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Biographical entry Osterberg, Paul Harald (1926 - 2013)

BA MB BCh BAO Dublin 1953; FRCSI 1959; MRCS 1961; FRCS 1961.

28 October 1926
Copenhagen, Denmark
25 June 2013
Orthopaedic surgeon


Paul Harald Osterberg was an orthopaedic surgeon in Belfast. He was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, on 28 October 1926, but spent his early years in New York, before his father's civil engineering career took the family to Ireland. His father Harald Østerberg also served as consul general for Denmark in Ireland. His mother Ethel Østerberg née Davenport was born in New Zealand.

Paul was educated at St Columba's College, Dublin. At the age of 17 he started studying civil engineering at Trinity College, Dublin, but, in 1944, three days after his 18th birthday, he volunteered for the British Army, stating he was determined to help in the fight to restore freedom to Denmark. He was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Buffs (the East Kent regiment) and, attached to the Royal Artillery, served in Palestine from 1944 to 1947.

Following his demobilisation, he decided to study medicine and qualified from Trinity in 1953. His early postgraduate training was at Sir Patrick Dun's Hospital, Dublin, and later at the Royal Victoria and Musgrave Park hospitals, Belfast. Here he was influenced by Sir Ian Fraser and R J ('Jimmy') Withers. His specialist orthopaedic training took place at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital London, where he came under the influence of Sir Herbert Seddon.

In 1965 he was appointed as a consultant to the Royal Victoria and Musgrave Park hospitals. He was also part of the Northern Ireland Orthopaedic Service, through which he and specialist after-care nurses provided a visiting orthopaedic service to the people of Fermanagh in the west of the province. Paul continued to provide this service up to his retirement.

Throughout his consultant career he enjoyed being a generalist, and was less comfortable with increasing sub-specialisation. He was one of a small group of orthopaedic surgeons in post in Belfast at the outbreak of the civil disturbances in 1969, and he and his colleagues provided care, and developed surgical techniques to treat all patients, irrespective of their allegiances.

He enjoyed the multi-professional and personal side of medicine, so evident in Ulster. He was a visiting professor at Pahlavi University, Iran, in l976, and he and his wife drove overland to take up the post.

He was the founding president of the Irish Orthopaedic Association, helping to transform the Irish Orthopaedic Club into this active association that drew its membership from the whole island of Ireland. He also served on the council of the British Orthopaedic Association. A sociable and approachable man, he continued his medico-legal practice well after retirement, and his opinion was well-respected in legal circles.

In 1952 he married Valerie Goodbody and they had two daughters, Lydia and Vanessa. Happily settled in Ulster, he and Valerie created a celebrated garden at the Old Manse in Hillsborough, which they continued to develop throughout their lives. He inherited his father's love of sailing and the sea, an interest that stretched back several generations (his grandfather had been in command of the Danish lighthouse service). Paul owned a series of elegant sailing boats, and continued sailing with friends in Scandinavian, Scottish and French waters to the end.

Throughout their married life, and into retirement in 1989, he and Valerie loved to travel, usually by car. However, he was well-known as an erratic driver, with a tendency when talking to ignore traffic lanes and signals.

He died on 25 June 2013, aged 86. Pre-deceased by Valerie, he was survived by his two daughters and four grandsons.

James Nixon
Vanessa Larmor

The Royal College of Surgeons of England