Lives of the fellows

Arnold Richard Lyons

b.12 December 1918 d.26 February 2003
OBE(1983) MB BCh BAO Belfast(1940) MD(1947) MRCP(1948) DMRT Edinburgh(1952) FFR RCSI(1962) FRCP(1969) FRCR(1975)

Arnold Richard Lyons was a physician and radiotherapist at the Northern Ireland Radiotherapy Centre. Although he grew up in a busy professional household in Belfast, he felt privileged to have lived as a small boy, for six months of each year, in an old cottage with few amenities in Islandmagee, County Antrim. In those days many liners and even sailing ships were to be seen, as were the daily crossings of the Larne-Stranraer boat, as it was then known. With the aid of field glasses, an excellent German field telescope, and an air pistol for shooting at balloons on the water, he acquired a great and lasting love for the sea.

His early schooling was under the tutelage of three grim ladies at a private school in the north of Belfast. At age ten, he moved to the Royal Belfast Academical Institution or 'Inst', where, among 600 other boys, he was fascinated by the subject of astronomy. This he regarded with awe. It gave him a sense of happenings of such magnitude that time and ordinary affairs seemed trivial. Meantime, his hopes of being a sailor were dashed - he was short sighted.

It was when he left Inst and took up the study of medicine at Queen's University Belfast that he felt his life really began. He considered it a great privilege to be a doctor, allowing as it does a unique relationship with people, one that can be exercised in a multitude of ways and in any part of the world. He graduated shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War, and after a house officer post in the Royal Victoria Hospital, he served as a medical officer in the Royal Air Force for five years. This experience affected him deeply. His exposure to so many intelligent and talented young aircrew who lost their lives in bomber command, and an acute realization of the human consequences of aerial bombardment, led to a lifelong revulsion toward modern warfare. He came to understand bravery and courage as stark realities.

After the war and further post-graduate study in Edinburgh and Belfast, he took up the care of patients with cancer. He was appointed consultant radiotherapist at the Northern Ireland Radiotherapy Centre in 1955. Again he learned the meaning of courage in the face of death. He loved his patients in a very real way, and he hoped and believed that many of them found in him a real friend. He believed passionately that a doctor should be apolitical, and that before the frightening heights and depths of severe illness and impending death, many seemingly important things declared themselves trivialities. His association with colleagues far and near in the Province was a source of great satisfaction, and many friendships were formed. It saddened him that the camaraderie expressed so easily in the Ulster character could not find expression everywhere in society, as it did in medicine. He partook in the training of junior colleagues, many from overseas, and welcomed them to visit his home.

The other great passion in his life was his family. He married Doris Mostyn in 1951 and they had two sons, both of whom followed him into medicine. To be with Doris and the boys at weekends and on holidays in the south and west of Ireland, and to meet there with friends, made him feel a very privileged person. His interests and talents were wide, and included photography, painting, writing, and literature - he was a compulsive reader. These interests stood him in good stead during the eight years he cared for Doris at home as she deteriorated with Alzheimer's disease, and for seven years after her death. He was fully active until the end, which came suddenly from a subdural haemorrhage after a minor fall.

G Daly

(Volume XI, page 352)

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