Lives of the fellows

Andrew Shannon Ramsey

b.23 Oct 1915 d.12 Apr 2004
MBE MB BCh BAO Belfast(1939) MD(1947) MRCP(1948) FRCP(1971) MRCPI(1977) FRCPI(1979)

Andrew Ramsey or 'Drew Ramsey', as he was known throughout his life, was the first consultant physician to be appointed to the Lagan Valley Hospital, Lisburn. Throughout his time there he was instrumental in changing the management and practice of medicine in the hospital and the surrounding area. Like so many Ulster doctors, he came from the farming community and in particular from the lowland Scottish settlement in Ulster in the 17th century. His father was Andrew Ramsey of Ballyclaverty near Doagh, Antrim, and his mother was Margaretta Shannon of Killead, Antrim. His kinship included, in an earlier generation, A McConnel, the Dublin neurosurgeon, and J E Simpson, the ship's surgeon of the Titanic.

Born in Belfast, Ramsey grew up on the northern outskirts of the city, where in his young days he played cricket for Woodvale. He was educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution and went on to study medicine at the Queen's University, Belfast, and the Royal Victoria Hospital. He graduated with honours in 1939. He always said he only started to apply himself to his studies when he went to university as it was only then he became interested in what he was doing and found he had a flair for medicine. At Queen's he had several years good service in the infantry unit of the Officer Training Corps. Whilst at Queen's he won the All-Ireland University Boxing Championship - he was a powerful boxer who always displayed a true sporting spirit, having taken up the sport, he claimed, because it was one of the few that did not need expensive equipment, which he could not have afforded.

He volunteered for service in the Royal Army Medical Corps in 1940 after a brief time as a house surgeon at the Royal Victoria Hospital. He was immediately appointed an instructor at the RAMC training depot in Leeds. He was then posted to No. 1 Field Ambulance, which formed the medical services for the 1st Guards Brigade attached to the 6th Armoured Division. He remained with the 6th Armoured Division throughout the rest of the war, seeing service in North Africa, Italy and Austria. He had a most distinguished army career and was appointed to the rank of lieutenant colonel. He was mentioned in despatches and awarded the MBE for his work. He won five campaign medals.

Returning to civilian life at the end of the war, he took up his studies again and received his MD and gained his membership of the College. At the beginning of 1951 he was appointed the first consultant physician to the South Antrim Hospital group where for the next 30 years he was to devote his skills in building up a medical service which became well known and highly respected throughout Northern Ireland. The work was challenging. What was to become the main medical block was a derelict building. Originally it had been an old Poor Law infirmary and the wards consisted of two Nissan huts left behind by the army. For some time he had no assistance, but eventually a house physician was supplied and after 12 years he was joined by another physician as a colleague. During his time in Lisburn Ramsey also worked in the old Lisburn Hospital, which became the main geriatric hospital for the Lisburn area until it closed in 1972.

All the difficulties were faced with his obvious organisational and medical skills, energy, zeal and a determination to serve the community. He raised large sums of money to build the first coronary care unit in the area and he set up a large diabetic clinic.

He was keen on what he called 'country medicine', particularly the infectious diseases to be found in the farming community. He served on the council of the British Medical Association (Northern Ireland branch) and was a fellow of the Ulster Medical Society. For several years he was honorary secretary to the consultants and specialists group and was a lecturer and examiner to the Royal College of Nursing. Dedicated to his work, he gave unstintingly of his time and energy, becoming a well known personality in the area, respected by his patients and by the general practitioners with whom he enjoyed working. Throughout his 30 years at the hospital he worked every Christmas and Boxing Day except one.

A man who did not tolerate fools gladly, he set himself the highest of standards and expected others to do the same. He hated timewasters and those with pretensions. A man of many talents, he excelled at whatever took his interest. A keen and successful gardener, sportsman, sailor and traveller, he was a past captain of Lisburn Golf Club, commodore of Down Cruising Club and president of the Queen's Services Club.

He was fortunate and happy in his marriage to Maude Magill, a nurse from Ballyclare, Antrim, whom he met when she was a sister in the Royal Maternity Hospital in Belfast. She predeceased him in 1988, a blow from which he never fully recovered. He was a devoted and greatly loved father and grandfather. He is survived by his daughter, Elizabeth, and by his son, Andrew, and two grandchildren.

John Logan
E M Ramsey

[References:Brit.med.J.,2004,329,1048]

(Volume XII, page web)

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