Dr. Fergal Nally, Rest in Peace
The Faculty of Dentistry is saddened to learn of the recent passing of Dr. Fergal Nally, one of our most respected and distinguished Fellows of the Faculty of Dentistry, RCSI. Dr. Nally died on 14th September 2023.
Dr. Nally was born in 1935, qualified in both Dentistry and Medicine from the RCSI, and was a consultant in Oral Medicine at the Eastman Dental Hospital in London, as well as serving teaching roles in Ireland and the UK. Dr. Nally was the true embodiment of the renaissance man and was a gifted clinician, researcher and teacher. He was also a sportsman, musician, author, and an artist of the highest reputation.
Dr. Nally graduated from the Catholic University School where he was a scholar and sportsman of repute, even claiming the wicket of his famous contemporary Dr. Tony O’Reilly in a victorious appearance in the Leinster Schools cricket final.
Dr. Nally attended the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and graduated in medicine and dentistry by the time he was aged 24 years. During his undergraduate career, he obtained every undergraduate dental prize in the College.
Following graduation, Dr. Nally became a Fellow of the Faculty of Dentistry in England in 1963 and in Ireland in 1969, and he served on the Board of the Faculty of Dentistry in Dublin for almost 10 years. Fergal was Lecturer in Pathology, Physiology and Periodontology in the RCSI in the 1960s and was appointed Consultant in Periodontology in the Dublin Dental Hospital in 1965. In the late 1960s, he moved to London, where he held various lecturing and consultant posts at the University of London, Eastman Dental Hospital and also at St Marys Hospital. He became a renowned expert in the field of Trigeminal Neuralgia and in 1981 completed his MD thesis on the “Management of Paroxysmal Trigeminal Neuralgia”. In subsequent years he continued his research interest in Facial Pain and published widely not only on Trigeminal Neuralgia but also on the diagnosis and management of malignant and premalignant conditions of the oral mucosa. His book “A Manual of Oral Medicine” was greatly loved and a staple in the collections of dental students throughout the world for many years.
Perhaps the popularity of this text with readers should serve as no surprise - in later years, Dr. Nally established a reputation as an accomplished author, publishing the acclaimed trilogy of novels: “A Matter of Conscience”, “A Matter of Time”, and “To Speak the Unspoken”. This trilogy dealt with the trials of Dr. John Nicholson, as he struggled against sabotage, legal challenges and the pharmaceutical establishment to develop novel cancer medication. It provided a rare and incisive insight into the effects of cancer on patients, families, doctors and scientists.
Dr. Nally developed a passion for painting, and his gifts were recognised in Ireland and abroad, where his landscape work became much sought after. He exhibited at the Oireachtas Exhibitions and Royal Hibernian Academy on numerous occasions, and his paintings hang at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin and the offices of the German Government among other locations. The world of dentistry was not blind to his artistic talent either, and his works also grace the offices of the American Dental Association in Chicago, the Federation Dentaire Internationale in London and the Royal College of Surgeons building on St Stephen’s Green, where many will also be familiar with his painting of the College coat of arms that hangs in the College concourse. Indeed, in 1984, Dr. Nally was commissioned by the Irish Government to design a postage stamp to commemorate the Bicentenary of the RCSI. His artistic expertise was formally acknowledged when he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in London in 1993. Dr. Nally was also a musicophile and a talented pianist.
When the loss of someone of a previous generation occurs, to those who did not know that person, their talents and impact on the lives of others can pass unnoticed with them, and all that remains is a name. Thankfully, Dr. Nally’s name will live on in the Fergal Nally Lecture, established by the Faculty during his lifetime to honour his enormous contribution to the Faculty, to RCSI, and our profession over the years. The Fergal Nally lecture has been delivered on alternate years since 2003, when Dr. Nally was the inaugural lecturer. Given his array of talents, it is fitting that the Lecture theme is not necessarily related to Dentistry, previous lecturers have included luminaries such as Dr. Brendan Kennelly and the famous explorer Tim Severin.
The Faculty and its alumni offer their sympathies to Dr. Nally’s family and colleagues. In acknowledging the legacy of his achievements in both dentistry and the many other facets of his life, we hope Dr. Nally will serve as an inspiration to all those who work and study in dentistry in Ireland and who strive to make the most of their abilities.