seamus dubhghaill

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


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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.


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The Murder of Benedict Hughes

File written by Adobe Photoshop? 4.0Northern Ireland is plunged into a new crisis after Benedict Hughes, a Catholic, is shot dead on January 21, 1998 as he is getting into his car after finishing his work in a loyalist area of south Belfast. It is the latest murder aimed at wrecking the peace process and the eighth sectarian killing since Christmas.

Hughes, age 55, dies in a hail of bullets in Sandy Row shortly after 5:00 PM, as he is preparing to travel back to his Suffolk Crescent home in west Belfast. The father of three is shot at least five times in the neck and chest as he tries to get into his car which is parked in Utility Street off the Donegall Road. He is taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital where he later dies. The lone gunman makes off on foot in the direction of Felt Street.

The attack comes after the funeral of Fergal McCusker, a Catholic shot dead by the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) just days earlier and ahead of the funerals of Catholic taxi driver Larry Brennan and prominent loyalist Jim Guiney held on January 22.

When forensic people arrive on the scene soon after the shooting, the area is packed with onlookers who believe the shot man is a Protestant.

As a recovery truck comes to remove Hughes’s car later that night, small groups of people are still watching the scene. The Rev. Richard Darmody, the rector of nearby St. Aidan’s Church in Sandy Row, who went to the scene thinking the victim was one of his parishioners, condemns the murder. “I’m shocked and horrified that the life of an innocent person has been taken and that another family has been plunged into grief and pain. I feel very concerned about where this is going to lead and the possibility of more lives being taken and more families being bereaved.”

There is no immediate admission of responsibility. However, the blame is placed firmly on loyalists, either the LVF, which has admitted being behind a series of recent killings, or the Ulster Freedom Fighters, which has remained silent but which is suspected by the security forces of having joined the killings.

Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) councillor Alex Attwood calls on mainstream loyalists to “clarify whether they are really on a ceasefire” because it is clear, he says, the LVF has received help from other loyalist groups, the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) or the Ulster Defence Association (UDA).

SDLP councillor Alastair McDonnell says the peace process is not in crisis. Hughes was “an innocent Catholic who was just trying to earn a living, who has no connections with any political or paramilitary grouping. If he had he wouldn’t have worked here.” He adds that there is a “small handful of evil people” who do not want to see peace.

Alliance spokesman Dr. Philip McGarry says there is “no excuse, no justification for causing pain to yet another family.”

(From: “Catholic shot dead leaving work in loyalist Sandy Row” by Louise McCall, The Irish Times, January 22, 1998)


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Death of Unionist Politician David Ervine

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v80), quality = 82David Ervine, Northern Irish Unionist politician from Belfast and the leader of the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP), dies on January 8, 2007, following a massive heart attack, a stroke and brain hemorrhage.

Ervine is born into a Protestant working-class family in east Belfast on July 21, 1953. He leaves Orangefield High School at age 14 and joins the Orange Order at age 18, however his membership does not last long. The following year he joins the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), believing this to be the only way to ensure the defence of the Protestant community after the events of Bloody Friday.

Ervine is arrested in November 1974, while an active member of the UVF. He is driving a stolen car containing five pounds of commercial explosives, a detonator and fuse wire. After seven months on remand in Crumlin Road Gaol he is found guilty of possession of explosives with intent to endanger life. He is sentenced to 11 years and imprisoned in The Maze.

While in prison, Ervine comes under the influence of Gusty Spence who makes him question what his struggle is about and unquestionably changes Ervine’s direction. After much study and self-analysis, he emerges with the view that change through politics is the only option. He also becomes friends with Billy Hutchinson while in prison.

Ervine is released from prison in 1980 and takes up full-time politics several years later. He stands in local council elections as a Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) candidate in 1985 Northern Ireland local elections. In 1996 he is elected to the Northern Ireland Forum from the regional list, having been an unsuccessful candidate in the Belfast East constituency. In 1998, he is elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly to represent Belfast East and is re-elected in 2003. He is also a member of Belfast City Council from 1997.

Ervine plays a pivotal role in bringing about the loyalist ceasefire of October 1994. He is part of a delegation to Downing Street in June 1996 that meets then British Prime Minister John Major to discuss the loyalist ceasefire.

Ervine suffers a massive heart attack, a stroke and brain haemorrhage after attending a football match between Glentoran F.C. and Armagh City F.C. at The Oval in Belfast on Saturday January 6, 2007. He is taken to the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald and is later admitted to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, where he dies on Monday, January 8, 2007. His body is cremated at Roselawn Crematorium after a funeral service on January 12 in East Belfast attended by Mark Durkan, Gerry Adams, Peter Hain, Dermot Ahern, Hugh Orde and David Trimble among others.


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Birth of Professor James Francis “Frank” Pantridge

frank-pantridgeProfessor James Francis “Frank” Pantridge, physician and cardiologist from Northern Ireland, is born in Hillsborough, County Down, on October 3, 1916. Pantridge transforms emergency medicine and paramedic services with the invention of the portable defibrillator.

Pantridge is educated at Friends’ School Lisburn and Queen’s University Belfast, graduating in medicine in 1939. During World War II he serves in the British Army and is commissioned into the Royal Army Medical Corps as a lieutenant on April 12, 1940. He is awarded the Military Cross during the Fall of Singapore, when he becomes a POW. He serves much of his captivity as a slave labourer on the Burma Railway. When he is freed at the end of the war, Pantridge is emaciated and has contracted cardiac beriberi. He suffers from ill-health related to the disease for the remainder of his life.

After Pantridge’s liberation he works as a lecturer in the pathology department at Queen’s University, and then wins a scholarship to the University of Michigan, where he studies under Dr. F.N. Wilson, a cardiologist and authority on electrocardiography.

Pantridge returns to Northern Ireland in 1950 and is appointed as cardiac consultant to the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast and professor at Queen’s University, where he remains until his retirement in 1982. There he establishes a specialist cardiology unit whose work becomes well known.

By 1957, Pantridge and his colleague, Dr. John Geddes, introduce the modern system of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) for the early treatment of cardiac arrest. Further study leads Pantridge to the realization that many deaths result from ventricular fibrillation which needs to be treated before the patient is admitted to hospital. This leads to his introduction of the mobile coronary care unit (MCCU), an ambulance with specialist equipment and staff to provide pre-hospital care.

To extend the usefulness of early treatment, Pantridge goes on to develop the portable defibrillator, and in 1965 installs his first version in a Belfast ambulance. It weighs 70 kg and operates from car batteries. By 1968 he has designed an instrument weighing only 3 kg, incorporating a miniature capacitor manufactured for NASA.

His work is backed up by clinical investigations and epidemiological studies in scientific papers, including an influential 1967 The Lancet article. With these developments, the Belfast treatment system, often known as the “Pantridge Plan”, becomes adopted throughout the world by emergency medical services. The portable defibrillator becomes recognised as a key tool in first aid, and Pantridge’s refinement of the automated external defibrillator (AED) allows it to be used safely by members of the public.

Although he is known worldwide as the “Father of Emergency Medicine,” Frank Pantridge is less acclaimed in his own country, and is saddened that it takes until 1990 for all front-line ambulances in the United Kingdom to be fitted with defibrillators.

He died in Hillsborough at the age of 88 on Boxing Day, December 26, 2004. He never married.


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Gerry Adams Assassination Attempt

adams-assassination-attemptSinn Féin president Gerry Adams is seriously wounded in an assassination attempt in central Belfast on March 14, 1984. As the car containing Adams and four other leading Sinn Féin members leaves Belfast Magistrate’s Court, a vehicle pulls alongside and three Ulster Defence Association (UDA) gunmen fire approximately 20 shots into the car. Adams is shot in the neck and shoulder, Seán Keenan in the face, Joe Keenan in the body and hands, and Kevin Rooney in the body. Bob Murray is the only person in the car to escape without injury.

The republicans are in Belfast facing charges of obstruction after the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) attempt to remove an Irish tricolour from a Sinn Féin election cavalcade. After the shooting, Adams is rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital, where he undergoes surgery to remove the three bullets.

The three loyalist death squad members who carry out the assassination attempt are arrested shortly after the attack by off-duty RUC and British soldiers who open fire on them before ramming their car. One of the UDA gunmen accidentally shoots himself in the foot during the escape attempt.

Following his release from the hospital later in the month, Gerry Adams says it is “quite obvious that British Intelligence were aware” of the operation and that “they wanted myself and my comrades out of the way.” Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) Stormont Assembly member George Seawright expresses regret that Adams has not been killed. The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and the British Government remain tight-lipped while Will Glendinning of the Alliance Party uses the attack to remind voters he was “totally opposed to the politics of Gerry Adams.”

A Sinn Féin statement released just hours after the attack says “If the shooting was an attempt to drive us off the streets or underground, it has already failed.” The party says that such attacks are a constant danger, and that it is a testament to Sinn Féin that they continue their work despite such threats.