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Niall MacHugh


In sadness, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) reports that Niall MacHugh, a long-term former scientist at ILRI and its predecessor, the International Laboratory for Research on Animal Diseases (ILRAD), died 21 Mar 2017.

Niall MacHugh was quiet about all his accomplishments. He was an expert in invisible, hard, life sciency stuff—cell biology, immunology, cellular immunology, cell culture, adaptive immunity, monoclonal antibodies, T lymphocytes, bovine surface antigens, cloning, flow cytometry, hybridoma. He published more than 70 papers on these abstruse, all-important, topics for better controlling tropical livestock diseases challenging the world’s poorest people.

Besides his fine science, Niall MacHugh was passionate about his family, about Kenya and sailing, He was an unparalleled BS detector, a loyal friend. He was Irish to his bones and a daily reminder of tact and modesty and courage. Behind an ironic, at times crusty, facade, Niall MacHugh tried, and did not manage, to hide the kindheartedness at his core.

The following note is from his daughter and son, Fiona Aisling and Conor MacHugh:

We are so sorry to communicate to all friends that our father Niall MacHugh passed away on Tuesday night after a short final battle with a long illness,bravely fought. There will be a celebration of his life this coming Friday 31st March at 12.00 at the Seafield Crematorium in Edinburgh. All are welcome, family flowers only but anyone wishing to make a donation to the cancer charity of their choice or to the Margaret Kerr Unit on the day in his memory should consider this the alternative. Though we regret this form of communicating this news we hope that it will serve its purpose of reaching those we have not been able to contact personally.

That so many of ILRAD and ILRI’s leading ‘Celtic Tiger’ researchers (a group referred to in jest as ‘ILRI North’ after they returned to take up posts at leading universities in Britain, Ireland and Scotland)—have died before their time—including Jack Doyle in 1999, Tom Dolan in 2007, Declan McKeever in 2014, Noel Murphy in 2015, and now Niall MacHugh in 2017—is heartbreaking.

Perhaps it is helpful to remember this, which former ILRI scientist Brian Perry wrote on the death of Declan McKeever:

When Declan became ill, he called me on skype to tell me of his condition. My wife Helena wrote to him and thanked him for letting us know. He replied: ‘Helena, I was very touched by your message—it really brought home to me how important old friendships are. Niall MacHugh told me that I should tell my old friends because they will have something to contribute, and he was so right.

ILRI, which works to create better lives through livestock, remains indebted to the enduring contributions to science and development made by all of them.

Donations to the Margaret Kerr Unit can be made through the link on their Facebook page.

Traditional Gaelic Blessing

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

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