Lives of the fellows

John Noel O'Reilly

b.15 December 1904 d.10 October 1989
MRCS LRCP(1929) MA BMBCh Lond(1930) MRCP(1932) DM Oxon(1936) FRCP(1966)

John was born in Oxford, where his father was a civil servant. His early education was at the City of Oxford School and he was accepted by Jesus College as a mathematics exhibitioner. He became interested in natural sciences and changed his career plans, qualifying as a doctor at the Middlesex Hospital, London, where he had a distinguished academic career. He was also a keen athlete, cross country runner and footballer.

Throughout his life he had a great interest in international politics, European history and literature, so he chose Vienna and Heidelburg for his MRC travelling fellowship. There he perfected his German and studied tuberculosis in children, some years later becoming a patient himself in a sanatorium. After registrar posts at the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street, he became consultant paediatrician to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in the East End of London at the age of 29. Having undergone gastrectomy, the advent of war found him unfit for service with the Armed Forces and he became medical superintendent and physician of an Army hospital from 1940-43. He was subsequently appointed a consultant paediatrician to St Helier, Carshalton, population having been moved from the East End of London to a large new housing estate, the new three-storey paediatric block was the centre of a very busy practice. John’s high standards and hard work enabled the unit to thrive and many junior staff were inspired to specialize in paediatrics. Some years later, John was able to visit some of them in their professorial departments on his worldwide travels.

John O’Reilly started one of the earliest premature baby units in the UK and his work brought him into close contact with the obstetric department at the hospital, where Doreen Daly was a consultant. Their shared love of golf, bridge, literature and travel - as well as medicine -led to marriage in 1955. They had no children of their own. John was shy and reserved by nature but he made very loyal, long-term friends who he and his wife entertained in a most generous manner in their beautiful home.

He was a handsome and charming man, always immaculately dressed and immensely polite. He inspired confidence in his excellent medical skills and related well to children. After his retirement, he and Doreen continued to travel and they went to college to study Spanish.

Towards the end of his life, diabetes and its complications curtailed some of his pleasures but he retained his interest in literature, current affairs and good company.

A T Piesowicz

[Brit.med.J., 1989,299,1460]

(Volume IX, page 399)

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