Back to where it all started for Nobel prize winner

Professor William C. Campbell with his brother Bert in Ramelton today. Photo: Declan Doherty

Professor William C. Campbell with his brother Bert in Ramelton today. Photo: Declan Doherty

PROFESSOR William Campbell, Ireland’s first Nobel Prize winner for physiology or medicine, took a nostalgic walk through his home town of Ramelton early this morning.
“It feels wonderful to be walking the streets of Ramelton again. Many of the businesses have changed over the years but the basic structures remain and will be there for a long time to come yet,” Prof Campbell said.
The 86-year-old’s work led to the development of a drug called Avermectin, which has seen the creation of derivatives that have “radically lowered the incidence of river blindness and lymphatic filariasis”, according to the Nobel Foundation.
Winning the accolade late last year has, he admitted, changed his life dramatically but he’s enjoying some rare ‘down time’ with his brother Bert and his wife Anne who live in Ramelton.
“We’re going on a magical mystery tour shortly but Anne hasn’t told me where to yet,” he explained.
Earlier in the week Prof Campbell launched the new BSc honours degree programmes in biomedical sciences delivered by IT Sligo while he will be the guest of honour at a celebration evening in Ramelton’s Town Hall tomorrow, Saturday, at 8.30pm before Donegal County Council hosts a Civic Reception in Lifford on Monday in his honour.
“The title has changed my life. I try not to let it change me but it certainly changes my day to day activities.
“Retirement has gone out the window and I’m back to being busy all the time. I have retired twice before but there isn’t any retirement any more. Every day there’s activities to do, either that or wrestling with invitations to attend other activities. It never stops,” he smiles.
With that in mind, he’s so grateful to have been afforded the opportunity to take a nostalgic, peaceful, early morning walk along the Mall.
Ireland’s 11th Nobel Prize winner, and the first in a scientific field since Ernest Walton’s work with atoms gained him recognition in 1951, Prof Campbell isn’t sure why so few from Ireland receive the accolade.
“It’s not a thing that I had planned for but there’s no limits as being from Ramelton, and Donegal, is an asset not a liability. There’s no stopping anybody who puts their mind into doing something,” he said.
“I’m proud of where I’m from and I show pictures of Ramelton to people all the time. It’s really wonderful to be back home and now I’m looking forward to Anne’s mystery tour,” he said.
Now living in Massachusetts in the US, Prof Campbell who has two daughters and a son (none of whom followed him into the biology field) hasn’t brought the prestigious award home with him.
“I keep my Nobel Prize in a locked drawer, not in a bank. The way I see it, if I have friends around I want to be able to show it off to them,” he said.

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