O’REILLY, GERALD, physician and surgeon; b. 11 Aug. 1806 at Ballinlough, County Meath (Republic of Ireland), seventh son of Gerald O’Reilly; d. 26 Feb. 1861 in Hamilton, Canada West.
Gerald O’Reilly was sent to Dublin to study medicine in 1823 and was apprenticed to James William Cusack of Doctor Steevens’ Hospital. He remained with Cusack for more than five years, and obtained the diploma of the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland and the diploma in midwifery in November 1829. O’Reilly then continued his studies in London and became a licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries, London, in July 1833. Shortly after this he immigrated to Hamilton, Upper Canada, and obtained the provincial licence to practise physic, surgery, and midwifery in January 1835.
O’Reilly was popular from the first, and counted among his early patients Allan MacNab and Samuel Mills*. His practice extended from St Catharines to Brantford and over to Oakville; when he discontinued his country practice several years before his death, he remained in a leading position as a consultant. O’Reilly was examiner in principles and practice of medicine at the University of Toronto in 1856. He also held a commission as surgeon to the 3rd Gore militia, the “Men of Gore,” and at the time of his death was surgeon to the jail at Hamilton, having occupied the office for nearly 20 years, and surgeon to the counties of Wentworth and Halton. As a practitioner, he had a large professional library and a good idea of mechanics – he usually made his own splints and other appliances to suit individual cases – and he was quick and expert in operations. He was also one of the first to administer chloroform for surgical operations in Canada.
O’Reilly was one of the founders and original shareholders of the Canada Life Assurance Company, and was one of the first assured by the company. He was also the first medical officer for the company in 1847, a position he held until a few years before his death. He was a member of the Loyal Hamilton Lodge Independent Order of Oddfellows, having joined the order in 1844, and was elected surgeon to the lodge the following year.
O’Reilly died suddenly, at the age of 54, as the result of pyaemia, after the removal of a small tumour of the leg. He was married to Henrietta, youngest daughter of Henry Harcourt Waters, of Hailsham, Sussex, England, and left four sons, three of whom became physicians, and two daughters.
HPL, Land family papers, p.1843 (sick report of the 3rd Gore militia, 8 June 1838). Canada Life Assurance Company, Prospectus and first and second annual reports, (Hamilton, [Ont.], 1849), 4. Canniff, Medical profession in U.C., 541–51. C. R. McCullough, “The O’Reillys of old,” Hamilton Spectator, 26 May, 4 June 1932.