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Biographical entry McSweeney, Terence (1920 - 1996)

KCHS; MRCS and FRCS 1951; MB BCh, BAO Cork 1943; MCh (Orth) Liverpool 1950; MCh NUI 1952; FACS 1980.

30 October 1920
Youghal, County Cork, Eire
14 January 1996
Nantwich, Cheshire
Orthopaedic surgeon


Terence McSweeney (always known as Mac) was born on 30 October 1920 in Youghal, County Cork, Eire. He was educated at Presentation College, Cork City, and University College, Cork, Medical School where he qualified with honours in 1943. His future career in orthopaedics, and particularly the treatment of spinal injuries, was influenced to a considerable extent by his contact with polio victims in Ireland, and also by treating a young quadriplegic farmer who had broken his neck after being tossed by a bull.

After qualifying he joined the RAFVR from 1945 to 1947, serving in India for a year with the rank of squadron leader. Following this he decided to embark on a career in orthopaedics and took up a succession of junior appointments in Oxford, Birmingham, Liverpool and finally Oswestry. His career was moulded and influenced by contact with some of the great orthopaedic surgeons of that generation, including Trueta, Watson-Jones, Osmond-Clarke, Robert Roaf, Norman Roberts and Bryan McFarland.

In 1956 he was appointed consultant orthopaedic surgeon to Crewe Memorial Hospital and the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital in Oswestry, where he was responsible for trauma care, and became well-known and respected in the railway workshops, the Rolls-Royce factory and the surrounding farming community. Recognising the need for a specialised spinal injuries unit for both treatment and teaching purposes, he worked tirelessly to establish one at Oswestry, and achieved this aim in 1969 when he was appointed director of the newly-opened Midlands Spinal Injuries Unit, serving in that capacity until his retirement in 1982.

His contributions to orthopaedics and particularly cervical spine injuries, in which he was an international authority, were considerable. He was a member of the editorial boards of the Journal of bone and joint surgery and the British journal of accident surgery, and lectured abroad in the USA, Europe, Israel and Africa. His reputation was further enhanced by the honorary FACS degree awarded to him in 1980.

After his retirement he continued to work with the Medical Appeals Tribunal in Merseyside and the West Midlands until 1993, where his enormous experience proved invaluable in spinal injury claims. In 1996 he was elected a life member of the Liverpool Medical Institution.

In 1947 he married Joan Murray, a student of architecture from Ardmore in Scotland, with whom he had a very close and happy family life. They had five children, two of whom, Elizabeth and Rosemary, took up nursing, and one of whom, Luke, became an orthopaedic surgeon in Gwynedd, and seven grandchildren.

In his private life Terence McSweeney held deep Roman Catholic religious convictions, and he was inducted Knight of the Holy Sepulchre in 1978 and subsequently Knight-Commander. He was also a keen historian, knowledgeable in Latin and Gaelic, and travelled widely, as recently as 1994, advising on disabled children in Zambia. He supported many humanitarian causes and is remembered by his colleagues and staff as a modest, warm-hearted and congenial man with a phenomenal memory, who was greatly respected by all. He died on 14 January 1996 in Nantwich, Cheshire, following a stroke.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Markham, G. Transactions of the Liverpool Medical Institution, September 1996; Monk, C J E. Transactions of the Liverpool Medical Institution, September 1996; The Independent, 13 February 1996; BMJ 1996 312 841, with portrait].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England