Hugh MacPherson, who has passed away at the age of 72 from pancreatic cancer, was a man of many talents.

He was an expert in fluid mechanics (he had a Ph.D in the subject, no less), a keen cyclist (Hugh was a member of the Wednesday Wheelers and a founder member of York Cycleworks), an allotment holder and a beekeeper.

Yet somehow he also managed to find time to found or co-found two health clinics in York (The Northern College of Acupuncture, and The York Clinic for Integrated Healthcare on Tadcaster Road) - and to become the UK’s first Professor of Acupuncture Research, at the University of York.

“He always seemed to have time for things!” said his wife, Sara Robin, who survives him with their two children, Shona and Angus MacPherson.

It is for his contribution to acupuncture that Professor MacPherson will perhaps be best remembered - and in particular for his efforts to establish it on a scientific footing.

“He always knew that acupuncture worked, but when he set up the college he realised that there wasn’t enough research proving that it worked,” said Sara.

Hugh’s solution: to make sure kind of the large-scale clinical trials that could establish acupuncture as a scientifically-proven procedure were carried out.

“He brought people together to raise funding, undertake large scale clinical trials, publish in prestigious journals and present to conferences and political gatherings,” write Nicholas Haines and Richard Blackwell of the Northern College of Acupuncture in Hugh MacPherson: A Celebration, a book celebrating Hugh’s life and work.

“He brought intellect, determination and flexibility of mind to this work, and his quality was recognised as he became the UK’s first Professor of Acupuncture Research at the University of York, and one of the leading acupuncture researchers in the West.”

Hugh’s interest in acupuncture began 40 or so years ago.

He used to meet up with Nicholas and Richard regularly at seminar after seminar. “Over endless cups of tea, in countless cafes, we talked, laughed, planned and discussed the finer points of Chinese Medicine and the meaning of life,” they write.

In 1986, he and Nicholas went to Nanjing in China for further training. “They were part of a pioneering cohort studying clinical acupuncture at a large teaching hospital. It was an experience that was to show them the real power of acupuncture as they both treated patient after patient with complex and challenging conditions,” Richard writes.

Hugh was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in May, and given just a few months to live. In the midst of the Covid-19 lockdown, it looked for a while as though the York Clinic of Integrated Healthcare, which he had founded in 1983, may not be able to continue.

But Hugh’s daughter Shona relocated from Glasgow with her partner Josh, while son Angus moved up from London to take on the task of making the building on Tadcaster Road safe to reopen.

“Hugh spent the first few weeks when he was very ill making sure that the clinic could be handed over smoothly,” said Sara. “It was very important to him.”

Prof MacPherson died at home in South Bank, surrounded by his family. "I am pleased that it was a good ending, with his family around him," said Richard Blackwell. "One of Hugh’s bits of wisdom that has stuck with me for decades was 'beginnings and endings are important times'."

Prof MacPherson will be buried in a plot at York Cemetery, near to the cemetery’s own beehives. “We thought that was appropriate,” said Sara.