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Biographical entry McNamara, Kevin Nicholas (1915 - 2002)

CBE 1980; MRCS and FRCS 1947; MB ChB Otago 1937; MD 1945; FRACS 1946.

14 January 1915
Auckland, New Zealand
14 August 2002
General surgeon


Kevin McNamara was born in Auckland on 14 January 1915. His mother died when he was 12, leaving seven children, of whom Kevin was the oldest. His father remarried and had a further nine children. He was educated at the Sacred Heart College, from which he went to Otago University, qualifying at the age of 22 and winning the Colquohoun prize in medicine. He started to train in pathology, first at Auckland Hospital and then at the North Shore Hospital in Sydney.

In 1939, he volunteered for the Australian Army, but a routine chest X-ray detected tuberculosis and he was transferred to a sanatorium. Tiring of inactivity, he returned to New Zealand as assistant superintendent of the Whangarei Hospital, where he was in charge of a 300-bed emergency military hospital, and had to deal with epidemics of influenza and meningitis. In 1943, he moved to the Greymouth Hospital as chief surgeon, and at the same time wrote up his experience with meningitis for an MD thesis. He won the Gordon Craig postgraduate fellowship, with which he went to England to take the FRCS.

On his return to New Zealand in 1946, he was appointed surgical assistant to Sir Carrick Robertson at the Mater Misericordiae Hospital, Auckland, becoming senior honorary surgeon in 1955. He enjoyed teaching, coached candidates for the primary Fellowship and taught undergraduates at the Auckland Medical School. He was director and finally Chairman of the Southern Cross Medical Society, whose trust set up a series of hospitals.

He established a highly productive dairy farm and became a successful racehorse owner, eventually becoming president of the Auckland Racing Club. He married Gwen Boyd in 1943 and she sadly predeceased him, along with their eldest son, Brian, in 1985 in what he described as "the worst week of my life". They had a family of three sons and four daughters. He was awarded the CBE in 1980 for his services to medicine and the community. He died on 14 August 2002, survived by his remaining children, 15 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Sources used to compile this entry: [NZ Med J 2002 115 (1164)].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England