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Dr. Charles W. McCarthy

    Dr. Charles W. McCarthy – A GIFTED SON OF TIPPERARY.

    Physician, surgeon, soldier, painter, sculptor and musician- truly "a man of many parts."

    And at least one of these gifts, and that perhaps the least easily "acquired" has been transmitted to his child, the possessor of such a combination of faculties stands out still more prominently amongst the distinguished in any community.

    Dr. Charles W. McCarthy was born in the town of Fethard, County Tipperary, in 1848 – a year remarkable for the abortive rising of the Young Ireland party under William Smyth O’Brien. He received his early education at the National School, on the banks of the Anner and at the foot of the Slievenamon Mountain, near his native town. While still a boy he developed a great talent for music and was the organist and leader of a local church choir. Young McCarthy pursued the study of classics under a Mr. Walsh, in the town of Fethard, and at 16 years of age was sent to St.Vincent’s College, Castleknock, near Dublin, an old and famous scholastic establishment, conducted by the Vincentian Fathers. He remained their one-year, but during that time carried of a large number of the prizes. Dr. McCarthy, in 1867, became a student at the Catholic University, in St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin, the Rector of which at the time was the Rev. Dr. Bartholomew Woodlock, afterwards Bishop of Ardagh. Dr. Woodlock had succeeded in the rectorship

    The celebrated Rev. John Henry (afterwards Cardinal Newman). Dr. McCarthy took the degree of Bachelor of Arts at the University. He pursued his medical studies at the School of Medicine, Cecilia Street, Dublin, upon the site of the historic crow Street Theatre, which flourished during the first half of the Eighteenth century, and where many of the histrionic celebrities of the time appeared upon the boards. During the session of 1868-69 Dr. McCarthy was awarded the Gold Medal for Materia, Medica, Medical Jurisprudence, and Practical Chemistry. At Cecilia Street School, Dr. McCarthy had amongst his fellow students, Dr. M.J. Clune, now of College Street, Sydney; Dr. John Ryan, R.N., who perished in the turret ship "Captain" off the coast of Spain about 33 years ago; and Dr. Nixon, now one of the examiners in the Royal University of Ireland. At the Catholic University one of his fellow students was Mr. John Dillon, M.P.

    Subsequently Dr. McCarthy was appointed Resident Clinical Assistant at the Mater Misericordiae Hospital, Dublin, and at this time was accorded the satisfaction vouchsafed to few men, of reading his own obituary. A gentlemen of the same name was drowned in Dublin bay at Ringsend, and through some mistake the deceased was stated to be the young surgeon of the Mater Misericordiae Hospital. "The Freemans Journal" announced the sad occurrence, printed a panegyric of the "promising young medical man", and one morning Dr.McCarthy was astonished to read that he had been drowned, and that his loss was greatly deplored. It was well known that Dr. McCarthy was an ardent oarsman, and as the accident at Ringsend was a boating one, the conclusion arrived at was that the hapless McCarthy was no other than the young doctor.

    In 1870, when the war broke out between France and Germany Dr. McCarthy and a young medical friend, Dr. McCullough, offered their services as volunteers, in any capacity, to the French Consul at Dublin; but that officer was obliged to decline the offer, as he had no authority to accept the aid of foreigners on behalf of his Government. Not long afterwards, however, the Irish ambulance in the service of France was started, and Dr. McCarthy and Dr. McCullough at once joined it. They proceeded to Harve, where they were attached to a regiment of Franc-Tireurs, a corps of infantry always on the march, and a kind of military surprise party. Dr. McCarthy experienced all the hardships and privations of a soldier’s life during the winter campaign; was frequently under fire and once fell into the hands of the enemy. Dr. McCarthy’s regiment encountered the Prussians, and while the defeated French fled, the doctor stayed to minister to the wounded, and was taken prisoner but soon afterwards liberated, when his profession was established. When peace was proclaimed Dr. McCarthy returned to Ireland and to his native Fethard, where he received an enthusiastic ovation.

    Dr. McCarthy then crossed over to England, and commenced practice in Manchester, but he did not remain there long, and returned to Fethard, where he engaged in practice for five years. Afterwards he went to reside in Clonmel, the principal town of the County Tipperary, where he remained eight years. During his practice in Clonmel, Dr. McCarthy performed, on one occasion, a remarkable act, showing at once the physical courage and humanity of the man. He was treating for diphtheria a child, who became nearly suffocated from the dreadful disorder. In order to relieve the little one, the doctor opened the windpipe and inserted a tube to permit if breathing. This tube, after a while, became plugged with mucus, and Dr. McCarthy, at the imminent risk of his life, sucked out the deadly poison and enabled the child to breathe.

    Later on Dr. McCarthy obtained the triple doctorate at the University of Brussels, with honours, obtaining special distinction in operative surgery and clinical medicine. The examination for the triple doctorate is very comprehensive, and is said to be much more thorough and searching than most of the English examining boards require. Dr. McCarthy also became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, Ireland, by examination, and a Fellow of the Academy of Medicine.

    His health began to fail in 1884, and it became apparent that he must remove to a warmer climate than that of Ireland. He decided to go to Australia and in the year last named he arrived and settled down to practice in Sydney. On the eve of Dr. McCarthy’s leaving Clonmel, a public meeting was held in the Town Hall to bid him farewell, when he was presented with an address and testimonial from the inhabitants. Soon after his arrival in Sydney Dr. McCarthy became Honorary Physician to St. Vincent’s Hospital, which position he held for three years, after which he joined the surgical staff of the institution.

    The subject of his sketch has published several compositions for the piano and harmonium, which have been well received by the public, and he also published some pieces of music specially dedicated to his daughter, a wonderful performer on the violin, and in whom the late Mr. Gladstone took a great persona; interest.

    Dr. McCarthy is also a sculptor and modeller. At the Adelaide Exhibition of 1887 he carried of the first prize for modelling against professional competitors, and at a local exhibition (Sydney) later on, a group of mother and child, entitled " Her First-born", was exhibited by him, and attracted much attention in art circles. Busts of Sarah Bernhardt and Mr. John Dillon M.P., executed by Dr. McCarthy, were exhibited at the World’s Fair, Chicago, in 1892. Both these admirable works were executed from sittings given to Dr. McCarthy by the eminent persons whom they represent.
    Dr. McCarthy is a painter. A life-size portrait of Sarah Bernhardt, executed by him, was also exhibited at the Chicago Exhibition; and he has produced a striking life-size portrait in o’ls of Mr. Daniel O’Connor.

    It is remarkable fact that Dr. McCarthy’s proficiency in the branches of art-music, painting and sculpture –is due entirely to self-teaching and inherent appreciation of art. Dr. McCarthy has been married twice and has a family of several children.

    His love for the old land has not weakened or grown cold in the far Antipodes, and he is to be found in the front rank of every Irish national movement in the city of his sojourn, Sydney. He was, we believe, one of the principal inaugurators of the Michael O’Dwyer memorial, and an ornamental portion of the monument is his own personal work. In connection with the testimonial for "Eva" of the Nation, he rendered valuable services. He helped to promote a concert for its benefit that filed to overflowing the largest theatre in Sydney, taking chief part in its conducting and assisting in the accompaniments.

    As a boy, Dr. McCarthy’s favourite pastimes were shooting, fishing, and riding. He is still an enthusiastic sportsman, and one of the best shots who leave Sydney for a day’s shooting.

  • Dr. Charles W. McCarthy
    from the Fethard & Killusty Annual Newsletter 1988

    Charles William McCarthy, Medical Practitioner, was born at Main Street, Fethard, on the 31st March, 1848, son of John McCarthy and his wife Elizabeth (nee Fitzgerald), whose business premises stood on the site now occupied by the AIB premises.

    Charles was educated at the local National School, and at Castleknock College, following which he entered the Catholic University of Medicine, Dublin. During his youth he excelled at most sports. He interruped his studies to serve with an ambulance unit in the Franco-Prussian War and he received the Licentiate of the King and Queen’s College of Physicians in Ireland in 1872. He practised in Manchester before returning to Fethard, where he married Anastasia Cantwell on September 24th 1873. By 1877 he had moved to Clonmel, he had an extensive practice. After his wife’s death, he married a Contralto Marion Cuddihy, in Dublin, in 1881 on the 25th June.

    In 1884, he graduated M.D. at the University of Brussells and was admitted a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.
    In poor health, he emigrated with his family to Sydney in the same year. He soon established a wide practice in St. Elizabeth Street, he was known as a gentle and skillful Surgeon. He became Honorary Physician and Surgeon at St. Vincent’s Hospital and Personal Physician to Cardinal Moran.

    Prominent in Catholic and Irish Committees, he was Chairman of the ‘98 Centenary Celebration Committee in Sydney and designed the Monument over the grave of Michael Dwyer, the ‘Wicklow Chief’, self-exiled to Australia in 1805. He had a natural talent for music, painting and sculpture. He composed several comic operas, wrote patriotic songs, lectured and wrote on music and in 1912 helped to establish Tom Moore Concerts in Sydney. Though self-taught, he excelled as a Sculptor. Sarah Bernhardt sat for him, for a portrait of Cleopatra, although his paintings were mostly of a religious theme. His best works as a sculptor were probably a life size bust of Napoleon, exhibited at the 1915 International Exhibition in San Francisco, and the Statuette “Ills ne Passeant Pas”, embodying the Spirit of France. He was also gifted with a beautiful singing voice.

    Charles McCarthy of Fethard - Surgeon, Painter, Sculptor, Architect, Musician and Patron of the Arts, - a true Irishman and Patriot, died in his Elizabeth Street home in Sydney on June 7th, 1919, and after Requiem Mass in St. Mary’s Cathedral was buried in Waverly Cemetary near the’98 Memorial. He was survived by his wife and their daughter, Maude, a celebrated violist, who are both living in England.

    Charles McCarthy’ first wife is interred in the McCarthy family burial plot at the rear of Fethard Parish Church. He Memoriam is enshrined in a heart, underneath surrounded by another heart is the inscription - Charles William McCarthy, born Fethard, 1848, died Sydney Australia, 1919.

    It appears from the McCarthy Headstone that Charles McCarthy may have brought his father to live with him in Sydney, as an inscription reads “John McCarthy, died Sydney, Australia, September 1888 and whose embalmed body was interred here, November 1888.


This site is maintained by Joe Kenny, Rocklow Road, Fethard, Co. Tipperary, Ireland.