1919 – 2017
Born in Borris, Co. Carlow, he went to Castleknock College and studied medicine at university College Dublin. He graduated in 1941, dallied with general practice for a few years, obtained his MD in1946. He did his initial paediatric training in Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool. He was appointed children’s physician (paddy-atrician) to the Children’s Hospital in Dublin and later transferred to the newly built Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children (OLHSC). He was, additionally, children’s physician to the National Maternity Hospital (NMH) and to the Richmond Hospital. He took a year out at some stage to travel to Galveston Texas as research fellow in nephrology. Then in 1960 Jim was appointed Professor of Paediatrics to the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland medical school.
Jim was a general paediatrician with a special interest in nephrology. His training predated active intervention in kidney failure with dialysis modalities and with kidney transplantation. He always handled his small patients with great gentleness and gave caring advice to his junior staff. His practice covered the entire gamut of paediatrics from newborns in NMH to neurosurgery in the Richmond Hospital, to secondary and tertiary care at OLHSC. Jim liked to refer to paediatrics as “medicine and surgery of childhood”.
Nephrology was a new specialty in Ireland in the late 1950’s. With Gavin Arneil and others, Jim contributed in 1967 to the foundation of the European Society of Paediatric Nephrology and attended their first meeting in Glasgow. Offices held by Sheamus included Presidency of the Irish Paediatric Association, the Irish American Paediatric Society (1986-7) and the European Society of Paediatric Nephrology (1973 – 1974). He hosted the Annual European meeting in Dublin with hospitality, style and substance.
Jim’s special interests included, of course, children; he has been described as a “quiet, gentle, crisp and a singularly fine Irish Paediatrician”. He set high standards for himself and demanded them from everyone else. I am told that he was loved by parents and by ward sisters, and was a kind, directive mentor to paediatric trainees. He also looked after children with diabetes, and was cognisant and caring of the demands placed on them and their parents.
Amongst Jim’s earliest nephrology interests was urinary tract infection in the new-born – urine collection in babies, male preponderance, bacteruria and leucocyte excretion. He wrote on steroid therapy in nephrotic syndrome in 1957 – is it not strange that we are still using steroids with all their behavioural side effects, 50 years later in 2017? Other renal interests and publications were on renal tubular acidosis, and renal tubular handling of phosphates. In the 1950’s. Rhesus disease and haemolytic anaemia was being managed by exchange transfusion (“twenty in–twenty out”) at the National Maternity Hospital being the national centre for its management. Jim published in the Lancet a number of times on hyperbilirubinaemia in the new-born and on the osteomalacia of renal tubular acidosis.
So there you have it. Gentleman Jim. Deeply saddened by wife’s death many years before his. Father to twins Daireen and Edward. A children’s doctor noted for his gentleness. A founding member of an opera festival and of Europe’s paediatric nephrology group. A professor and mentor. A stylish caring man, who lived 98 years of family and of professional caring, enjoying wine, sailing, music, and people on his way.