Chief medical adviser and the Isle of Skye connection

Professor Whitty at one of the daily coronavirus updates

As chief medical adviser to the UK Government during the coronavirus crisis Chris Whitty has become one of the most recognisable faces on our television screens.

And the man labelled as the official “who will probably have the greatest impact on our everyday lives of any individual policymaker in modern times”, has a Skye connection through a home that has been in his family for decades.

The leading physician is still known to spend time on the island, having inherited the former schoolhouse at the lower end of Glen Brittle, which was originally owned by his grandparents.

Prof Whitty was a regular visitor to Skye growing up, and now shares ownership of the home with one of his four brothers.

Prof Whitty’s full name – Christopher John MacRae Whitty – hints at a Scottish background, though he is no relation of the MacRae family long associated on Skye with Glenbrittle farm.

Hugh MacRae, from the local farm, told the Free Press that he thought Prof Whitty’s roots may lie in Sutherland.

He added that he remembered Prof Whitty and his brothers, in their younger days, spending holidays in the shadow of the Cuillins.

“He’s always been a very nice and well-mannered man,” he added. “He’s doing a very important job with enormous responsibility. We wish him well with it.”

Mr MacRae said it was Prof Whitty’s brother who tended to now spend more time on Skye, although the physician has in the past taken a keen interest in local affairs.

Documents from August 2014 show he added his voice to the concerns of several local residents objecting to an alcohol licence being granted to Glenbrittle Youth Hostel.

Prof Whitty’s objection cited concerns about selling alcohol to non-hostel residents – notably campers.

However, the Highland Licensing Board decided against heeding doctor’s orders and voted to approve drink sales at the hostel.

Prof Whitty holds three titles as chief medical officer for England, the Department of Health and Social Care’s chief scientific adviser and the UK government’s chief medical adviser.

The 54-year-old was previously a consultant at University College Hospital, London and professor of public and international health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Prof Whitty returned to his public duties on 6th April, following a period of self-isolation after he had shown symptoms of Covid-19.