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Dorothy Stopford Price: Rebel Doctor


Anne MacLellan

Arguably the most significant figure in Ireland’s fight against TB, this sensitive and compelling biography tells the fascinating story of Dorothy Stopford Price. Unjustly forgotten, Price made heroic efforts to rid Ireland of tuberculosis and was responsible for the introduction of the BCG vaccine to Ireland. MacLellan recounts a remarkable life, offering a fascinating insight into Price’s Anglo-Irish background, her startling involvement in the struggle for Irish independence and her brilliant and controversial medical career in the newly-independent state.


Dorothy Stopford Price was arguably the most instrumental individual in eradicating the TB epidemic within Ireland. She introduced BCG to its shores which, to this day, prevent children from catching tuberculosis. This illuminating biography uncovers the importance of her medical work and of occasionally controversial measures that placed her in opposition to one of the strongest voices in Ireland at the time—the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid.

Prior to her trials and successes with the TB epidemic, her medical career and social standing determined a fascinating life story: born within the Protestant Ascendancy to an Anglo-Irish family and a guest of the under-secretary to the British Administration during the Easter Rising, she soon crossed a stark divide, developing an ardent republican outlook that led to her appointment as medical officer to a West Cork Flying Column of the IRA during the War of Independence. Her determination never ceased and in 1921 she channelled her energies towards eradicating TB in Ireland; at a time when the Irish medical profession looked to the United Kingdom for leadership, she taught herself German to access scientific literature at the fore of medical developments. Anne MacLellan’s biography accounts for this provocative and indomitable life of an Irish woman frequently caught at the epicentre of Irish affairs.

Table of Contents

1. The Early Years: birth in Roebuck, Dublin, family, relocation to London following death of father, school at St Paul’s, almoner, voyage to India, 1914 Aunt Alice part finances Howth gun running, 1916 in the Phoenix Park

2. The Trinity Years: hard work, post-mortems, World War 1, the Spanish Flu and post-mortems on its victims, nationalism, feminism and the fight to allow women to join the Dublin University Bi.

3. The Cork Years: first job as a dispensary doctor – worries and triumphs, working with the IRA tending men on the run, providing a safe house, visits by family, fun and fishing.

4. Dublin, 1925-1935: marriage to Liam Price (district justice and antiquarian), work at St Ultan’s, living and entertaining at 10 Fitzwilliam Place, Dublin, trips abroad to Vienna and Germany, early scientific work.

5. Dublin, 1935-1939: pre-war – establishing herself as an expert on tuberculosis, weaving a network of international contacts including the Swedish Arvid Wallgren and the German Jewish refugee Walter Pagel.

6. The Emergency (1939-1945): consolidating work, publishing first edition of her book on childhood tuberculosis, adapting to wartime conditions (lack of petrol, medical and pharmaceutical supplies, dietary restrictions leading to increased severity of tuberculosis in children in St. Ultan’s), continuing correspondence with international and national contacts; attempt to set up a national anti-tuberculosis league, stymied by Archbishop McQuaid.

7. The final years (1945-1954): established expert on tuberculosis, chair of national BCG committee, chair of National Consultative Council on tuberculosis, liaising with Noel Browne, battling with James Deeny, continued publications, illness, WHO correspondent for Ireland.

About the Author

Anne Mac Lellan is Senior medical scientist in Connolly Hospital and part-time lecturer in NCAD. She is the co-editor of Growing Pains: Childhood Illness in Ireland 1750-1950 (2013).