Dr. SV/PROG Charles Edward Herbert Orpen

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Dr. SV/PROG Charles Edward Herbert Orpen's Geni Profile

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Dr. SV/PROG Charles Edward Herbert Orpen

Birthdate: (64)
Birthplace: Cork, Ireland
Death: April 21, 1856 (64)
Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape, South Africa
Place of Burial: Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape, South Africa
Immediate Family:

Son of Rev Francis Orpen and Susannah Orpen
Husband of SM/PROG Alicia Francis Orpen
Father of Francis Henry Samuel Orpen; Charles Sirr Orpen; Arthur Richard Orpen; Joseph Millerd Orpen; Richard John Newenham Orpen and 4 others
Brother of Arthur George Millerd Orpen; Susannah Maria Francis Millerd Orpen; Rebecca Newenham Millerd Orpen; Emilia Grace Caroline Millerd Orpen; Sir Richard John Theodore Orpen and 1 other

Occupation: Eye Doctor
Managed by: Sally Ann McConnell
Last Updated:

About Dr. SV/PROG Charles Edward Herbert Orpen

Was a Doctor of Medicine of the University of Edinburgh; Fellow and Member of the Royal Colleges of Surgeons of Ireland and of England; Certified Licentiate Accoucheur of the Incorporated Lying-in-Hospitel of Dublin; Honorary Member of the Medical Society of the University of T.C.D.; and of the Hunterian and the Physical Societies of London; Member of the Surgical Society of Ireland; of the Royal Irish Academy; of the British Association, etc., etc.; President of the Court of Examiners of the Royal College of Surgeons. Philanthropic Founder of the National Deaf and Dumb Institution (the first of its kind established in Ireland) at "Claremont", Glasnevin, near Dublin.

Dr Orpen was a remarkable man. He was initially apprenticed to a Dr Gibbings in Cork (for 5 years) on completion of which he presented himself for his final examination in Dublin at the College of Surgeons only to be told that he was not eligible as the Doctor to whom he had been apprenticed was not an accredited Licentiate of the College. He whereupon started again and was finally awarded after a further five years, a Doctorate in Medicine from Edinburgh University. This was the first of many achievements amongst which was the founding of the first National Deaf and Dumb Institution in Ireland at Claremont near Dublin. On 10th December 1823 he married ALICIA FRANCES (Widow of the Rev Conolly Coane) at St. Werburghs, Dublin, Ireland. Alicia was the eldest daughter of Major Henry Charles Sirr, whose father and grandfather had been successive Town Majors of Dublin (a very important and a powerful position as Chief of Police amongst other responsibilities, and with almost limitless powers.)

Early on in his career he had toured the South and West of England and Central Europe to study hospitals, factories and prisons to learn more of humanity and its medical needs. He was in JMO’s words “a most benevolent man.” He was a Fellow of the Colleges of Surgeons of England and Ireland, President of the board of Examiners of that body, had a thriving practice in Birkenhead where amongst many other things he founded the first “Lying-in” hospital (one in which there were in-patients – generally maternity - rather than the more common out-patient or clinic type of hospital). He had travelled around Europe extensively to study methods of teaching and treatment particularly for those with speaking and hearing disabilities. He was anxious for his sons to progress well and, bearing in mind the “overstocked“ nature of the professions in the UK, and the parlous state of the Irish economy, decided that farming in SA might be a better option. 1848 was the time of the Potato Famine and it caused him some hardship not only from a reduction in rental income but also as he was required to pay a special “poor” tax on his properties.

He must have been an impetuous man to first of all move from substantial homes in both Dublin and Birkenhead, and then against the recommendation of his sons to emigrate to South Africa at the age of 57 together with his wife and his three youngest children. His eldest son, Francis Henry Samuel ORPEN commonly known as Frank, came to South Africa in 1846 at the age of 20 to stay with his cousin to recover his health, shortly followed by his brother, Charles Sirr Orpen, aged 18. The parents and younger children followed, landing at Cape Town on 11th March 1848 reaching Port Elizabeth on 26th April 1848, They lived in a mud house with an earth floor in the dusty dorp of Colesberg, with untrained servants, snakes and insects never before seen, so life must have been difficult especially for his wife who was no doubt used to a high standard of living. He must have had loads of energy and a great determination to help his fellow human beings. He was an extremely religious man and persuaded the then Bishop (Gray) of Cape Town to ordain him as the rector of Christ Church in Colesberg, a church not yet built but which he completed in 1852. He, although a very competent doctor refused to carry out any medical matters for gain, preferring to leave that to the local District Surgeon, and to concentrate on people’s spiritual well-being for which he received no stipend.

A philanthropist with an interest in deaf education,39 he had attempted to implement the ideas of Pestalozzi on child-centred, activity-based learning while in England. He appears to have brought that same concern for the needy to Colesberg.

A book of his life was written a number years ago by a Mrs Le Fanu and updated by two ex-inmates of his Deaf & Dumb Institute on the occasion of its centenary. He was an extremely well educated man fluent in Greek, Latin and in Hebrew and brought with him a vast collection of books.

He Took holy orders and became first Rector of Christ Church, Colesberg.

Taken from 'The Microcosm' by Dr. Thelma Gutsche :

This book mentions that Dr. Charles Edward Herbert ORPEN, first of Dublin and then of Birkenhead - was married to Alicia Frances Sirr of Dublin. They had 7 sons, all of whom came to Colesberg. The eldest, Francis Henry Samuel ORPEN, commonly known as Frank, came to South Africa in 1846 at the age of 20 to stay with his cousin to recover his health. The second eldest, Charles Sirr Orpen, aged 18 came with him and both were so enamoured of the country that they bought the farm "Taai Bosch Fontein" (near the railway siding of Taaibos between Hanover Road and De Aar). Charles returned to England but financed his sons Charles Sirr, Arthur Richard, Joseph Millerd and Richard John Newnham ORPEN in their farming ventures in Colesberg. They quickly learnt to tan skins and make soap and grow pototatoes but sheep were their main preoccupation. There was also another son, Henry Martyn Herbert; a youngest son, Theodore Robert Morrison who went to school at Graaff Reinett and an only daughter, Alicia Emily Catherine.

The book describes Dr. Orpen as an Irishman from Cork and doubly qualified as a doctor, having obtained his medical degree in Edinburgh in 1812. He concentrated on social welfare, particularly of the deaf and dumb for whom he founded the pioneering National Institute in Ireland. He also studied for the ministry and was promised a chaplaincy at Colesberg. The book describes him as "a man of considerable stature and excellent connections in the British Isles. He was a striking figure of a man. He was tall and well proportioned. His hair was dark. All his features were pleasing and his eyes were fine. His smile was winning and his countenance expressive of intelligence and benevolence. His aspect and manners were serious. They gave the idea of a grave and contemplative cast of mind and, some thought, of reserve but when a favourite topic such as that of the deaf and dumb was started, his countenance lit up and his whole manner expressed the most lively animation." He was well loved by the Colesberg community.

Here is his Memorial Inscription:

"Sacred to the memory of the Rev. Charles Edward Herbert ORPEN M.D.M.R.I.A. fellow and member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England and Ireland. The philanthropic founder of the National Deaf and Dumb Institution of Ireland at Glasnevin, Dublin and of the Infirmary at Birkenhead, Cheshire and promoter of other charities etc. First Minister of Christ Church, Colesberg in this Colony. Born in the city of Cork 31 Oct 1791 and died at Port Elizabeth 20 April 1856. He was a faithful servant of Christ and a loving husband and father. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his Saints. CXV1 Psalm XV verse ....(unreadable)"

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Dr. SV/PROG Charles Edward Herbert Orpen's Timeline

October 31, 1791
Cork, Ireland
October 22, 1824
Age 32
City of Cork, Ireland
April 29, 1826
Age 34
Dublin, Ireland
July 1, 1827
Age 35
Dublin, Ireland
November 5, 1828
Age 37
City of Cork, Ireland
January 28, 1830
Age 38
Dublin, Ireland
January 24, 1831
Age 39
Cork, County Cork, Ireland
July 24, 1833
Age 41
September 12, 1835
Age 43