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.