Professor Edward Tempany
Doctor who pioneered paediatrics in Ireland and was an expert on cystic fibrosis is recalled by Maurice Hayes
Published 14/03/2010 | 05:00
PROFESSOR Edward Tempany was born in Leeds in 1930 into the sort of Irish medical family in Britain which is celebrated by John Walsh in Falling Angels. His father, a general practitioner, was from Sligo and his mother from Kerry. On the outbreak of war the children were sent to Ireland for safety and for schooling.
And it was here that he spent the majority of his life -- at Clongowes Wood College, at University College, Dublin, and later in medical practice.
Prof Tempany held the Chair of Paediatric Medicine in the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) and was a consultant paediatrician at both Our Lady's Hospital and the Coombe. In the course of a long and distinguished career he held many senior posts in clinical practice and medical administration.
After graduating in medicine in UCD, and in pursuit of a special interest in diseases affecting children, he took appointments in Washington and at Great Ormond Street, London, where he became a senior medical registrar.
Returning to Ireland in the early 1960s, he became a pioneer in the development of paediatrics as a specialism. And with a group of brilliant young contemporaries, he established the specialism in Ireland and the Crumlin Hospital as a centre of excellence. His special interest was in the treatment of patients suffering from cystic fibrosis. In this field he gained an international reputation, leading to the Chair of the International Cystic Fibrosis Scientific Committee and an honorary Fellowship of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
More importantly, he won the respect and admiration of his professional peers and the affection and respect of the families of children suffering from this distressful and debilitating condition. To them, he devoted not only his professional skill and care, but his voice in constant advocacy for the provision of better services for family support and continuing care.
An inspiring teacher and tutor, he acted as examiner to both Royal Colleges in Dublin, in Edinburgh, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. With a group of colleagues from the RCSI, he helped set up a medical school in Penang. When he retired he served with Judge Mary Laffoy on the Commission to Inquire into the Abuse of Children. In his last years, in practice and in retirement, he suffered from a painfully disabling chronic condition which became progressively more difficult. This he bore with his customary good humour, never allowing it to interfere with his care of patients or his duties as a host.
In 1959, he married Noirin O'Keeffe, a daughter of the then-general secretary of the GAA. This provided an interesting cultural challenge to a cricket-loving Old Clongownian, but he rapidly became acclimatised to gaelic games -- admittedly from the relative safety of a seat in the Hogan Stand.
Half a century on, he might have felt somewhat vindicated when an English rugby team played an international in Croke Park, but nature and nurture combined and he cheered on an Irish victory.
Outside medicine, his interests were in his family and in friendship, for which he had a positive genius. His passions were gardening -- from window-boxes to glasshouses to vegetable growing and the care of trees -- and angling.
The first rumour of the mayfly rising on Lough Mask had him racing to Cong in what became an annual ritual until growing infirmity meant he could not cast a fly. Apart from that, he enjoyed pottering around his Wexford retreat in Fethard.
Eddie Tempany was a civilised man who carried his learning and his many distinctions lightly.
He enjoyed conversation, the theatre, a good book, good food, and an exceptional wine. Above all, his gift was for friendship and hospitality.
He could tell a good yarn, and he was a good mimic, with a sharp wit.
Along with Noirin, he was the perfect host; and in the family home, which had an ever open door and a welcoming hearth, he surrounded himself with friends and his lively and intelligent children and their friends, who brought vitality and constant renewal.
He is survived by his wife, Noirin and seven children -- Caitriona, Siobhan, Kevin, Diarmuid, Muirin, Una and Niall (three of whom followed him into medicine) -- and by 16 grandchildren.
For them, and for a host of friends, his life has been an inspiration and a cause for celebration.