Dr Tom Esmonde: Dedicated consultant and 'perfect gentleman'
A consultant neurologist has been remembered as a "perfect gentleman" who was "totally dedicated to medicine and his patients".
Dr Sir Tom Esmonde (60) was based in the Northern trust where he single-handedly manned a busy outpatient clinic while seeing hospital inpatient referrals - caring for a quarter of Northern Ireland's population.
A holder of a private pilot's licence, the father-of-three retired in July last year and also enjoyed motorcycling.
He died "suddenly but peacefully at home" in Belfast on Saturday.
Originally from Dublin, Dr Esmonde was a graduate of Trinity College and trained as a junior medic in Whiteabbey Hospital.
Dr Paul Darragh, a former chair of the British Medical Association who was also based in the Northern trust, shared a bungalow with him for a year on the hospital grounds and has fond memories of his housemate.
"Tom was a wonderful guy basically. As a doctor he was totally dependable and reliable.
"He was someone you could always go to, and who was totally dedicated to medicine and to his patients."
Dr Esmonde began working as a consultant in the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast in the 1990s and moved to the Northern trust over a decade ago, where he was based at Antrim Area Hospital.
"Tom always wanted to study neurology and even on our lunch breaks he'd be reading through 'Brain's Neurology', the standard text book at the time," Dr Darragh said.
"When our paths crossed again in Antrim, he was very busy and the sole neurologist. If we ever had anyone on the wards we were worried about, you could always get in contact with Tom and he would make a point of coming up to see that patient."
He was also a 'bit of a gourmet' and loved cooking.
"Tom was always very generous. When he was a consultant at the outpatient clinics at the Mid Ulster Hospital in Magherafelt, he would bring in good coffee for the nurses.
"I remember one incident when we were juniors when a French drug rep brought food to a lunch-time meeting but the meeting was cancelled. I told him I had a bungalow on the grounds with a fridge.
"There was all sorts of fancy food and fine cheeses. It was strange for a wee fellow like me coming from Springfield Park in west Belfast to see escargot and garlic butter. I always remember Tom looking in the fridge - and the look of delight on his face.
"The interesting thing was that he was a baronet - I only found that out a few days ago. The Esmonde family have a long history in Irish politics. One of his relatives also took part in the 'swordfish' plane attack on the Bismarck and was awarded the posthumous Victoria Cross. Another was awarded it for his role in the Crimean War."
The family's middle name is 'Grattan' and are related to Henry Grattan, the politician and lawyer who successfully campaigned for an independent Irish parliament in the late 18th century.
In a personal tribute issued by Northern trust colleagues, Dr Esmonde was described as a "dearly valued colleague to all who knew him in Antrim Area Hospital".
"He single-handedly maintained a busy neurology outpatient practice, as well as attending without fail to many inpatient referrals. One could always be sure that Tom would present a clear answer, cutting through our irrelevancies and confusion, whenever he reviewed our patients," they said.
“He was the perfect gentleman whose deep knowledge of neurology was matched by his humility and good humour. He gave compassionate care to all his patients, modelling excellence in both his clinical and listening skills.
"Tom's diverse interests outside of medicine - aviation, chess, motorcycling, hiking and many other pursuits - reflected his enthusiasm for life. He will be greatly missed by all of us, his clinical colleagues and friends. We trust that all who knew him will find some measure of comfort in a life that though cut short, was well and fully lived."
Dr Esmonde is survived by his wife Pauline, children Sean, Aisling and Niamh, and siblings Harold, Karen, Lisa and Richard.
Son Sean said they would remember him as a "truly wonderful dad and husband - and a best friend".