Born 1923, Died 2020
Born in 1923, Roddy was one of three brothers from north Meath to be educated at Blackhall Place. Through swift thinking by a local doctor, he had survived diphtheria as a young boy — perhaps this inspired his medical vocation. Although very gifted academically, he recalled that “he did very little work,” choosing to “read all the books in the library instead of doing homework.” He represented the school at both cricket and rugby with distinction and played for Leinster Schools in both sports. A prefect for two years, he was the inaugural winner of the Hall Cooper Cup, which in those days was awarded to the most popular pupil after a vote by the pupils.
He went to Trinity College with his cousin Ivor McKeever (1935-1941) for company. In his memoir, he recalls, “My years of academic idleness in The King’s Hospital sustained a severe jolt as soon as I entered the medical school — I was expected to study hard and diligently.” After graduating, he began his career as a house surgeon in the Adelaide Hospital before moving to London. He became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland in 1951. His unorthodox career path, shaped by humanitarian concern, brought him to various countries of South Asia and South America.
He decided to retire back to Ireland in 1971 and felt compelled to settle in Belfast so as to be prayerfully and wisely present there during the Troubles. During those years of violence, he was one of many courageous, right-thinking people offering a hand of friendship and reconciliation — another was Eric Turpin (1931-1936). He asked, “As an ordinary concerned citizen, where can one begin to make a small contribution to the resolution of an impossible situation?” Looking back, he saw how a handful of people found themselves taking the first steps towards a peace agreement; “all they did was to do each day what they thought was right and one thing then led to another.” At his funeral in St Finnian’s Church, Cregagh, the rector gave thanks for “a remarkable life lived with dignity, humour and grace” and remembered his long association with the Church of Ireland Men’s Society and with Clonard Monastery.