Penicillin discoverer’s apprentice dies at 97

Cork-born doctor Madoline O’Connell (nee Horgan), who was apprenticed to the discoverer of penicillin, Alexander Fleming, in Harefield Hospital in Britain during the second world war, died last month.

The 97-year-old, who was known for her abundant energy and her all- embracing zest for life, died on Feb 8.

Her early work experience allowed her to give vital support to her husband, St John O’Connell, as he, in his role as orthopaedic surgeon, tackled the polio outbreak in 1950, after their return to Cork from Britain.

Whether she lived in Blackrock, in Mallow (to which she and St John moved and where they spent many happy years), or in Sunday’s Well, keeping in touch was her trademark. As her daughter, Kate, remarked at her funeral, she took enormous pride in all her family, of whatever generation. Not many 20-somethings and 30-somethings think texting or emailing a nonagenarian grandmother is par for the course — or reading an account of her most recent paintings exhibition in the Irish Examiner shortly before she died.

She is survived by her daughter Kate, and son Michael, and her loving family, daughters-in-law Lareine and Deirdre, grandchildren Johnny, Susie, Peter, Sarah, and their father John, Christopher, Sinead, Sally, Jack, Bryan and Madoline, great-grandchildren, cousin Dodo, nephew, nieces, relatives and a wide circle of friends.


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