The Royal College of Surgeons celebrates 200 years and recalls a past that included barber surgeons, body snatching and the Easter Rising.

The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) was founded by charter of George III on 11 February 1784.
When first established, the college did not have a specific location and the first professors gave lectures in their own homes.

A primitive form of surgery was carried out by surgeons and barbers and President of the Royal College of Surgeons Dr Eoin O'Brien explains that with the charter the surgeons broke away from the barbers but,

They remember their origins and at ceremonial occasions here the two most junior members of council each carries a barber’s pole.

Medical students themselves were responsible for procuring the bodies necessary for dissection. The short supply of bodies in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries meant body snatching or corpse robbing developed into a profitable business.

The college was built on St Stephen's Green West, on the site of an old grave yard and it opened with the help of government grants in the early 1800s. The building suffered minor damage during the 1916 Easter Rising.

Many famous figures have been President of the college including Gustavus Hume who gave his name to Hume Street in Dublin, Samuel Croker-King who had the Duke of Wellington as a patient and Thornley Stoker brother of ‘Dracula’ creator Bram Stoker.

Over 100 doctors qualify every year from the college which also has a postgraduate course for surgeons and faculties for anaesthetists radiologists, dentists and nurses.

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 12 February 1984. The reporter is George Devlin.