Robert Graves and a second opinion


Sir, – Frank McNally describes Robert Graves’s divided loyalties when he fled Limerick, his ancestral city, to seek treatment in England for Spanish flu at the end of the first World War (An Irishman’s Diary, July 22nd).

He must have felt similarly torn during the Battle of the Somme: his mother, Amalie Elizabeth Sophie von Ranke, was the daughter of Prof Heinrich von Ranke, an eminent German paediatrician.

The poet’s Irish lineage was not limited to the clerical and literary.

His great-uncle, Dr Robert Graves, president of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland and a physician at the Meath Hospital, introduced teaching ward rounds – the Dublin method of bedside instruction. Overactivity of the thyroid gland is still known as Graves disease from his original description.

Selina, his grandmother, was the daughter of John Cheyne, professor of medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, who gave his name to Cheyne-Stokes respiration.

His older sister, Rosaleen Louise, studied medicine in Oxford and became a general practitioner.

Graves would not have been short of medical opinions on where to be treated for the flu. – Yours, etc,



Gaoth Dobhair,

Co Dhún na nGall.