James Joseph Magennis VC Frances Elizabeth Clarke Stewart Parker Samuel Beckett Sam Hanna Bell William Carleton John Hewitt Rosamond Praegar Bernard (Barney) Hughes

Brian Pringle (1905 - 1987):
Physician; Occupational Health reformer


(Robert) Brian Pringle was a member of that highly distinguished County Monaghan family which had produced, along with land proprietors, businessmen and lawyers, several prominent medical men.  He was born in the family residence at 2, Herbert Street, Dublin, second of the three sons, (Alfred Denis and Gerald being the other two), of Robert William Pringle, a barrister, and Alberta Pringle (née Hensham).  Their eldest son, Alfred Denis, was to become an esteemed judge of the High Court and, in 1974-1976, President of the Special Criminal Court established to deal with terrorist and related activities.  Brian, like his two bothers, attended Castle Park Preparatory School at Dalkey, county Dublin, where a cousin was headmaster and other relatives were former pupils; and then, again like his brother Denis and his cousin John Seton Michael Pringle, he went to Haileybury College in Hertfordshire and from there he entered Gonville and Caius College Cambridge with a major classical scholarship.  In 1912 the family had moved to St. Philips in Dundrum near Dublin to the home of his widowed grandmother, an aunt and an uncle, and in 1919, when he was at Haileybury, his father died from diphtheria; but despite these unsettling events he graduated MB, BChir. 

In 1930, after a year as a clinical assistant at St. Thomas’s Hospital, London, Pringle was appointed a house surgeon at South Devon and East Cornwall Hospital but returned to Dublin in 1931 where he became an assistant medical officer at Guinness’s Brewery, a move which decided him to make his career in the budding specialty of occupational medicine.  Accordingly, in 1934 he successfully took the Membership examination of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland (MRCPI) progressing to the Fellowship (FRCPI) in 1937 by which time he had joined the St John Ambulance Brigade (in 1936) remaining a member for 50 years and becoming Chief Surgeon and, in 1974, President and Chairman of Council. He also served as to the Commissioners of Irish Lights and to the Provincial Bank of Ireland and, after this latter bank merged with the Munster, Medical Officer and Leinster Bank and the Royal Bank of Ireland in 1966, to the resultant Allied Irish Bank. In 1947 he was a leading figure in forming the Association of Industrial Medical Officers of Ireland and served (1947-1949) as its first President where he was a seminal influence in the move to have its name changed to the Irish Society of Occupational Medicine because he and other progressive colleagues considered that this would give the specialty a more relevant and significant identity than did the existing term ‘industrial medicine’ which they considered to be outdated since, given its history, the term implied mainly an extension of general practice into the factory environment.  In this he was facilitated by his position in specialist medicine as well as occupational medicine having been an assistant physician at Mercer’s Hospital, Dublin (1933-1939) before becoming a consulting physician, a post from which he subsequently resigned (in 1945) on a matter of principle concerning the hospital’s refusal to admit tubercular patients, a refusal which he could not support. He subsequently became a consulting physician at Dr. Steeven’s Hospital and, 1963-1965, President of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland and, later, a member of the Irish Cardiac Society. This change in name from “Industrial” to “Occupational” was made in 1976, the year the Faculty of Occupational Medicine of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland (FOMI) was created as a Faculty within the College which (perhaps not wholly accidentally, predated its Royal College of Physicians of London equivalent by two years, the latter not being formed until 1978), and Pringle was its first (of two) Honorary Fellows (admitted on 17 November 1977) the other being Professor Tom Murphy, President of University College Dublin. 

Pringle’s activities, however, were not confined to the exercise of his profession.  He undertook many charitable responsibilities and, as a young man, was a keen and successful sportsman. He was an active member of many clubs and societies including The Kildare Street Club and The Friendly Brothers of St Patrick Club in Dublin,  He was a founder and a trustee of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Ireland (1961) and frequently represented the Society at the International Federation of Multiple Sclerosis Societies, a vice-president of the Royal Air-Force Benevolent Fund, a trustee of the joint committee of the British Red Cross Society, a member of the executive committee of the Forces Help Society of the Republic of Ireland, and in 1982 he was made a Knight of the Order of St John. He was also for some years a part-time lecturer in occupational medicine at Trinity College Dublin and wrote many articles in national and international journals on the subject.  In sport he favoured racquet ball-games rather than the physical contact ones and the field sports which were preferred by most of his medical relatives. Though a keen but only ‘average’ golfer he was a long-standing member of the élite Portmarnock Golf Club, he excelled in both tennis and squash winning the Fitzwilliam Plate in 1932 in the former, and in the latter representing Ireland in 1936. However he did share with his medical relatives a love of sailing and was a member of the Royal Irish Yacht Club for many years. He lived most of his married life in north Dublin where he died aged 81. 

Brian Pringle married Inez (“Jane”) Hope Travers, daughter of Capt A H Travers of the Grenadier Guards, in 1971 and had two daughters, Amanda and Gemma.



Born: 4 June 1905
Died: 15 April 1987
Peter Froggatt
Bibliography:

Dictionary of Irish Biography (Dublin, Royal Irish Academy, 2009, vol. 8, pp 304-5, contrib Tom Feeney; www.dib.cambridge.org); M Halliday, G Caldwell (Eds.): From College Courses to Lasting Links (Dublin: Linden Publishing Services, 2009, p173; JM Malone: Occupational Health in Ireland: A History (Dublin: Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, 2011, pp 20, 173, 175);  D Fitzpatrick (Ed): The Feds: An Account of the Federated Dublin Voluntary Hospitals 1961-2005  (Dublin:  A and A  Farmar,  2006, pp. 80,160); Irish Times, 1973, 6 Sept, p 6; 1987, 16 April, p 7; 11 June, p 13; 1984, 22 Nov, p7).