Robert Farnan (physician)

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Robert P. Farnan (1898 – 7 January 1962)[1][2][3] was a gynaecologist, farmer, and senator from County Kildare in Ireland.[4]

He was born at Batton, Castlemore, County Kildare and was educated at CBS Athy, St. Vincent's College, Castleknock and at the Royal University of Ireland.[3] Farnan was Professor of midwifery in University College Dublin, and became first chairperson of the Medical Research Council of Ireland upon its establishment in 1937. He was also a gynaecologist to the Mater Hospital.[1] He was successful and wealthy, owning houses in Merrion Square and Howth, a Cadillac and a Rolls-Royce, as well as Bolton Castle, a tower house and farm in Kildare, where he bred Aberdeen Angus bulls.[4][5]

Éamon de Valera's son Terry wrote in 2006, "Perhaps of all my father’s friends and colleagues none were so close, nor had his trust as had Robert Farnan."[4] Farnan's home was de Valera's first hideout in 1919 after his escape from Lincoln Gaol.[6] He warned de Valera that his "external association" alternative to the Anglo-Irish Treaty was too subtle to persuade the public.[7] In September 1922, his house was the venue for a meeting between de Valera and Richard Mulcahy which tried in vain to halt the Civil War that the Treaty had started;[8] it is mentioned in As I was going down Sackville Street, Oliver St. John Gogarty's memoir of the time.[9]

In 1926 he became a founder member of the Fianna Fáil party and in 1938 de Valera nominated him to the newly formed Seanad Éireann as one his eleven Taoiseach's nominees to the Seanad.[3] He would be appointed a Senator by each subsequent Fianna Fáil Taoiseach until 1961 when he retired from political life.[2] De Valera, who received financial support from Farnan for a time, made him a director of the Irish Press newspaper since its foundation in 1932,[4] In 1953 he was appointed to the Council of State by President Seán T. O'Kelly and would serve on the Council until his death.[3] He mentored Éamon de Valera, Jnr, who also became a gynaecologist.[4]

After he retired from his medical career he had begun breeding Aberdeen Angus bulls. He won various prizes and was President of the National Aberdeen Angus Association from 1946-60.[3]

Farnan's first wife, Lora, died in 1938; they had no children.[4] He remarried and had one child, Patrick, who became a Catholic priest.[4] Robert Farnan bequeathed Bolton Castle to the Archdiocese of Dublin to establish a monastic community, which was done by Mount St. Joseph Abbey, Roscrea after 1965.[5][10]


  1. ^ a b Breathnach, Caoimhghin S (July–September 2000). "The medical sciences in twentieth-century Ireland" (PDF). Irish Journal of Medical Science. 169 (3): 221–5. doi:10.1007/bf03167702. 
  2. ^ a b "Dr. Robert P. Farnan". Members Database. Dublin: Oireachtas. Retrieved 14 January 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "Obituary: Dr. R. P. Farnan". The Irish Times. 8 January 1962. p. 7. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g de Valera, Terry (2006). A Memoir (PDF). Currach Press. pp. 22–4. ISBN 1-85607-921-X. 
  5. ^ a b Beattie, Gordon (November 1997). Gregory's angels: a history of the abbeys, priories, parishes and schools of the monks and nuns following the rule of Saint Benedict in Great Britain, Ireland and their overseas foundations : to commemorate the arrival of Saint Augustine in Kent in 597 AD. Gracewing Publishing. p. 81. ISBN 978-0-85244-386-6. Retrieved 14 January 2011. 
  6. ^ Keogh, Dermot (2005-01-27). The Vatican, the Bishops and Irish Politics 1919-39. Cambridge University Press. p. 30. ISBN 978-0-521-53052-1. Retrieved 14 January 2011. 
  7. ^ Coogan, Tim Pat (1992). The man who made Ireland: the life and death of Michael Collins. Roberts Rinehart. p. 302. ISBN 978-1-879373-71-6. Retrieved 14 January 2011. 
  8. ^ Coogan, Tim Pat; Morrison, George (December 1998). The Irish civil war. Roberts Rinehart Publishers. p. 50. Retrieved 14 January 2011. 
  9. ^ Gogarty, Oliver St. John (1937). As I was going down Sackville Street. Reynal & Hitchcock. p. 285. Retrieved 14 January 2011. That is Dr. Farnan's house. So Farnan is in the Movement. We were not long in reaching Merrion Square. 
  10. ^ "History". Bolton Abbey. Retrieved 14 January 2011.