshire singer-songwriter Emeli Sandé, who has agreed to let the Society use “Read All About It (Pt III)” as the theme song for World Insulin Day, now celebrated every 23rd of January.

The memorial is also Scotland’s first and only ‘Storytelling Statue’. Visitors can scan a QR code, triggering an app that simulates a call to their mobile and plays a brief recording of an actor’s voice speaking as the statue. John Macleod’s monologue was recorded by acclaimed Scottish stage, television and film actor David Rintoul (Game of Thrones, The Crown, Dr Finlay), a native of Aberdeen. The app also features a 3.5-minute mini documentary, written by Kimberlie Hamilton and directed and produced by Aberdeen-based Page Break Media, with an original score composed by John Logan of the Royal Conservatoire.

Among the 300 guests at the invitation-only event were JJR Macleod’s family members; representatives from Aberdeen City Council; academics from Aberdeen University and other universities; members of Clan Macleod; Aberdeen Grammar School Former Pupils, as well as some current pupils and their teacher and Deputy Head; representatives from Novo Nordisk, JDRF UK and Diabetes UK; David Rintoul and Vivian Helibron; Lord Lieutenant of Aberdeenshire Sandy Manson;  guests from England, North America and Greece; and Britain’s only surviving recipient of the Victoria Cross, 103-year-old John Cruickshank, the only person present who was born before the discovery of insulin.

Guests gathered around the memorial site and observed as the Lord Provost of Aberdeen, Dr David Cameron, cut a ceremonial ribbon. He and nine other VIPs unveiled the statue, including Lady Provost Hazel Cameron, John Otto and Kimberlie Hamilton, Lord Dean of Guild Sylvia Halkerston, physician and medical historian Dr Ken McHardy, Vice-Chancellor and Principal George Boyne of the University of Aberdeen, architectural technologist Kevin Otto and sculptor John McKenna and his wife/studio assistant Claire McKenna. Aberdeen piper Ian Dallas and the Granite City Pipes & Drums then performed an original tune composed especially for the event, “Macleod’s Theme”.

The unveiling was followed by a marquee reception in the grounds of Duthie Park, where guests enjoyed a gourmet three-course luncheon catered by Harry Fraser Catering and a programme MC’d by comedian Fred MacAulay and STV news anchor Norman Macleod. Speakers throughout the afternoon included Professor John Dirks of the University of Toronto; Professor George Boyne;  film director Richard Burke; David Peter Fox, founder of Talking Statues™; and Dr Ken McHardy, who delivered a Toast to Professor Macleod. After the main programme concluded, guests headed outside to see the statue close-up or relaxed over Macleod-themed cocktails at “Jack’s Bar”, sponsored by OGV Tap Room.

Mr Otto noted in his concluding remarks, “As the unsung medical hero that history and the world forgot, JJR Macleod is truly a man who deserves a statue. We are very proud to be a part of the movement to bring wider recognition of his many achievements, and to have the world’s first monument created in his honour right here in Aberdeen.”

These sentiments were echoed in the event programme, which included a photograph and personal letter from Her Majesty Queen Camilla. She wrote, “This statue is a fitting tribute both to [Macleod’s] achievements and to his deep connection to this beautiful city, and I am delighted that his momentous contribution to medicine is being publicly celebrated in this way”.

For details about the J.J.R. Macleod Memorial, visit https://www.jjrmacleodmemorial.co.uk

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