Macafee, Charles Horner Greer (1898–1978), physician, was born on 23 July 1898 at the Manse, Dergmoney, Omagh, the only son and elder child of the Rev. Andrew Macafee, presbyterian minister, and his wife Annie Horner Macafee (née Crowe), MBE, a trained nurse and a widow of Dr Alexander Lane. He had one sister, Edith, who was younger than he was. Educated at Omagh Academy and Foyle College, Derry, he entered QUB (1916) and qualified MB, B.Ch., BAO with first-class honours (1921), taking first place in midwifery and gynaecology. He was elected FRCS and FRCSI in 1927.
Macafee began a long association with QUB in 1922 when he was appointed demonstrator in physiology. The following year he became university tutor in obstetrics at the Belfast Maternity Hospital, but he resigned as tutor in 1925, describing conditions at the hospital as deplorable. Having entered into private practice, he continued his commitments at the Royal Victoria Hospital, where he served as clinical assistant in gynaecology (1929–32), then assistant gynaecologist (1932–45), and finally gynaecologist (1945–63). From 1925 to 1930 he was assistant in gynaecology at QUB; later he was lecturer in midwifery and gynaecology (1937–45) and professor (1945–63). Upon his retirement he was made emeritus professor of midwifery and gynaecology.
An astute clinician and intuitive surgeon, Macafee is best remembered for developing the conservative management approach to dealing with cases of placenta praevia, where the placenta covers part or all of the cervix in pregnancy. Introduced in 1936, conservative management called for enforced bed rest for the expectant mother and minimal interference. It revolutionised treatment of this condition and within a few years reduced maternal mortality from twenty-six to five per thousand and foetal mortality from 500 to twelve per thousand. Conservative management was adopted in maternity hospitals throughout the world and brought international acclaim to Macafee and the school of obstetrics in Belfast.
Throughout his lifetime Macafee's achievements and scholarship were acknowledged with many civil and academic honours. He was a foundation fellow of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (1929) and he served on the council of that organisation and as vice president (1961–4). He was president of the Ulster Obstetrical and Gynaecological Society in 1952 and an active member of the Ulster Medical Society, of which he was president in 1958. Despite his many responsibilities, he was a member of several hospital and medical committees; as chairman of the advisory committee on maternity services in Northern Ireland and a member of the Northern Ireland Hospitals Authority, he contributed greatly to the organisation of medical services in Northern Ireland. Made CBE (1961), he was also deputy lieutenant of Co. Down (1969). After he retired from QUB he served as a member of the university senate (1965–73). He received numerous academic honours, but the ones of which he was most proud were his honorary fellowships of the Edinburgh Obstetrical Society (1977) and RCPI (1977), and the honorary LLD from QUB (1974), awarded for his services to medicine, the community, and the university. Most of all, he was delighted with the award in 1965 of both the Blair Bell memorial medal of the Royal Society of Medicine and the Eardley Holland medal of the RCOG, never before awarded to the same person in the one year.
Macafee published many important articles on placenta praevia and contributed to several obstetrical and gynaecological texts. His paper on ovarian tumours was recognised as an authoritative work on the subject at the time. Both his students and his patients were very fond of him, and for his part he never forgot their names or faces. A man of great gentleness and patience, he encouraged his students to listen to their patients and to value the opinion of an experienced ward sister. His surgical dexterity was renowned, and he made even difficult procedures appear easy. John Wharry Dundee (qv) (British Medical Journal, 1978) paid tribute to the encouragement he received from Macafee at a time when his speciality of anaesthesia was not highly regarded within the medical profession. In some ways Macafee was old-fashioned, and he disliked the presence of husbands in the maternity ward. One of his many famous utterances was when he urged his students, if they found themselves unsure what to do next for a patient, ‘Let's sit on her’ (Harley, 83). The lecture theatre in the refurbished Royal Maternity Hospital was named in his honour.
Throughout his life Macafee had a deeply held Christian faith. Because of his father's position in the community he was very aware of the poverty and suffering of others. As a child every Sunday he had helped to distribute money from the church poor fund to the needy of Omagh. Always a keen gardener, he continued to garden after his retirement, combining this with his other favourite pastimes, reading and writing. He married Margaret Crymble Lowry (1930), the daughter of Professor C. G. Lowry, a prominent Belfast obstetrician, and they had three children. All three entered the medical profession, the two sons as doctors and the daughter as a nurse. His wife died in 1968, and this caused him great sadness. He died 16 August 1978, shortly after his eightieth birthday, at the family home in Donaghadee, Co. Down.