Thursday, 31 March 2016


During my second year in university I had an income of one shilling and six pence.  It was earned by taking part in the Question Time quiz which was held every day in the Theatre Royal in Dublin.  The quiz was held as part of the cinema and was part of a stage show at that time.  The question time was held every afternoon and my friends and I attended every Friday.  We almost invariably won because I had with me three other members of the university and we were way ahead in general knowledge then the other contestants who entered the quiz. 

The prize was ten shillings for the winner.  The admission for the show was one shilling per person and that left us with 6 shillings, 1 shilling and 6 pence per person pocket money!  We always sat in the front seats in order to get up to the stage first but soon we were told by the quizmaster that he could only deal with us once every week in order to be fair to the other contestants. If we didn’t comply with his wishes he threatened to ban us altogether.  

This practice went on for about a year or two and it provided us with enough money to survive. One of my colleagues, who later became a secretary of UCD and who was well known as an international bridge player was often the first in with the correct answer. 

A year or two later I was employed by the Sunday Independent to correct the crosswords entered in the competition during the previous Sunday.  For this I got 10 shillings every week and I was probably then one of the richest members of the faculty and possibly better off than some of the staff.  This employment was to continue until my last year in college when I had to settle down to do some work for my final medical examinations.  As a result of my intense interest in rowing, I barely scrapped through my first four years but the last year I devoted entirely to my studies.

I was advantaged by the fact that the standard of lectures was poor and sometimes irrelevant to the exam itself. I retired to the library during the lecture periods and probably learned four or five times more that I would have if I had been confined to the lecture theatre.  As a result, I shared second place with a colleague in the final examination.  He subsequently went to the Mayo Clinic where he became a faculty member there and only died recently.

The Royalettes (when they were more numerous and slimmer)
To return to the Theatre Royal and our various antics there, we were also entertained by the stage show which involved the Twelve Royalettes who did much of the dancing and other frivolities.  They were dressed in colourful if somewhat gaudy costumes and were a great source of interest to the young men in the audience.  We were there on the afternoon when the first show of “Bumpsadaisy” was revealed to the public.  The four of us, among other enthusiasts were invited onto the stage to join the Royalettes in performing this new number.  I was a little late arriving on the stage and I was left with the shortest but strongest member of the Royalettes.  As the music started, I took her hand, danced a few steps, then we took two or three turns around followed by a bump between my right hip and the dancer’s left. This contact was followed by two more turns and a further hip bump.  This procedure carried on for a few moments much to the enjoyment of the audience and the participants. However as the dancing came to an end I turned to have a final bump with my partner. This bump was perhaps more enthusiastic than the previous ones and I was thrown by the rather hefty weight of her hip and I went sprawling right back onto the stage. This caused much amusement in the audience.  As I collapsed in confusion I saw the big screen on the stage advancing rapidly towards my head but I was quickly moved away by two sprightly stage hands.  I soon came too as I was lifted up by the stage lads and removed to the side like a piece of old stage set.  I was then pushed out of a side door back to the audience area.  All this was much to the laughter and mirth of the onlookers. 

The theatre closed on June 30th 1962 and was demolished soon after.
As regards to my medical education, it was not until the end of the third year of college that I came in direct contact with a patient.  I was officially admitted to St Vincent’s Hospital to clinical sessions which were held every weekday morning. My first three years in university were virtually irrelevant from the academic point of view, but my interest in medicine and in my career was transformed as soon as I reached the hospital.  There I found myself working with physicians, surgeons, nurses and other members of the staff.  The transformation from the lecture hall to the hospital was for me a great moment in my life.  I was fortunate to have joined a great profession which suited me wonderfully. 

1 comment:

  1. I think that the 'great profession' was also very fortunate to have you! That magpie memory of yours made for an uncanny instinct in research, which often requires knowing things that should be irrelevant to the problem but which turn out to be connected with it in an unforeseen way.

    And please – more stories.