‘Remarkable and unique’ former president of the Society of Radiographers turns 100

Gwendoline McCullough was a founding member of the NI branch and society president from 1976-77

Published: 25 October 2023 People

Gwendoline McCullough, president of the SoR for the year of 1976-77, last week turned 100, bringing well wishes and warm memories from those who knew and worked with her.

On 14 July, 1976, Gwendoline McCullough was unanimously elected to the office of the president, where she was greeted with “congratulations and good wishes” for her presidential year by the rest of the society.

Her election coincided with the 21st anniversary of the Northern Ireland Branch, of which Ms McCullough is a founding member. Her presidency was also “particularly remarkable” as it saw the agreement by members to register the SoR as a trade union and the formation of the College of Radiographers as a subsidiary company.

She wrote in her inaugural message: "Little did I think, when I had the honour of being elected president of the Society of Radiographers that a few months later I would be chairing a meeting which could be considered a milestone in the history of the society. But this was the case when, on Saturday, 4 December, members met in London to decide the future role of the society in the negotiating field."

Ms McCullough added she had been "amazed and impressed" at the long hours the council had worked on behalf of its membership, and that she was "struck also by the warm, almost family, feeling which exists at our headquarters [and branches] where the staff is working amicably together to give the best possible service to all concerned." 

Ms McCullough told the SoR at the time of her election that she enjoys gardening, reading, swimming and walking.

'She was a remarkable and unique lady' 

Stewart Whitley, advisor at the UK Radiology Advisory Services, worked for Ms McCullough as a teacher at the School of Radiography at the Royal Victoria Hospital from 1972-1974.

Mr Whitley told SoR: “I will always be grateful for [working with Ms McCullough], as this was the key that launched my career and opened many doors for me. 

“She was a remarkable and unique lady, and was probably responsible for overseeing the career development of most of the radiographers in Northern Ireland up until she retired – many of whom moved across the globe to become great leaders.

“She was a great teacher and fully dedicated to her profession – always alert to the development of individuals and a great encourager. Radiography was the love of her life.

“She is a pleasant and warm person, interested in you as an individual and one who is admired for her professionalism. She had a presence when she came into a room and was greatly respected.”

Richard Evans, SoR CEO, added: "Miss McCullough was president of the SoR at a particularly significant period in our history. The agreement by members to register as a trade union and also to establish the College paved the way for the course of development of the profession and the organisation that we know today.

"Reaching the extraordinary milestone is remarkable by any standard. It is amazing to reflect on the countless lives that have been changed for the better through Gwendoline’s work in Northern Ireland, across the UK and internationally."

A history of dedication
Former SoR president, Gwendoline McCullough

Ms McCullough began her radiographic training in 1947 at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast – prior to which she had been a member of the Women’s Royal Naval Service, the Wrens, serving both in England and Australia as a radio mechanic.

After her qualification in 1949, Ms McCullough worked at Musgrave Hospital in Belfast, Lagan Valley Hospital in Lisburn, and then returned to the Royal Victoria to become a senior radiographer in 1955. In 1959 she was appointed tutor to the School of Radiography, before in 1963 becoming the principal of the school.

Just three years later she became a fellow of the SoR, before serving on the society’s Board of Examiners.

During her career, Ms McCullough has been chairman of the Northern Ireland Branch three separate times: in 1961-62, in 1967-68, and in 1970-71.

In 1973 she became a regionally elected member of the society’s council, before in 1975 becoming chairman of the Education Committee. In 1974 she was elected vice president of the society.

At the conclusion of her presidential message, Ms McCullough noted: "No society can progress unless every member is doing his or her best to further the objects for which the society was formed. So how about making a New Year Resolution to support your local branch in all its activities?"