Ann Buchanan

Oscar-nominated make-up designer Ann Buchanan unwittingly started a showbiz career at the start of the NHS – doing her party piece for its founder, Nye (Aneurin) Bevan.

Bevan was a close friend of her uncle George and father John. Her home in Maxwell Drive, Pollokshields, was noted for its hospitality and became a social hub for Labour politicians before and after the NHS.

“When the NHS was being talked about, my dad acted as an advisor. . . .”

“This was the late 40s and early 50s. I was very young – four or five.

“Bevan used to come up quite often and he would sometimes stay overnight,” Ann, adopted daughter of Mamie and John Buchanan, recalls.

“A great kerfuffle would have gone on in the house that morning to get lunch ready for Nye.

“I really had to behave when Nye was coming.

“I can clearly remember my pretty cotton dress and white socks. I was taken in at the end after the tea or coffee. I would be given a gift, chat to them, say my poem, or sing my song. My party piece was a poem I Wish It Would Rain.

“All my recollections of Nye were of great respect. I suppose it is rather like a kid nowadays meeting a pop star. I knew he was somebody of great consequence.

“Jennie (Lee, Bevan’s wife) did not want children. Nye would have loved children and, so my mother said, had a great fondness for me.

“Had I been christened and had my family been religious, Nye would have been my godfather.”

Like Arthur Woodburn (Secretary of State for Scotland in 1948) Ann’s father John had been imprisoned for anti-war activities in Wormwood Scrubs during the First World War.

Unlike Woodburn, he managed to escape through a toilet window in the train transferring prisoners to Calton Jail in Edinburgh. He spent a couple of years in Southern Ireland before resuming his medical studies at Glasgow University.

John Buchanan probably saved James Maxton, a celebrated labour politican from an early death in 1926. He persuaded Maxton to go to Glasgow Royal Infirmary for an x ray which revealed a severely inflamed duodenal ulcer.

In 1930 he was Maxton’s choice for the Shettleston by-election but lost out in the selection process which was later marred by allegations of ballot rigging. Shettleston had been the seat of John Wheatley – the great hero of Bevan’s father.

Eccentric and stubborn, Buchanan was also modest and generous. He ran his own general practice single-handedly at 4 Pollock Street, Govan, and VD clinics in hospitals and Glasgow docks.

“Before the health service came in he would not charge people. If they couldn’t pay, he wouldn’t charge. If they couldn’t buy the prescription for their child it would somehow just appear through their letter box.

“When the NHS was being talked about, my dad acted as an advisor to Nye because he had such a great experience of a working class practice and the people who needed a National Health Service.

“My dad was very keen on everything being free – glasses, the pills. He was horrified by prescription charges,” said Ann.

Dr John Buchanan was still working when he died from a heart attack in his driveway aged 78.

Ann Buchanan

Audio clip:

Ann Buchanan
Talks about her father’s GP practice

View transcript

As a child in Glasgow, Ann Buchanan would go to school with mangoes, bananas and other exotic fruit – gifts from grateful patients who worked on the docks to her father.

A Glasgow University graduate, she switched career from teaching when she answered a BBC ad for a make-up artist.

She has since worked with a galaxy of stars – Al Pacino, Hugh Grant and Ali G. In 2001 she was nominated for an Oscar for her work on Shadow of the Vampire.

She also looked after Margaret Thatcher and was re-booked despite being political poles apart from the Prime Minister.