Margaret A. Macalister

Margaret Anne Macdougal Macalister was born in Dublin in 1875, and died in Cambridge, unmarried, in 1959. She is an unusual choice as a judge, since her solitary literary achievement has been to win competition 122A – the one set by Frank Sidgwick in the WR in 1932 that required literary sleuthing. However, she obviously enjoyed entering (there is a stray commendation in a Spectator competition that gives her as Margaret A. M. Macalister, which is what clinches her identification). And she was well-connected: it may be that G.F. Stonier is the link here. She led an independent life, and she can be found travelling the world (e.g. from Japan to America) and contributing knowledge to Shakespearean surveys.

She was the daughter of the University of Cambridge’s Professor of Anatomy, Alexander Macalister, another Dubliner and a highly successful academic (who could also get by in fourteen languages). She had three well-known siblings – the archaeologist Robert Macalister, who got on well in academic circles, although his work in Palestine is condemned for shoddy record-keeping; Lady Florence Edith Boyle Macalister – who married a ‘distant’ cousin, Donald Macalister (himself the vice-chancellor and chancellor of Glasgow University, and who had died nine months earlier in 1934), a children’s writer; and Hugh Kidd Macalister, another medical academic, who was Professor of Therapeutics at the University of Singapore.

With so many Macalisters, including a Macalister marrying a Macalister, it is perhaps pardonable that Margaret Macalister’s memory has become confused. She is repeatedly cited, sometimes on family history sites, and sometimes on general sites, as the wife of her brother Robert (who is nowhere else referred to as married), possibly because they are buried close to each other in Cambridge. The internet being the internet, you can see a photo of her grave at the find-a-grave site. But there are no photos of her (as there are of one of her brothers and her sister).

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