Robert Farnan (physician)

Robert P. Farnan (1898 – 7 January 1962)[1][2][3] was a gynaecologist, farmer, and Senator from County Kildare in Ireland.[4]

He was born at Batton, Castlemore, County Kildare and was educated at CBS Athy, Castleknock College and at the Royal University of Ireland.[3] Farnan was Professor of midwifery in University College Dublin, and became first chairperson of the Medical Research Council of Ireland upon its establishment in 1937. He was also a gynaecologist to the Mater Hospital.[1] He was successful and wealthy, owning houses in Merrion Square and Howth, a Cadillac and a Rolls-Royce, as well as Bolton Castle, a tower house and farm in Kildare, where he bred Aberdeen Angus bulls.[4][5]

Éamon de Valera's son Terry wrote in 2006, "Perhaps of all my father’s friends and colleagues none were so close, nor had his trust as had Robert Farnan."[4] Farnan's home was de Valera's first hideout in 1919 after his escape from Lincoln Gaol.[6] He warned de Valera that his "external association" alternative to the Anglo-Irish Treaty was too subtle to persuade the public.[7] In September 1922, his house was the venue for a meeting between de Valera and Richard Mulcahy which tried in vain to halt the Civil War that the Treaty had started;[8] it is mentioned in As I was going down Sackville Street, Oliver St. John Gogarty's memoir of the time.[9]

In 1926 he became a founder member of the Fianna Fáil party and in 1938 de Valera nominated him to the newly formed Seanad Éireann as one of his eleven Taoiseach's nominees to the Seanad.[3] He would be appointed a Senator by each subsequent Fianna Fáil Taoiseach until 1961 when he retired from political life.[2] De Valera, who received financial support from Farnan for a time, made him a director of the Irish Press newspaper since its foundation in 1932.[4] President Douglas Hyde appointed Farnan as a member of the first Council of State in 1938. In 1953 he was appointed to the Council of State by President Seán T. O'Kelly and would serve on the Council until his death.[3] He mentored Éamon de Valera, Jnr, who also became a gynaecologist.[4]

After he retired from his medical career he had begun breeding Aberdeen Angus bulls. He won various prizes and was President of the National Aberdeen Angus Association from 1946-60.[3]

Farnan's first wife, Lora, died in 1938; they had no children.[4] He remarried and had one child, Patrick, who became a Catholic priest.[4] Robert Farnan bequeathed Bolton Castle to the Archdiocese of Dublin to establish a monastic community, which was done by Mount St. Joseph Abbey, Roscrea after 1965.[5][10]


  1. Breathnach, Caoimhghin S (July–September 2000). "The medical sciences in twentieth-century Ireland" (PDF). Irish Journal of Medical Science. 169 (3): 221–5. doi:10.1007/bf03167702. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-04.
  2. "Dr. Robert P. Farnan". Members Database. Dublin: Oireachtas. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  3. "Obituary: Dr. R. P. Farnan". The Irish Times. 8 January 1962. p. 7.
  4. de Valera, Terry (2006). A Memoir (PDF). Currach Press. pp. 22–4. ISBN 1-85607-921-X. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-09-27.
  5. Beattie, Gordon (November 1997). Gregory's angels: a history of the abbeys, priories, parishes and schools of the monks and nuns following the rule of Saint Benedict in Great Britain, Ireland and their overseas foundations : to commemorate the arrival of Saint Augustine in Kent in 597 AD. Gracewing Publishing. p. 81. ISBN 978-0-85244-386-6. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  6. Keogh, Dermot (2005-01-27). The Vatican, the Bishops and Irish Politics 1919-39. Cambridge University Press. p. 30. ISBN 978-0-521-53052-1. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  7. Coogan, Tim Pat (1992). The man who made Ireland: the life and death of Michael Collins. Roberts Rinehart. p. 302. ISBN 978-1-879373-71-6. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  8. Coogan, Tim Pat; Morrison, George (December 1998). The Irish civil war. Roberts Rinehart Publishers. p. 50. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  9. Gogarty, Oliver St. John (1937). As I was going down Sackville Street. Reynal & Hitchcock. p. 285. Retrieved 14 January 2011. That is Dr. Farnan's house. So Farnan is in the Movement. We were not long in reaching Merrion Square.
  10. "History". Bolton Abbey. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
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