We were hanging on for dear life. I couldn’t actually see what was going on at the other end of the pitch but it was incredibly tight. The lurid and intense colours of the Harlequins team were camped on our line for what seemed like hours.
We were used to failure, occasionally heroic failure. Munster were the epic force in Irish Rugby, but at least this time we were in a European quarter final at the Stoop. ‘Bloodgate’ is now a thing in European Rugby but at the time we had no idea the drama going on behind the scenes. All we knew was Quins were going to get over the line and we would be out, again. Typical.
But we were not, and we went onto to win our first Heineken Cup that year. It turned out that Arthur Tanner was in the midst of that melee. Not really surprising, he was always a man of the moment.
Professor Arthur Tanner was born in February 1948. He went to The High School in Dublin and then to study Medicine in Trinity College, graduating in 1971. He was appointed as a Consultant in General Surgery to the Meath & Adelaide Hospitals in 1983. Even then, as a newly minted and struggling intern in the Meath, I remember his interest and kindness to those of us at the bottom of the hospital heap as struggling interns.
He was deeply involved as a Professor at the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland, chairing the College Committee and pioneering surgical training in concert with the collegiate surgical colleges of Edinburgh, London and Glasgow. He served on the Medical Council from 2003 to 2008 and was Chief Medical Advisor to the National Treatment Purchase Fund. As Director of Surgical Affairs (RCSI) he was instrumental in setting up initiatives both within & outside Ireland, including for example an Emergency Response team at Sheik Rashid Hospital/Trauma Centre in Dubai. He was involved in the setting up of the Faculty of Sports and Exercise Medicine as an independent medical specialty in Ireland.
Sport, especially rugby, was a particular passion. He was medical director at Old Wesley Rugby Football Club in Dublin and later Medical Director to Leinster Rugby. At matches in the RDS and the Aviva, we the fans were well used to Arthur’s sprint onto the field of play to inspect and assist our injured players.
As medical doctor to Leinster that day at the Stoop, Arthur was absolutely entitled to inspect the “wound” of the Quins player with the blood injury, but was refused entry by Quins. His suspicions of duplicity were proven to be correct by the subsequent inquiry – after which the Quins Director of Rugby and other staff were fired.
But what really strikes one now reading about ‘Bloodgate’ many years on is the empathy he showed at the subsequent GMC enquiry. “My feelings I suppose for Dr. Chapman revolved around the aftermath,” he said. “Perhaps her career and reputation has suffered a lot more. Rugby will get over it, no problem.”
This was typical of the man as a friend, as a colleague, and as a mentor. He was always involved, always committed, always passionate – but also compassionate. I also know there was no fan more ecstatic with our win that day in the Stoop than Professor Arthur Tanner. We have lost an inspirational doctor who led by example and who will be greatly missed.
Dr David Walsh