Alexander (Sandy) Joseph Patterson Shearlaw (1936–2023)

On 30 May 2023, Alexander (Sandy) Joseph Patterson Shearlaw, aged 87 years, of Balfron, Stirling. Mr Shearlaw registered with the Society in 1958.


I first met Sandy Shearlaw at a job interview in Dundee in the summer of 1978; he was the external assessor and I one of the candidates. Some six years later, when I was appointed chief administrative pharmaceutical officer (CAPO) for Lanarkshire, he became a colleague and friend. He was born in Balfron in Stirlingshire and, apart from a short period of national service and the final six years of his life in a care home, never lived anywhere else.

Sandy registered as a pharmacist in August 1958 and, following national service in the army, entered the profession in an era of pharmacy where extemporaneous dispensing and hospital manufacturing were the norm. He went to work for Boots, where he had worked prior to and during his training at the Royal College of Science and Technology in Glasgow. However, he soon transferred to the hospital service and worked in several Glasgow hospital pharmacies. In those days, hospital pharmacists undertook many tasks, many of which will be unknown to modern-day pharmacists. One such task was to organise the collection of old X-ray films, so that they could be sent away for the recycling of the silver they contained and secure a very welcome income stream for the hospital.

In 1974, at the reorganisation of the NHS in Scotland, and following several years as chief pharmacist at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Yorkhill, Glasgow, he was CAPO for Argyll & Clyde Health Board; a post he held until his retirement in 2001. The area he covered stretched both north and south of the river Clyde and included many small hospitals in remote areas; he relished visiting them regularly and was instrumental in ensuring that they received a first-class pharmaceutical service. In the late 1990s, when the title CAPO ceased, he became more involved in pharmaceutical public health, but was adamant that he should still be referred to as CAPO.

For many years, Sandy was active in the training of preregistration students in the west of Scotland, and contributed to the training days held each month. His topic was the Drug Tariff and many will remember his roleplay with Andrew McLaughlin in an attempt to explain what could be prescribed for the purposes of contraception. Sandy took the part of an Aberdeen wife, waiting for her husband to come home after four weeks on an oil rig — much to the amusement of the students.

Outside pharmacy, Sandy was a proficient piper, curler and lover of Burns. He was regularly called upon to pipe in the haggis at the CAPO Burns suppers and give his unique rendition of Holy Willie’s Prayer after the meal. His rendition of Holy Willie remained popular and he was often asked to perform it in his latter years.

Sandy was a true gentleman and gentle man and, with his passing, the profession has lost one of the remaining few pharmacists from a long-gone and sadly missed era. He will be sorely missed by those who had the privilege to know and work with him.

Edward Mallinson

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, June 2023, Vol 310, No 7974;310(7974)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2023.1.188532

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