MUCH sadness greeted the news late last week that respected former consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon in Limerick’s University Hospital, Ray Niland, had passed away.
Mr Niland, who was 68, died at home in Adare after a short illness, surrounded by his family, his wife of 42 years Pat and children Gina, Ross, Ray and Conor.
Originally from Castlebar, Mr Niland, who was born in 1945, the second of five children, was educated in Portlaoise and later at NUI Galway, where he would meet his future wife.
They would move to Croydon in 1974, before spending eight years in Birmingham where he became a consultant surgeon in the Midland Eye Hospital.
The family moved to Limerick in the mid-1980s where Ray became a consultant in Limerick’s Regional Hospital as it was known until recently. He also operated a private practice in the city.
Mr Niland was repeatedly referred to as a “gentleman” by those who knew him, and received many letters from former patients in the months before his death, as his son Ross revealed in a stirring and emotional eulogy.
The letters paid tribute to a man who was genial and gentle with patients, who exhibited common sense and was “a pleasure to visit” and whom chief celebrant Fr Joe Noonan said “helped hundreds to see” through his work.
It was at Mr Niland’s funeral in the Holy Abbey Trinity in Adare on Saturday morning last that the incredible dexterity of his sporting prowess across a number of codes also came to light.
Proficient in any number of sports, he primarily excelled in Gaelic football and played inter-county with both his native Mayo and Galway, and was a triple All-Ireland finalist in 1963. He excelled at hurling and basketball and represented himself with distinction in both sports.
After teaming up with Pat, a former Connacht number one tennis star, tennis became a particular focus, a love for which the couple handed down to their children, all of whom showed a flair for the game, with Gina and Conor in particular having success, the latter qualifying for Wimbledon and the US Open in recent years.
A man who “enjoyed going against the grain”, demanded the best and had “exacting standards”, Ross explained, he was also fiercely loyal and “family meant everything to him”.
“His legacy was in the impact he had on people during his time, family, friends and patients,” added his son.
Mr Niland was buried in Bohermore Cemetery, Galway in his family’s plot.