Riches of Clare: That Honorary fellow

Clare Champion, Friday, January 31, 2003

The Riches of Clare exhibition at the local authority-run Clare Museum charts the county's history over 6,000 years using authentic artifacts. In this article, museum curator, John Rattigan, writes about one of the many award Dr Patrick Hillery received as President of Ireland…

During his long political career, Clareman Dr Patrick Hillery received many presentations, awards and gifts at official functions, as a momento of a special occasion, and many of these have now been donated to Clare Museum.

Dr Hillery served in several ministerial posts in government, became Irelands first European Commissioner when this country joined the EEC, before serving two terms as President of Ireland between 1976-1990. However, before entering politics in 1951, Dr Hillery graduated from University College Dublin as a medical doctor, and worked in this profession in Canada and Ireland. For this reason, in 1979 while President of Ireland, Dr Hillery was made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland.

The Royal Academy of Medicine of Ireland was formed in 1882 at a meeting in the Royal College of Surgeons, with the amalgamation of four medical societies - the Dublin Society of Surgeons, the Medical Society of the College of Physicians, the Pathological Society and the Dublin Obstetrical Society. The reason for the establishment of the Academy, was that although each of these societies catered for a different branch of medicine, they tended to overlap one another. By amalgamating into the new Academy, they could meet regularly for the presentation of papers, specimens and exchange of information relating to various aspects of medicine.

In 1887, the year of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee, the Academy sought permission from the Queen to add the word "Royal" to its name. The reply from the Palace was that the Queen "commanded" that the name be now "The Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland". Worried that this would mean the Queen could command a change in the rules of the Academy, the Council passed a motion adding the word "Royal" and so honour was satisfied. Membership of the Academy is open to doctors and people interested in the science and practices of medicine. Applicants are submitted to the Council or Executive Committee and are subject to election.

There have been changes over the decades, however, and the main cause of this change has been the development of the medical field itself. The original four Sections remained in existence until the mid-1920's when new Sections were included. Today there are 21 Sections making up the Academy, each pursuing its own aims. There have been few other changes. It is interesting to note that for the most part, the original and very precise detail of how meetings should be conducted, laid down in Victorian times, are still followed to this day. For example, a presentation should not exceed twenty minutes in duration.

Today the Academy is a large and very important body, highly regarded in the medical field. Activities of the Academy also include presidential meetings, prize lectures, and registrars competitions. His Excellency Dr Patrick Hillery, Past President of Ireland, became one of an elite band of individuals when on 9 April, 1979, he was made Honorary Fellow of the Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland. Past recipients include Frenchman Louis Pasteur, the man responsible for Pasteurisation, and the German-born Robert Koch, Nobel Prize winner for Physiology or Medicine.

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