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Two of the most important doctors for the custodianship of the hospital in the twentieth century were T. P. C. Kirkpatrick and Brendan Prendiville. One had been Physician since 1903, the other worked as Surgeon in the last decades of the hospital’s existence. Each played a fundamental role in preserving and communicating the history of Dr Steevens’ Hospital: Kirkpatrick by his seminal book on the subject, which was published in 1924 and reprinted in 2009; Prendiville in the role he has played in preserving the Edward Worth Library at Dr Steevens’ Hospital. Indeed, their love of the Edward Worth Library was something both men had in common for we know that Kirkpatrick spent much time there, examining the wonderful collection left to the hospital by Dr Edward Worth.
Portrait of T. P. C. Kirkpatrick by R. B. Ganly.
Thomas Percy Claude Kirkpatrick (1869-1954) was initially appointed as anaesthetist to Dr Steevens’ Hospital, prior to his appointment as Physician. As Lyons (2004) notes, he was particularly interested in treating venereal disease and his account of the setting up of a venereal disease clinic at Dr Steevens’ Hospital in 1919 is explored elsewhere in this web exhibition. Today he is perhaps best known for his work as a medical historian: his History of the Medical Teaching in Trinity College Dublin, first printed in 1912, has only recently been superseded by Davis Coakley’s Medicine in Trinity College Dublin (2014). His magisterial History of Dr Steevens’ Hospital which appeared in print in 1924, remains the basis for all subsequent examinations of the history of the hospital. These two books were only the tip of a very large bibliographical iceberg which included a host of articles on a large variety of subjects. Luckily the Kirkpatrick archive is now accessible in the library of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, where it remains an indispensable tool for any historian of medicine in twentieth-century Ireland. William Doolin’s obituary sums up the man:
Kirk was that rare and lovely being, a humanist in his outlook and in his interests, his humanism lighted by compassion. In his specialised field of clinical work, he often brought to mind Savonarola’s axiom: ‘The physician that bringeth love and charity to the sick, if he be good and learned and skilful, none can be better than he.’ In his written work he had three notable gifts: solid learning, so lightly borne, a sense of style, and a deep integrity of craftsmanship.
Brendan Prendiville joined the staff of Dr Steevens’ Hospital in the early 1960s, following training in plastic surgery at Wysthenshawe Hospital in Manchester, at Chepstow and at the United Cardiff Hospital. Having been allocated beds at Dr Steevens’ in 1955 by Arthur Chance (whom he would later succeed as Surgeon), he set about setting up the plastic unit there. Prendiville, in David Fitzpatrick’s (2006) fascinating account of the Federated Hospitals, explains how this plastic unit developed:
Initially there were 43 adult beds, which were increased subsequently to 46 on the closure of the venereology department, with a proviso that 5 beds would be made available for general surgical emergencies during the hospital ‘on-call’ rota. There were an additional 15 children’s beds and cots which were devoted almost exclusively to plastic surgery, there being no other demand for them in the hospital. In 1980 an intensive care unit for burns was constructed with theatre, dressing rooms, therapy bath and 5 beds for major burns.
It was to this plastic unit that many of the victims of the Stardust Fire of 1981 were taken.
A benefaction by Mr and Mrs L. R. Mullion enabled Prendiville and his colleague Niall Hogan to develop a maxillo-facial unit as part of a combined plastic surgery and maxillo-facial department. Eight beds were allocated to the latter. During the 1960s Prendiville had also been instrumental in setting up a cleft palate clinic which formed part of the same department and by 1977 a second maxillo-facial surgeon, Dr Frank Brady, was appointed. The department worked very effectively and, as Brady (2006) recounts, it later was recognised by the Department of Health as the national unit.
Lyons, J. B. (2004), ‘Kirkpatrick, Thomas Percy Claude (1869–1954)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
Lyons, J. B. (2009), ‘Kirkpatrick, Thomas Percy Claude’, Dictionary of Irish Biography (Cambridge University Press).
Prendiville, J. B. Lawlor, D. L. and Brady, F. (2006), ‘Plastic surgery and oral and maxillo-facial surgery’, in David Fitzpatrick (ed.), The Feds. An Account of the Federated Dublin Voluntary Hospitals 1961-2005 (Dublin), pp. 276 -282.