From le paradoxe français to a tiny tavern off a narrow alley in Kilkenny. An unlikely journey. But not, perhaps, if the barman is a cardiologist. Red wine has much more than cardiovascular benefits and it was such a pleasure to enjoy a glass with friends in the company of Michael Conway, with jaunty hat and easy manner, the owner, sommelier, and much more besides. A consultant cardiologist in Kilkenny Hospital, his “Hole in the Wall” wine bar is a museum, a link with the past, and a project born out of his love of history.
The “Hole in the Wall,” is housed in the oldest surviving townhouse in Ireland—the 1582 Archer Inner House, which he has lovingly restored over the past 12 years. It’s an Elizabethan building with an intimate snug and upstairs function room and Michael has hosted diverse cultural events including concerts, poetry readings, and even academic medical meetings. Kilkenny once had a university, established in 1686, in keeping with Irish colleges across Europe (Paris, Louvain, Santiago etc). The State Papers of James II also indicate that a Royal College of Physicians was established in Kilkenny in 1687. The city may even have had a medical school, so no stranger to medical gatherings.
After 14 years as a clinician and academic in Oxford, including work on the ISIS trial, and an author on many high impact publications (sadly, I saw none from the BMJ), Michael was appointed consultant cardiologist to St Luke’s Hospital Kilkenny in 1999. While cardiology is his career, history is his vocation, and the Hole in the Wall, the embodiment of his commitment. What an extraordinary place, an exceptional person, and a remarkable achievement. Its not a career path they tell you much about in medical school.
Domnnall Macaulay is primary care editor, BMJ