Lives of the fellows

Thomas Brendan Cullity

b.10 September 1925 d.22 July 2008
MB BS Adelaide(1947) MRACP(1950) MRCP(1952) FRACP(1965) FRCP(1976)

Thomas (Tom) Brendan Cullity was born in Adelaide, the second son of Thomas Cullity OBE, timber merchant and engineer, and Margaret (née Anglin). He had four siblings; John, Denis, Garrett and Margaret.

He attended and was dux of Aquinas College Perth and then commenced medicine, graduating at the Adelaide University in 1947. He claimed himself to be an ‘exceptionally gifted critic of cricket and Australian Rules football’ but he won a half-blue for football at the University of Adelaide.

Tom married Veronica Margaret (née Albrecht) in 1956 and had four daughters; Judith, Veronica, Margaret and Deidre. After a long separation from his first wife, he married Eve Shannon in 1998.

After residencies at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, the Royal Perth Hospital and Princess Margaret Hospital for Children in 1947 and 1948, and becoming registrar to the Clinical Research Unit in 1949, he went to the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne in 1950.

He spent 1951 and 1952 at the National Heart Hospital, Westmoreland Street, London, and was Assistant RMO there in 1953 and 1954.

On his return to Perth he had appointments at the Fremantle Hospital and in the Department of Cardiology at the Royal Perth Hospital and later was appointed Senior Visiting Physician there in 1966 until his retirement in 1983. He performed the first cardiac catheterization at the Royal Perth Hospital on a patient with Fallot's Tetralogy in the mid nineteen fifties.

His tuition of modern cardiology was wholly inspirational and led the writer into a career in cardiology.

In November 1967 he wrote of himself as an ‘embryo wine maker’. After reading of the promise of the Margaret River region he purchased eight acres there in August 1967 and named the vineyard Vasse Felix. He planted half as riesling and in his second vintage in 1972 won a gold medal at the Perth Royal Show for small wine makers in Western Australia and a silver medal for all comers.

After retirement in 1983, having already written ‘Vasse: an account of the disappearance of Thomas Timothee Vasse’, he discovered a rare complete first edition of Louis de Freycinet’s classic ‘Voyage Autour Du Monde’, purchased it and was then obsessed for the next fourteen years with it, in view of its historical significance and that it had never been translated into English. Therefore he enrolled in French at the University of Western Australia, and proceeded to translate it. His translation was published in 2001 as Reflections on New South Wales 1788-1839.

In December 1987 he wrote ‘Wine-making in Margaret River’, including advice for its future, epitomised by his instruction ‘The best manure is the owner’s foot-print’. In 2006 he was, without warning, presented with the Jack Mann Memorial Medal which was a most prestigious wine award to the individual who had contributed most to the Western Australian wine industry. Nevertheless he repeatedly shunned prestigious Commonwealth awards.

His lifelong paradigm was to strive for the highest professional, ethical and moral standards and, despite his extraordinary ability as a physician, teacher and diagnostician, his prodigious talent and great achievements, he was a very private person.

He died suddenly at home on 22 July 2008. On his death The West Australian dubbed him ‘Doyen: Margaret River legend’ but his enormous contribution to modern cardiology in Perth, and at the Royal Perth Hospital in particular, was unheralded.

N Cumpston

[Reproduced, with permission, from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians’ College Roll]

(Volume XII, page web)

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