seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


Leave a comment

Birth of William Whitla, Physician & Politician

william-whitlaSir William Whitla, Irish physician and politician, is born at The Diamond, Monaghan, County Monaghan on September 15, 1851.

Whitla is the fourth son of Robert Whitla, a woolen draper and pawnbroker, and his wife Anne, daughter of Alexander Williams of Dublin. His first cousin is painter Alexander Williams. Educated at the town’s Model School, he is articled at fifteen to his brother James, a local pharmacist, completing his apprenticeship with Wheeler and Whitaker, Belfast‘s leading pharmaceutical firm. Proceeding to study medicine at Queen’s College, Belfast, he takes the LAH, Dublin, and the LRCP and LRCS of Edinburgh in 1873.

With his qualifications Whitla obtains a post as resident medical officer at the Belfast General Hospital. He next spends some time in London, at St. Thomas’s Hospital, where he meets his future wife, Ada Bourne, daughter of George Bourne, a prominent Staffordshire farmer. She is a ward sister and friend of Florence Nightingale and a member of The Salvation Army.

The pair are married in 1876, settling in Belfast where Whitla establishes a general medical practice. He is awarded the MD of the Queen’s University of Ireland in 1877, with first class honours, gold medal, and commendation.

Whitla is appointed physician to the Belfast Royal Hospital and the Ulster Hospital for Children and Women in 1882. He holds post at the Belfast Royal Hospital and in the Royal Victoria Hospital, of which it is the forerunner, until his retirement in 1918. He succeeds Seaton Reid as professor of materia medica at the Queen’s College in 1890 and is twice president of the Ulster Medical Society (1886–1887, 1901–1902). Appointed a Knight Bachelor in the 1902 Coronation Honours list published on June 26, 1902, he is knighted by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, George Cadogan, 5th Earl Cadogan, at Dublin Castle on August 11, 1902.

In 1906 Whitla is appointed a governor of Methodist College Belfast and he takes a keen interest in the school’s affairs. In 1919, he retires as Professor of Materia Medica in the university.

A strong unionist, Whitla is elected to parliament in 1918, serving until 1923 as representative of the Queen’s University at Westminster. He is appointed honorary physician to the king in Ireland in 1919 and is subsequently university pro-chancellor.

During the 1920s Whitla’s public appearances are fewer and, after a stroke in 1929, he is confined to his room. Lady Whitla dies in 1932. He dies at their Belfast residence, Lennoxvale, on December 11, 1933, and is given a civic funeral two days later. He is buried at Belfast City Cemetery.

During Whitla’s lifetime his gifts to his profession include the Good Samaritan stained glass window erected in the Royal Hospital and a building to house the Ulster Medical Society. At his death Lennoxvale is bequeathed to Queen’s University as a residence for the Vice-Chancellor. The university also is his residuary legatee and acts on his suggestion that the available funds should provide an assembly hall. The Sir William Whitla Hall is opened in 1949.

Whitla also leaves £10,000 to Methodist College Belfast to build a chapel, library or hall. The Whitla Hall at the Methodist College is opened in 1935.


Leave a comment

Death of John Moore Neligan, Physician & Medical Teacher

atlas-of-cutaneous-diseasesJohn Moore Neligan, one of the foremost physicians and medical teachers of his day, dies on July 24, 1863. Neligan, son of a medical practitioner, is born at Clonmel, County Tipperary, in 1815. He graduates M.D. at Edinburgh in 1836, and begins practice in his birthplace. He later moves to Cork, where he lectures on materia medica and medical botany in a private school of anatomy, medicine, and surgery in Warren’s Place.

In 1840 he takes a house in Dublin, and in 1841 is appointed physician to the Jervis Street Hospital. He also gives lectures on materia medica from 1841 to 1846, and on medicine from 1846 to 1857, in the Dublin school of Peter Street. He publishes in 1844 Medicines, their Uses and Mode of Administration, which gives an account of all the drugs mentioned in the London, Scottish, and Irish pharmacopœias, and of some others. Their sources, medicinal actions, doses, and most useful compounds are clearly stated. The compilation, though containing no original matter, is useful to medical practitioners, and goes through many editions.

Neligan enjoys the friendship of Robert James Graves, the famous lecturer on medicine, and in 1848 edits the second edition of his Clinical Lectures on the Practice of Medicine. In the same year he publishes The Diagnosis and Treatment of Eruptive Diseases of the Scalp, which is printed at the Dublin University Press. He describes as inflammatory diseases herpes, eczema, impetigo, and pityriasis, and as non-inflammatory porrigo, and gives a lucid statement of their characteristics in tabular form. He is unaware, however, of the parasitic nature of herpes capitis, as he calls ringworm, and seems not to have noticed the frequent relation between eczema of the occiput and animal parasites.

From 1849 to 1861 he edits the Dublin Quarterly Journal of Medical Science, and publishes many medical papers of his own in it. In 1852 he publishes A Practical Treatise on Diseases of the Skin, and, like most men who attain notoriety as dermatologists, issues in 1855 a coloured Atlas of Skin Diseases. His treatise is a compilation from standard authors, with a very small addition from his own experience. The subject is well arranged, and so set forth as to be useful to practitioners. It is much read, and leads to his treating many patients with cutaneous affections.

Neligan suffers from kidney disease in his final years. On July 17, he begins to feel unwell and returns to his country residence, Clonmel House, and goes to bed, from which he never rises again. Over the next few days his kidneys ceased to function altogether and he slips into a coma. John Moore Neligan dies on July 24, 1863.