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BMJ. 2007 November 17; 335(7628): 1050.
PMCID: PMC2078634

Anthony Ward Clare

Leading psychiatrist and broadcaster who helped demystify psychiatry

Professor Anthony Clare was a leading psychiatrist, author, and broadcaster. During a career that encompassed clinical and teaching work on both sides of the Irish sea, he is credited with bringing psychiatry out from behind the hospital wall and making psychological medicine accessible to the public. After the publication in 1976 of his seminal book Psychiatry in Dissent, which inspired many young doctors to pursue a career in psychiatry, he became a regular broadcaster and commentator while still training at the Institute of Psychiatry in London. In the Psychiatrist's Chair, the BBC radio 4 series in which Anthony Clare probed the lives of the famous, ran from 1982 until 2001 and is widely acknowledged to have helped demystify psychiatry in Britain.

Anthony Ward Clare was born in Dublin in 1942. The son of Bernard Clare, a solicitor, and Agnes Dunne, he and his two sisters were brought up in a middle class suburb in the capital. He was educated by the Jesuits at Gonzaga College, where pupils were encouraged to bring about social change during their lives. However, later in life he appeared to lose his faith observing: “I can't really believe in a god that can suddenly and haphazardly intervene during one moment in history, causing air crashes, genocide, and famine.”

Anthony Clare entered University College Dublin, where he read medicine. He gravitated towards the Literary and Historical Society, greatly enjoying the cut and thrust of debate. He won the prestigious Observer Mace debating competition with the late Patrick Cosgrave, who would later work as a speechwriter for Margaret Thatcher.

Following graduation in 1966, he completed a family practice internship at St Joseph's Hospital in Syracuse, New York. Returning to Dublin in 1967, he began postgraduate psychiatry training at St Patrick's Hospital.

Two years later he moved to the Maudsley Hospital in London. He rose through the training ranks from registrar to senior registrar and in 1976 was appointed lecturer at the Institute of Psychiatry's General Practice Research Unit. He was appointed professor and head of the department of psychological medicine in St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical College in London in 1983.

Anthony Clare's first scientific publication was a paper on alcohol, diazepam, and barbiturate abuse, published in the BMJ. Early research included a study of the ethical aspects of electroconvulsive treatment and a study of the psychological profiles of women with premenstrual tension. Papers on psychiatry and dissent, anti-psychiatry, and the changing patterns of psychiatric care reflected his growing interest in the interface between psychiatry and society.

While there is no doubt that psychiatry influenced his media work, Anthony Clare said that journalism made him a better psychiatrist. Many of his interviewees spoke of being completely unaware of the microphone and praised his facilitatory style. But some interviewees were reduced to tears: Paddy Ashdown, the former Liberal party leader, became emotional over his father's death.

Blessed with a great speaking voice, Anthony Clare preferred working in radio. While his first television appearance was on Nationwide on BBC 1 with Frank Bough, he also contributed voiceovers for the BBC's science programme QED. He was a regular host of the Channel 4 programme After Dark during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

He was a prolific author. Psychiatry in Dissent (1976) was followed by Psychosocial Disorders in General Practice (1979), Let's Talk about Me (1981), Social Work and Primary Health Care (1982), and Psychiatry and General Practice (1982).

In the Psychiatrist's Chair spawned a series of four books. In 1986 he wrote Lovelaw, a book on marriage, childbearing, and divorce, followed by Depression and How to Survive It (with Spike Milligan) in 1993. His last book, On Men: Masculinity in Crisis came out in 2000. Early in his career he was awarded an MD for a thesis: “The psychiatric and social aspects of premenstrual complaint.” A dissertation, “Psychiatric illness in an immigrant Irish population” gained a masters degree in philosophy from the University of London.

Anthony Clare returned to the Republic of Ireland in 1988, having been appointed medical director of St Patrick's Hospital and clinical professor of psychiatry at Trinity College Dublin. After serving 10 years as medical director, he moved to St Edmondsbury Hospital, a unit of St Patrick's, as consultant adult psychiatrist. Here he emphasised a multidisciplinary approach with a greater emphasis on psychotherapy. He had a special interest in the treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome.

An excellent teacher, Anthony Clare guided the careers of many young psychiatrists. At a time when funding for research was at a premium in the Republic of Ireland, he persuaded the governors of St Patrick's to provide research grants for psychiatric trainees.

At the time of his sudden death in Paris, he was returning from a break in his beloved Sardinia. He was planning to spend more time at his holiday home there after his retirement later this year.

Anthony Clare met Jane Hogan at college. She was secretary of the Literary and Historical Society while he was its auditor. They married in 1966. Jane was his sounding board and intellectual sparring partner.

She and their seven children survive him.

Anthony Clare, clinical professor of psychiatry, Trinity College Dublin (b 1942; q Dublin 1966; MD, MPhil, FRCPI, FRCPysch), died from a heart attack on 28 October 2007.


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