THE DOCTOR’S CASE

This month, Dublin-based writer Polly Dennison discovers the story behind the much-loved Globe-Trotter suitcase belonging to the late Professor Timothy B Counihan, one of Ireland’s first cardiologists

When Timothy B Counihan brought his navy Globe-Trotter case home to his wife and children in Dublin in the late 1960s, he ‘jumped up and down on it to prove its indestructibility,’ recalls his son, Dr Peter Counihan. His father, Professor T B Counihan, was one of Ireland’s first-ever cardiologists, and a regular and avid traveller. A member of a number of medical societies in the UK and US, the professor regularly flew between his home and practice in the Irish capital, and universities and specialist groups around the world, all the time with his Globe-Trotter in hand.

‘It was his favourite case,’ says Peter. ‘He brought it everywhere as his overnight bag. He bought it because it was billed as indestructible, and because it fitted into an aeroplane’s overhead compartment in those days.’ One of a pair of Globe-Trotter cases the family owned, the smaller was the most-travelled, and is covered in stickers hinting at holidays to Phuket, and business trips to London, the US and beyond.

Born in Killarney, in Ireland’s rugged and rural south-west County Kerry in 1923, Prof Counihan trained in Cork in the 1940s and 50s. He then moved, first to London, and then to Boston, where he worked at the side of the eminent cardiologist, Dr Paul Dudley White, at Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr White went on to become President Eisenhower’s personal cardiologist, and was a founding father of preventative cardiology.

Upon finishing his training with Dr White, Prof Counihan returned to Ireland, and became a lecturer in medicine at University College Dublin, and a consultant cardiologist in one of the country’s leading hospitals. Bringing home what he had learned in the US and UK, Prof Counihan and his contemporary, cardiac surgeon Eoin O’Malley, pioneered treatments still in use today. He became one of the leading lights in cardiac care in Ireland and travelled the country – perhaps with his favoured Globe-Trotter overnight case – tending to patients, bringing his knowledge of a subject still in its infancy beyond the capital.

‘No question about it, he was very eminent,’ says his son, Peter. ‘He had quite a distinguished career, and he didn’t retire until into his 70s.’ Despite being subject to mandatory retirement from the university and the hospital at the age of 65, Prof Counihan kept a private practice on Herbert Place, in a Georgian house on the leafy banks of Dublin’s Grand Canal. Prof Counihan and his wife continued to travel the world following his retirement. Inspired by tales of their son’s honeymoon to Thailand, they went to Phuket to ‘see it for themselves’, says Peter. Bringing their Globe-Trotter case along for the journey, a sticker from the adventure to Thailand still remains on its underside.

‘It’s certainly a well-travelled case,’ he says. ‘And it certainly is indestructible, it’s got to be at least 50 years old and it’s still going.’

 Images: Nick St Oegger