Dr William D Linehan MD FRCPI – An Appreciation

Dr William D Linehan, who died on October 11th 2013, was a doctor of medicine who in the first stage of his career was involved in the fight against the scourge of tuberculosis and who later focused on the treatment of patients with asthma and other respiratory diseases.

Born in 1926 in Singapore he was educated at Clongowes Wood College before joining the medical faculty in UCD, graduating in 1949. He became a member of the Royal College of Physicians in 1957, and in 1958 was awarded a doctorate in medicine from UCD.

In 1962 Bill travelled with his family to West Africa as clinician for the British Research Council’s hospital in Gambia. He secured a prestigious training fellowship in 1964 at the Downstate Medical Centre Brooklyn New York. He trained under the aegis of Dr Harold Lyons, who was a leader in the treatment and investigation of asthma, tuberculosis and the measurement of lung function. There, Bill had superb training and acquired the first class specialist clinical and laboratory skills that he subsequently brought back to Ireland.

At the time there was a scarcity of full time respiratory consultant posts in Dublin but he secured several consultant sessions, including St Mary’s and Peamount hospitals and in the Mater Hospital, where he set up the pulmonary function laboratory – one of only two then existing in the country.

Bill became secretary of the Irish Tuberculosis and Thoracic Society and in 1977 was elected its president. He assisted in assembling a medical advisory committee for the fledgling Asthma Society of Ireland, of which he was the first chair.

Rugby was Bill’s lifelong interest and joy. He played Clongowes, then for UCD where he was captain in 1946/47 and part of the Leinster Senior Cup Winners team the following year. He also played for London Irish for several seasons. He was awarded a Leinster cap against Connacht but was a Munster supporter (except when his grandson, Eoin, was playing for Leinster!).

He always thought west Dublin deserved a rugby club, and was a founder with Eugene Cadogan of Coolmine RFC in 1980, where he was a wise guiding hand.

Tragically, Bill’s death was followed five weeks later by the death of his wife and partner-in-life, Maeve (nee O’Driscoll). Maeve supported him through his career, travelling with a family before they settled in Castleknock in the late 1960s. He is survived by his sons, Billy and David, daughters Annemarie and Barbara, his brother Fergus, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

For all his achievements, Bill was a modest man who never sought the limelight. He had an aversion to political posturing and medical intrigue, a very genuine affability and a quiet sometimes ironic sense of humour that was beguiling.

We will forever be indebted to him for his generosity of spirit, as will innumerable patients with lung disease who benefitted from his kind and expert care or from the work of the societies where he played such a pivotal role.
This Appreciation for Dr Linehan was published in the Irish Times on Monday 3rd March and is reproduced with the kind permission of the authors.