United Irishmen's Professor William Dease's shocking way out and the spooky crack that appeared in his Dublin statue, the college's most popular story.
As you enter the hall of the Royal College of Surgeons, on St Stephens Green, you are greeted by the marble statue of a Cavan man, William Dease, a founder of the college and its first Professor of Surgery. However, right there lies a story which has been passed down through generations in the college and now stands as one of it's most popular urban tales.
The Sir Thomas Farrell sculpted statue of William Dease was presented to the college by his grandson Matthew O'Reilly Dease, in 1886. Not long after, staff and students noticed a crack had appeared in the statue which brought an eerie link to the tragic demise of Professor Dease.
William Dease was born in Lisney, County Cavan, in 1752, into a well off family. He studied medicine in Paris and returned to Ireland where he became a surgeon at the United Hospital of St Nichol and St Catherine in Dublin city. In 1793, he was elected surgeon to the Meath Hospital.
Dease married Eliza Dowdall, daughter of Sir Richard Dowdall of County Meath and they set up home on Sackville Street ( today's O'Connell street). Their son Richard would go on to become President of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1809 but, just ten years into that post he died in unfortunate circumstances when he caught an infection in the dissecting room in the college.
In Jan 1798, the 46-year old William Dease took his own life. One story has it that he accidentally cut the artery of a patient on the operating table and the patient died so Dease in a fit of wild remorse then stabbed himself. Another story relates to a disease Dease had been suffering from and no longer able to live with it he decided to end his life. The most popular story and most told one, relates to Dease and his "radical" politics.
Dease was a member of the United Irishmen and when he learned from a fellow doctor that the red coats were on their way to arrest him he fled the college and went home to take drastic action. Faced with imminent arrest and certain disgrace, Dease took a scalpel to his left leg and cut the femoral artery, he died within minutes from blood loss.
That story became more popular following what can be considered an altogether spooky occurrence. Sometime after the statue of William Dease was unveiled in the entrance hall of the Royal College of Surgeons a crack appeared down his left leg at the spot where Dease severed his artery. A strange occurrence indeed!
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