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John Benjamin Story (1850 - 1929):
Surgeon; oculist

John Benjamin Story was born in Aghabog, County Monaghan, on, younger son of the Rev William Story, Rector of Aghabog, and Sarah Bernard Black of Sligo. He was educated at Winchester School and entered the University of Dublin (Trinity College) in 1868 where he read arts and medicine winning many prizes including the Wray Prize, was first moderator in logic and ethics; he graduated BA in 1872 and MB, BCh in 1876. Deciding to specialise in diseases of the eye he studied with leading European exponents including contemporary Titans in the subject such as Horner (in Zürich), and Arlt and Jaegar (in Vienna) before returning to Dublin University where he took the Masters degree in surgery (MCh) in 1880 and became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (FRCSI) the same year. In 1882 he was appointed Lecturer in Ophthalmological Surgery at the Ledwich School of Anatomy, Medicine and Surgery (a private school in Peter Street, Dublin, long associated with the Adelaide Hospital) and his career principally as an ophthalmic surgeon, though also as an aural specialist, was now launched. 

Story’s achievements can be conveniently considered in two, interconnected categories: as a practitioner and specialist; and also as the holder of prestige positions most being within the profession and its organisations. In the first category (in chronological order), and following his appointment to the Ledwich School and before the School’s absorption along with the Carmichael School (at the corner of Aungier Street and Whitefriar Place and long associated with the Richmond Hospital) into the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland School in 1888/1889, Story continued as a lecturer, but on the amalgamation of the above Schools he became Professor of Ophthalmology, holding the position until he retired in 1925 at which time the post was discontinued until 1981. He was also appointed “examiner in ophthalmologic surgery, Dublin University” (at Trinity College) from 1880 following, at two removes, in the post created for Sir William Wilde’s natural son, the then senior ophthalmologist at St. Mark’s Ophthalmic Hospital, Henry Wilson. Story had in fact been the resident medical officer at St Mark’s in 1877 becoming “junior surgeon” in 1878 and then “senior surgeon” until his retirement in 1922, this post continuing after the amalgamation of St. Mark’s with the National Eye and Ear Infirmary to form (in 1897) the present Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital. He also held appointments as visiting ophthalmologist to The Adelaide Hospital in Dublin (1913-1922), to Mercer’s Hospital in Dublin (1899-1925) and at Monkstown Hospital, and in 1895 he succeeded Robert Kerr Johnston as head of the eye and ear department at Dr Steevens’ Hospital in Dublin until 1913. Following St. Mark’s Hospital tradition he was also oculist to the Claremont Institute and to St. Joseph’s Asylum. He was a respected author of medical articles many based on his clinical experiences and which were often published in the Dublin Journal of Medical Science mostly between 1880 and 1895; but he also had articles on broader aspects of the ocular examination of children, such as “Medical inspection of schools and school children” (in Journal of The Statistical and Social Enquiry Society of Ireland, for 1912), and he contributed a chapter in The System of Diseases of the Eye (“Ocular lesions in variola, rubeola morbilli, scarlatina, erysipelas and diphtheria”), in a popular textbook edited by Norris and Oliver and published in London in 1900.

Story’s interests and activities within the profession, however, went further.  He was elected to the Council of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland in December 1885 and was President for 1918-1920. He was General Secretary of the Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland (1898-1903) and President of The Irish Medical Association in 1913. He was a founder member of The Ophthalmological Society of the United Kingdom in 1918-1920, and during the First World War was Secretary of the Dublin branch of the National Service League. In 1911 he was appointed High Sheriff of County Tyrone. Perhaps the highest professional dignity within the Government’s ultimate powers was accorded to him when he was appointed Surgeon Oculist to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, namely the fifth Earl Cadogan, 1895 to 1902, and his successor the second Earl of Dudley, 1902 to 1905, and, in 1910, Surgeon Oculist to the King in Ireland (George V). For much of his career he lived and practised at 6 Merrion Square, a favoured location for successful Dublin medical practitioners. 

Story died on 18 February 1926 at his home, 4 Carlisle Terrace in Malahide, County Dublin. He had married Blanche Christabel Hallowell, daughter of the Rev. John W Hallowell, rector of Ballinacourty, County Galway, in Taney Church of Ireland Church, County Dublin, on 25 June 1892. They had one son who died in infancy, and two daughters, Eleanor Constance (who became chairwoman of the South Tyrone Women’s Unionist Association and was appointed OBE in 1961), and Joan Blanche (who served in the Women’s Royal Naval Service in World War II). There is a memorial plaque to Story in Clogher Cathedral, County Tyrone.

Story’s younger brother, William George Theaker Story, graduated in medicine at TCD in 1888, took the Diploma of Public Health also at TCD, in 1890 and became a Licentiate of the Dental School (LDS) of RCSI in 1896. He was a well-known general practitoner at 102, Marlborough Road Dublin, later at 8 Fitzwilliam Street, and at times from his residence in Malahide, and was examiner in dental surgery to the RCSI. He died at 9 St James’s Terrace, Malahide, on 21 August 1929. 

Born: 31 August 1850
Died: 21 August 1929
Peter Froggatt

RSJ Clarke: Directory of Ulster Doctors) (Belfast, Ulster Historical Foundation, 2013, vol. II, p. 1092): JB Lyons: An Assembly of Irish Surgeons (Dublin: The Glendale Press & the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, 1984, pps. 50-51); Gearoid Crookes: Dublin’s Eye and Ear: The Making of a Monument (Dublin: Town House and Country House, 1993); John F Fleetwood: The History of Medicine in Ireland (Dublin: The Skellig Press, 2nd Edition, 1983) JDH Widdess: The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and its Medical School, 1784-1984) Dublin: Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, 3rd Edition, 1984, pps. 166,176,104-9,161); David Mitchell: A ‘Peculiar’ Place: The Adelaide Hospital, Dublin; Its Times, Places and Personalities, 1839-1989. (Dublin: Blackwater Press, 1989, pp. 147, 331); JB Lyons: The Quality of Mercer’s: the Story of Mercer’s Hospital. 1734-1991 (Dublin: Glendale Press, 1991, p.204); Dictionary of Irish Biography. (Cambridge University Press, Royal Irish Academy, 2009, vol.9, pp.120-1); Obituary, British Medical Journal, 6 March 1926, p.457