Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Laffan, Joseph de Courcy
LAFFAN, Sir JOSEPH DE COURCY (1786–1848), physician, third son of Walter Laffan of Cashel, by Eleonora, daughter of Richard de Courcy, a distant relative of the family of Kinsale, was born at Cashel on 8 May 1786. His eldest brother was Robert Laffan (d. 1833), Roman catholic archbishop of Cashel, and Laffan himself was originally destined for the Roman catholic priesthood, and placed at the college of Maynooth. Leaving Maynooth, however, he proceeded to Edinburgh University, turned his attention to medicine, graduated M.D. on 24 June 1808, and was admitted L.R.C.P. 22 Dec. 1808, from which date until 1812 he practised in Orchard Street, Portman Square. In October 1809 he proffered his services to the government in behalf of the fever-stricken troops lately returned from the Walcheren expedition. These were accepted, and the aptitude which Laffan showed for military practice led to his appointment in 1812 as physician to the forces. He served in Spain and Portugal during the latter part of the Peninsular war, and was eventually made physician in ordinary to the Duke of Kent. At the termination of the war he stayed at Paris, and practised there with brilliant success until desire for more rest led him to Rochester, where he remained until he was disabled by disease. After his retirement he settled at Otham in Kent. His successful treatment of an illness of the Duke of York, brother to George IV, led to his being created a baronet by patent dated 15 March 1828, and in 1836 he was also created a knight of the Hanoverian Guelphic order. He died at Vichy, in France, on 7 July 1848, in his sixty-third year. His body was brought to Rochester and interred in a vault in St. Margaret's Church. Laffan married in 1815 Jemima, daughter of Paul Pilcher of Rochester, and widow of a Colonel Symes, formerly English envoy at Ava in Burmah. He had no issue, and the title has become extinct. He devoted the greater part of his fortune to found a cancer ward for women in the Middlesex Hospital, and a full-length portrait of him is preserved in the hospital board-room.
[Gent. Mag. 1848, pt. ii. p. 318; Munk's Coll. of Phys. iii. 70–1; Pantheon of the Age, ii. 521; information kindly supplied by Lady Laffan and by the Rev. L. Lagier of Lausanne, who married a Miss Symes, Laffan's step-daughter.]