James McIlroy (surgeon)

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James Archibald McIlroy (3 November 1879 – 27 July 1968[1]) was a British surgeon and a member of Ernest Shackleton's crew on the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (1914-1916). He was born in the Irish province of Ulster, almost certainly in the County Antrim market town Ballyclare where his father hailed from.[1]

After McIlroy earned his medical degree at Birmingham University, he was for a brief time a surgeon at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. He spent several of the following years practicing medicine in Egypt, in Japan, and as a ship's surgeon on cruise ships in and around the East Indies.

In 1914, he along with Alexander Macklin were the two physicians assigned under Shackleton on the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. McIlroy was also in charge of a sled-dog team when the expedition was cast away on the Weddell Sea. After the castaways found a refuge on Elephant Island, McIlroy was the surgeon performing the amputation of Perce Blackborow's gangrenous toes, with Macklin serving as anestheologist, carefully administering a tiny quantity of salvaged chloroform as anaesthesia. After the rescue of McIlroy and his comrades, the physician was awarded the Silver Polar Medal.

During World War I, he was badly wounded at Ypres. In 1921 he signed up as a surgeon with Shackleton on another polar expedition, (the Shackleton-Rowett Expedition); Shacketon died on board ship off South Georgia Island, however, and the mission was completed by explorer Frank Wild (1873-1939).

In World War II, McIlroy was serving on the S.S. Oronsay when it was torpedoed off the coast of West Africa, spending five days on an open boat before being rescued by the French ship Dumont d’Urville. After the war, he remained a ship's surgeon well into his late seventies. He died, at the age of 89, in Surrey, England.

In 1990 the UK Antarctic Place-Names Committee named a peak after McIlroy. McIlroy Peak rises to 745 metres (2,440 ft) west of Husvik Harbour and 0.8 nautical miles (1.5 km) south of Mount Barren, South Georgia


  1. ^ a b "James Archibald McIlroy". enduranceobituaries.co.uk. Archived from the original on 6 March 2012. Retrieved 3 April 2012.