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21 June 2013

Canon John Wheatley Price writes:
DR John Mackenzie Maitland, who died on 13 November, aged 78, was born in South Manchester, into a medical family. His father, Hugh, was Professor of Bacteriology at Manchester University, and his mother, Mary, was a researcher in the same department. Both were Canadian, and went home for summer holidays to Ontario, to be with family and friends.

As war threatened in 1939, Professor Maitland returned to the United Kingdom, and Mary stayed with the two children in Canada. She took the perilous crossing back to England in 1941, and, when the children returned to the UK in 1945, they hardly recognised their parents.

John went to Cheadle Hulme School, where he was enthusiastic about sport, especially high hurdling. He was an active member of the school's Christian Fellowship, and, through a Sunday Bible class called Crusaders (now Urban Saints), became a Christian. It was in the school Christian Union that he met Hilary, his future wife. She went to Somerville College, Oxford, to read medicine in 1952, the same year as John went to Emmanuel College, Cambridge. Here, he continued his enthusiasm for medicine and athletics. He was awarded a half-blue for high hurdles in the 1953/54 season.

He joined the Christian Union, where both he and I heard God's call to missionary service. The Cambridge Inter-Collegiate Christian Union prayed that 70 of its members (then more than 400) would serve overseas. At least 87 went to serve in a variety of ways around the world, several to Uganda.

John went to Manchester for his clinical studies, and was Captain of Athletics and continued hurdling. In due course, happily married, he and Hilary worked in Westmorland County Hospital, Kendal, he as a surgical senior house officer, and she in casualty - excellent training for their future work in rural Africa. They offered themselves to the Church Missionary Society, and, after a year's training, flew to Uganda in December 1962.

They had three months' medical experience in Kampala before going to the Church Hospital at Ngora, in north-east Uganda. Ngora had been an old-style mission station in the Upper Nile diocese, with hospital, boys' and girls' schools, senior school, and teacher-training at Bishop Kitching College. Now it was part of the new diocese of Soroti, with the saintly Stephen Tomusange as Bishop.

John was to become medical superintendent. He and Hilary quickly came to love, and be loved by, the Iteso people, and the hospital made good progress in surgery, midwifery training, and community health. In 1966-67, they adopted two boys, who settled quickly into Uganda life, with its warmth and friendliness.

After Idi Amin seized power in 1971, life became increasingly difficult, especially for our Ugandan friends, but in 1972, despite the expulsion of the Asian community, and many expatriates' feeling that it was time to leave, not one CMS missionary left. John and Hilary continued at Ngora until 1976.

They moved to Cheshire, where John became a GP in Runcorn, and Hilary worked in hospital outpatient clinics in antenatal care and gynaecology. While fully involved in patient care and their local church, they never forgot the Iteso people, who were having a very tough time, many herded into camps. John worked tirelessly to make sure that the Foreign Office and aid agencies had an accurate knowledge of these hardships. John and many others formed the Teso Development Trust, through which we continue to serve the Iteso people.

John visited Uganda frequently, reducing his GP work to do so. Members of his congregation went also to different places in Uganda. As John felt that much information about health, agriculture, and life skills was not getting through to the rural areas, Uganda Development Services was born, now a fully autonomous, Ugandan-led organisation.

Perhaps the fact that the Archbishop of York wrote personally to Hilary when John died is one indication of the significant service, friendship, and care given unstintingly in and for Uganda for 50 years.

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