LIMAVADY locals will have the opportunity to hear about one of the most notable men to have grown up in the area, a man whose work lead to the establishment of the The Royal Maternity Hospital in Belfast.
BY NIALL DEENEY
A lunchtime lecture examining the life and career of Limavady man Charles Gibson Lowry will take place at the Roe Valley Arts and Cultural Centre on Wednesday, February 20 at 1pm.
As media relations officer at the local council Andy Chapman notes: “Perhaps somewhat lesser known than other local historical figures such as William Ferguson Massey and Jane Ross, Charles Gibson ‘CG’ Lowry made a number of notable contributions to the medical profession in his lifetime.”
CG Lowry was the eldest son of a Limavady farmer who grew up to become a life-saving surgeon and whose pioneering work undoubtedly saved the lives of innumerable young women going through childbirth.
Indeed, the Royal Maternity Hospital in Belfast perhaps owes its very existence to the work of the Limavady man in the lead up to its opening in 1933.
Other notable achievements include the training of doctors and nurses in ‘obstetrics’ - the medical specialty dealing with the care of all women’s reproductive tracts and their children during pregnancy (prenatal period), childbirth and the postnatal period – as well as being one of the founders of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in London.
A plaque dedicated to Mr Lowry’s contribution to the establishment of the Royal Maternity Hospital in Belfast is still proudly displayed to this day.
Asked for comment by a young journalist upon his return from a visit to North America in 1926, CG Lowry said: “Belfast should be ashamed of its City Hall. A city which has a maternity hospital like Townsend Street should be ashamed of such a wonderful City Hall.”
An article in the Ulster Medical Journal, which looks at the life of three notable Ulster surgeons, devotes considerable attention to CG Lowry’s achievements.
It states: “Once qualified, CG started in General Practice but later decided to forge a surgical career, and was appointed Assistant Gynaecologist at the Ulster Hospital for Children and Women in 1908.
During the 1914-18 war he looked after some of the casualties returning from France and trained in the “no touch” surgical technique in Liverpool under Sir Robert Jones (1858-1933), one of the early pioneering Orthopaedic Surgeons.”
The article’s author continues: “CG would regularly return to Liverpool to learn the art of gynaecology from Blair Bell who was one of the doyens of gynaecology at the time, and in 1920 he was appointed Professor of Midwifery at Queen’s University. His main contributions from this point were fourfold: marked reductions in maternal mortality rates, the training of doctors and nurses in the art of obstetrics, the building of the Royal Maternity Hospital in Belfast and being one of the founders of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in London.”
Mr Lowry also made numerous notable remarks which are often passed on as advice to young medical professionals today. According to the Ulster Medical Journal, some of these include: “Men make mistakes not because they don’t know but because they don’t look; a sound knowledge of medicine and avoidance of a narrow focussed approach to any specialty; an MD is a check on idle habits; the young man who has the goods will always get a market for them; some men will find their markets sooner than others but the man who has the goods to sell cannot be kept indefinitely in the shade.”
However, his most notable achievement must be the drastic reduction in the number of young women losing their lives through childbirth. The Ulster Medical Journal explains: “Unacceptably high maternal and fetal mortality rates were causing great concern in the early 1920’s at the maternity hospital in Townsend Street.
“The maternal mortality rate in 1925 was 4.4 per 1000; 150 women per year died in pregnancy and childbirth which represented three women a week and one tenth of all deaths in women between ages 20 and 45 years.
“Antepartum haemorrhage ranked fourth as a cause of maternal mortality and to tackle this and other maternal issues, CG and Dr Tommy Holmes commenced Antenatal Clinics, and appointed CHG Macafee as tutor. In the first nine months, the maternal death rate from placenta previa fell to12 per cent and in the next three months, six per cent. By 1944, it would be 0.57 per cent.”
There must be a great many people today who owe their lives directly to CG Lowry, to those who were taught by the great man from Limavady, or to those who simply learned his techniques.
A spokesperson for the Roe Valley Arts and Cultural Centre said: “The lecture will draw upon articles from the Ulster Medical Journal and contemporary newspapers to set the life of this notable gentleman into context. It is envisaged that the lives of other historical figures will be examined in future lunchtime lectures. Admission to talk is free however places are limited and must be booked in advance. To book a place or for further information, contact the Limavady Tourist Information Centre on 028 7776 0650 or visit www.roevalleyarts.com.”