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Maher, William Odillo (1858–1916)

It is with deep regret we have to report the death of Dr. William Odillo Maher, the eminent ophthalmic surgeon of Sydney. The doctor was apparently in full enjoyment of his usual robust health until, a fortnight ago, when, with a view to escaping the then prevalent heatwave, he left for Hobart with his wife and family. He appears to have contracted a cold on his way to the southern capital, and this developed shortly after his arrival into an acute attack of pneumonia. His brother, Dr. Charles Maher, and his son, Dr. Herbert Maher, were hastily summoned from Sydney; but their efforts, combined with those of the local practitioners, proved unavailing. Fortified by the rites of the Church, Dr. Odillo Maher passed away quietly on Sunday afternoon.

The deceased gentleman was in the 58th year of his age. He was born in Sydney on March 3, 1858, and was the son of Mr. Timothy Maher, a well-known merchant and magistrate of this city. William Odillo Maher was educated at St. Mary's College, Lyndhurst, and at St. Patrick's College, under Dr. Gallagher, from which seminaries many prominent men who have helped to build up the history of the country came. He matriculated at the Sydney University, and went through a year of the arts course. Accompanied by his brother, Dr. Charles Maher, he then went to Ireland and took his degrees of M.D. and Ch.M. at the Royal University in 1881. In 1882 he got his M.R.C.S. in London, and became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England and member of the Ophthalmological Society of London. Subsequently he became house surgeon and clinical assistant at the Royal London Ophthalmic Hospital, London. Having obtained a thorough grounding in his life-profession of eye specialist, he returned to his native city, where he devoted him self exclusively to ophthalmic surgery.

Soon after his arrival in Sydney he was appointed ophthalmic surgeon to the Government asylums at Liverpool and Parramatta, and incidentally built up a large and lucrative private practice. He had been ophthalmic surgeon at the Sydney and St. Vincent's Hospitals since 1880, and had also held the very important position of Examiner in Ophthalmology at the Sydney University, and was generally regarded as the most distinguished ophthalmic surgeon in Australia.

In 1889 he married Alicia, daughter of the late James Keenan, a civil engineer of Melbourne (a brother, by the way, of the Right Hon. Sir Patrick Keenan, of Dublin, an Irish Privy Councillor). He leaves three sons and four daughters. The eldest boy, Mr Herbert Maher, recently passed his final medical examination, and is now resident medical officer at St. Vincent's Hospital. He has volunteered for active service. The second son, Mr. Cyril Maher, left for England two months ago to join the artillery. The other sons are quite young.

Dr. Odillo Maher took a distinguished part in scientific research, and was president of one of the departments at the congress in Adelaide of the Association tor the Advancement of Science. He also contributed a valuable paper at the same congress. For a number of years he had been Fellow of St. John's College, and had always taken a great interest in every movement for the welfare of that institution. He had the reputation, in addition to being an eminent member of his noble profession, and a devoted son of the Church, of being an exceedingly charitable man, and a model husband and father. He was too immersed in his studies—it being his pride to be fully abreast of the very latest developments in the branch of medical science to which he had devoted his career—to spare much of his time for outside recreation. He played a little golf, more for health than sport, and was otherwise not greatly attracted by outdoor amusements.

About 15 years ago Dr. Odillo Maher, while travelling to Sydney in connection with his ordinary duties, was unfortunate enough to fall a victim to the great railway smash that took place at Eveleigh tunnel. It will be remembered that, many passengers were severely scalded through an escape of steam from the pipes of the engine. Dr. Maher was badly injured in his hands, and he also sustained serious shock. He claimed and received heavy damages from the Government for his injuries, and shortly afterwards took a trip round the world for the purpose of regaining his health. During his absence he made himself familiar Europe, and on his return re-started in his old profession. His former patients rallied round him, and he resumed his work at the different public institutions with which he had been connected.

It should be mentioned that Dr. Maher did invaluable work to the community as a member of the consultant board of the Base Hospital at Randwick.

The removal of such an eminent surgeon in the prime of his life and at the height of his usefulness leaves a gap which it will be very hard to fill. The bereaved widow and family have in their cruel affliction the heartfelt sympathy of the community.

The remains are being conveyed from Tasmania to Sydney by the steamer which is expected to arrive today.

Original publication

Citation details

'Maher, William Odillo (1858–1916)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/maher-william-odillo-22628/text32213, accessed 21 September 2019.

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