Eminent surgeon and engaging lecturer in anatomy

Harold Browne: November 15th, 1922 - January 5th, 2015

Harold Browne, who has died aged 92, was an eminent surgeon and lecturer in anatomy at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI).

He was described by a former president of the college, Prof Patrick Broe, as “a master clinical and technical surgeon, an outstanding teacher of clinical anatomy and surgery and most notably a compassionate and caring doctor”.

Browne was born in Dublin and lived at Clonbroney, Co Longford until he was five, before moving to Longford town. His father, Fred, a farmer, and his mother, Nelly, raised eight children, of whom he was the eldest. He attended St Michael’s Boys’ National School and then St Mel’s College, Longford.

He studied medicine at UCD, graduating second in his class. While working as a junior anaesthetist at the Richmond Hospital in Dublin he developed a strong interest in surgery.


Mayo Clinic

Offered a training position in surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota in 1950, he became one of the first Irish surgeons to be trained in a full residency programme in the US. The standards of care he saw there made a lasting impression.

He returned to Ireland in 1953 and was appointed to the staff of the Richmond Hospital in 1955. In 1964, he was appointed consultant surgeon to St Michael’s Hospital, Dún Laoghaire, a position he resigned from in 1977 because of pressure of work at the Richmond.

The closure of the Richmond in 1987 coincided with his 65th birthday and he therefore retired from public service. He continued to work privately for some years at the Bon Secours hospital in Dublin.

In 1953, he had taken a part-time lecturing position in anatomy at the RCSI and when he retired from surgical practice in 1987 he became a surgeon prosector and anatomy lecturer in the college.

He was a gifted raconteur and his clinical stories enlivened anatomy lessons for generations of RCSI students, who frequently gave him standing ovations. The students marked his 90th birthday by making him president of their Biological Society. The RCSI’s department of anatomy honoured his long teaching association with the college by naming its lecture theatre after him.

He was awarded a fellowship of the American College of Surgeons in 1961 and, uniquely for an Irish person, he was awarded an honorary fellowship in 1977 by the RCSI. The Anatomical Society of Great Britain and Ireland awarded him an honorary fellowship in 2013.


When his friends William MacGowan and Patrick Collins developed the Irish Higher Surgical Training Programme in 1977, he supported and promoted it strongly. He was elected to the

Irish Medical Council

in 1984 and chaired its fitness-to-practise committee, presiding over several high-profile cases. He was president of the Medical Council from 1989 to 1994.

In 1955, he married Aileen MacClancy, a doctor colleague at the Richmond, and they had five children. She died in 1982 and in 1999 he married Vivienne Nash, a theatre nurse colleague at Richmond and Beaumont hospitals. He was a keen golfer and member of Milltown golf club for many years. He was also a life-long passionate Arsenal supporter and received a personal letter of good wishes from Arsène Wenger on his 90th birthday.

A dedicated surgical practitioner and educator, who was widely respected throughout the Irish medical profession, Harold Browne was remembered with affection in a warm tribute by past president Patrick Broe at a function marking RCSI’s charter day on February 7th. He is survived by his second wife Vivienne, his sons Michael, Philip and Richard and his daughters Elizabeth and Ingrid.