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Oliver St John Gogarty

Oliver Joseph St John Gogarty (August 17, 1878 – September 22, 1957) was an Irish poet, author, otolaryngologist, athlete, politician, and well-known conversationalist, who served as the inspiration for Buck Mulligan in James Joyce’s novel Ulysses.

In August 1906, Gogarty married Martha Duane, a girl from a landowning Connemara family. Eager to establish himself with a profession, he passed his final medical examinations in June 1907, several months after the death of his mother. In July 1907 his first son, Oliver Duane Odysseus Gogarty (known as “Noll”) was born, and in autumn of that year Gogarty left for Vienna to finish the practical phase of his medical training. Owing in part to the influence of his mentor, Sir Robert Woods, Gogarty had decided to specialise in otolaryngology, and in Vienna he studied under Ottokar Chiari, Markus Hajek, and Robert Bárány.

Returning to Dublin in 1908, Gogarty secured a post at Richmond Hospital, and shortly afterwards purchased a house in Ely Place opposite George Moore. Three years later, he joined the staff of the Meath Hospital and remained there for the remainder of his medical career. He became known for flamboyant theatrics in the operating room, including off-the-cuff witticisms and the flinging of recently removed larynxes at the viewing gallery. He also maintained ENT consulting rooms in Ely Place, attracting a number of wealthy clients and attending to less well-off patients for free.

As a Sinn Féiner during the Irish War of Independence, Gogarty participated in a variety of anti-Black and Tan schemes, allowing his home to be used as a safe house and transporting disguised IRA volunteers in his car. Following the ratification of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, Gogarty sided with the pro-Treaty government (headed by his close friend Arthur Griffith) and was made a Free State Senator. When Griffith fell ill during the summer of 1922, Gogarty frequently attended his bedside. His death on August 12, 1922 had a profound effect on Gogarty; W.T. Cosgrave later observed that “he was almost mortally wounded when Griffith died, he was so very, very much attached to him.” Gogarty carried out Griffith’s official autopsy and embalmment, and went on to perform the same offices for Michael Collins, another close friend whom Gogarty had often sheltered in his Ely Place home prior to his assassination. It was rumoured that Griffith had been planning to make Gogarty the new Governor-General of the Irish Free State, but in his absence the post went to Tim Healy.

In November 1922, anti-Treaty IRA commander Liam Lynch issued a general order to his forces to shoot Free State Senators. Two months later, Gogarty was kidnapped by a group of anti-Treaty militants, who lured him out of his house and into a waiting car under the pretext of bringing him to visit a sick patient. Gogarty was subsequently driven to an empty house near Chapelizod and held under armed guard. Aware that he might be in imminent danger of execution, Gogarty contrived to have himself led out into the garden (purportedly by claiming to be suffering from diarrhea), where he broke free from his captors and flung himself into the Liffey; he then swam to shore and delivered himself to the protection of the police barracks in Phoenix Park. In February of that same year, Renvyle was burnt to the ground by anti-Treaty forces. Following these incidents, Gogarty relocated his family and practice to London, where he resided until February 1924. Upon returning to Ireland, he famously released two swans into the River Liffey in gratitude for his life.

Gogarty remained a senator until the abolishment of the Seanad in 1936, during which time he identified with none of the existing political parties and voted according to his own whims

Gogarty suffered from heart complaints during the last few years of his life, and in September 1957 he collapsed in the street on his way to dinner. He died on September 22, 1957;

A pub in the Temple Bar district of Dublin is named after him and an annual Oliver St. John Gogarty Literary Festival is held in the author’s family home, now the Renvyle House Hotel in Connemara.

Buried; near Renvyle in Connemara.

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