“I am immediately reminded of that day. In the middle of the body of students there was a mature Anglo-Irish student who had been a tank commander in the Army. He became almost hysterical, roaring with laughter in the middle of what soon became a vacant space, as all the other students tried to dissociate themselves from him. Pressure was such that those at the ends of his bench were falling into the aisles.
Prof Bailey-Butler was an extraordinary man. Habitually, he would reach down to seize the turn-up of his right trouser leg, to pull up his lower leg and place it horizontal on the bench before him, where it would stay for the rest of the lecture. But however bizarre his behaviour, I remember him as a very early eco-scientist. He was attempting to balance the flora and fauna of the tidal “Blue Lagoon” at the seaside near Clontarf. He would generously invite students to visit his home in Howth.
He was not the only character. The elegant Professor Agar , with the help of an assistant, would have a range of chemical experiments set up on the bench. As he described each reaction, it would take place before our eyes. Sadly, the professor fell ill, to be succeeded by his colleague who came to be known as Doctor Molecule. (pronounced mole-ecule). Despite his expertise alongside Prof. Agar, not one of his own experiments would work. The flask would not change colour when the reagent was introduced, or the tube would explode.
A lecturer in public health had a display of several dozen tiny model water closets on the bench as he spoke. He mumbled so badly that no matter how close you were to him, you could not understand a word he was saying. In a phone conversation with my father, who was himself a UCD graduate, I recount my experience. “Oh, that’s Prof. WD O’Kelly”, he replied.
Later, it was my fate to be at a demonstration in the Grange Gorman Mental Hospital. The then Medical Director presented the case of the woman in post-natal depression, who had drowned several of her children when she was trying to drown herself in a lock in the South Circular Canal. The climax of his presentation was to tell her for the first time that her children were dead. I can remember her screams vividly today. “You can see her perfectly normal affect”, was the calm comment of her caring consultant.”
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