Dedicated ophthalmic surgeon with a lifelong interest in all things artistic


DENIS WILSON:DENIS WILSON, who has died aged 89, was an ophthalmic surgeon who practised in Cork for more than four decades and was the father of Fiona Shaw, one of the leading classical actors of our time.

A highly cultured and courteous man of the old Cork school, Dr Wilson (FRC Ophthal) shared with his wife Mary a lifelong interest in the arts, music and theatre. Their home at Montenotte, overlooking the city, was a venue for private poetry readings, operatic evenings and musical recitals, pursuits that were to have a significant bearing on Fiona’s decision to embark on a career on the stage.

However, while totally supportive of her decision to take up acting, he was also acutely aware of the uncertainties of life in the theatre and insisted she first do a degree at UCC, thereby ensuring she had an academic background before going on to study at Rada.

Though quietly reserved at those Montenotte soirees, he was a fine raconteur with a hearty laugh and a fund of entertaining stories about his boyhood days in Cobh. Educated at the local Presentation College he went on to study medicine at UCC. He played rugby for UCC and for the Combined Universities, and was capped for Munster. He subsequently worked for a short time as a GP in London and later back in Cobh before qualifying as an ophthalmologist at the Manchester Royal Eye Infirmary in 1960.

Returning to Cork, he was appointed to the Eye Ear and Throat Hospital as a consultant, and worked there until his retirement at 65, which coincided with the transfer of the unit to Cork University Hospital.

Constantly keeping abreast with developments in eye surgery, he was awarded an honorary fellowship in ophthalmology by his peers in London. He also taught at UCC and at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin.

As a doctor he had a way of putting patients at their ease and built up a substantial practice in Cork down the years. In retirement, he continued working as a consultant at CUH and also had a busy private consultancy practice for many years.

After retiring he wrote De Iron Trote, an excellent history of the old Cork Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital on the Western Road. Turning his interest in the arts to good effect, he also studied for a Diploma in Art History at UCC.

An enthusiastic golfer he played in a regular four-ball at Cork Golf Club. Three years ago he suffered a stroke. He is survived by his wife, Mary, daughter Fiona, sons John and Mark, grandson Jim, and sister Kathleen. He was predeceased by his son Peter.

Denis Wilson: born February 22nd, 1922; died April 25th, 2011