Hadden, George (1882–1973), medical doctor and historian, was born 9 October 1882 at Richmond Terrace, Wexford town, son of George Hadden, draper and alderman, and Hannah Mary Hadden (née Perrot). The Haddens, a Methodist family, were established in Wexford town during the nineteenth century by brothers, John Evans Hadden, apothecary, and George Hadden, draper. Hadden was a grandson of the latter.
Hadden completed his secondary school education at Wesley College, Dublin. He studied medicine at Edinburgh University, graduating with MB, Ch.B. in 1905, together with fellow medical student Helen Randall Vickers. Helen, also Methodist, was a daughter of Benjamin Threlfall Vickers, the owner of Benjamin Vickers & Sons Ltd (Vickers Oils) in Leeds. In 1906, Hadden and Helen began to serve in medical missions with the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society in central China. Their wedding was in Changsha, China, in 1909. They were continuing a tradition of medical missionary service established by fellow Methodist, Robert T. Booth of Cork, who had started his work in Hankow, China, in 1899.
For a period, Hadden worked in China in association with Yale University. Due to the first world war, he gave medical care in Siberia in 1917 and 1918, as part of services offered by the American Red Cross. This brought him into contact with the Czechoslovak Legion in the Ural Mountains in 1918.
Hadden was the founder of the Institute of Hospital Technology, which was begun in Anking in 1923, and was moved to Hankow in 1928. He directed it from 1923 to 1933. The Institute was the first school in China, under some missionary organisations, to provide training for Chinese people in x-ray and laboratory procedures, and in the making of artificial limbs.
In 1931, Hadden was working at the newly built Hankow Union Hospital, when the Yangtze River flooded a massive region, inundating the premises to a depth of fifteen to sixteen feet. With his colleagues, he provided hospital care in temporary shelters at Black Hill in Hanyang, and treated the victims of a major cholera outbreak. Hadden ended his work in China in 1933.
Hadden's brother, Richard, and his sister, Marie, were also medical doctors, having qualified at TCD. They both served in China during some of Hadden's years there. Richard was a medical missionary for Methodist missions in rural regions, but caught typhoid fever and died in 1930 in Chao Tong, China. Marie worked as a physician, both privately and as a School Medical Officer in Shanghai, ending in 1941. She returned to Ireland after the second world war.
Hadden's last period in medical missions was in 1936 and in 1937 in Nigeria. While exploring west Africa, he travelled by canoe on the Niger River, and also stayed with his niece, Maureen Hadden Morris, and her Methodist missionary husband, Rev. Richard Morris, in Gold Coast. The trip included a visit to Elmina Castle (famous for the slave trade). He was said to have studied such diverse subjects as the firing of bricks in southern China and clothes-drying in sub-zero temperatures in Siberia.
In 1938, he returned to Wexford and, insisting that Ireland inhabited a region more fascinating than anywhere on earth, settled permanently there. Establishing himself as a medieval historian of repute, he actively encouraged local historians and was the founder of the Old Wexford Historical Society (later the Wexford Historical Society) in 1944. As well as giving numerous monthly society lectures, he wrote extensively on the origins and development of Wexford town, and his study of earthworks was published in the Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society. He also wrote a number of articles on Co. Wexford railways, published in the Journal of the Irish Railway Record Society. As a historian, he was regarded as having a disciplined mind and an imagination of great breadth and depth, with a prodigious memory and a keen eye for topographical detail. Opinionated, eccentric and charming, he was a man who shunned materialism and demonstrated great personal charity and Christianity.
For years, he was involved with An Óige, the Irish Youth Hostel Association, and he served as its vice-president. Even before the Wexford Opera Festival began in 1951, he had established the Wexford Male Voice Choir, which was to make a substantial contribution to the internationally acclaimed festival. He was also responsible for the innovative Wexford travel guides and historical festival tours, established in 1959. Politically active, he served on Wexford Corporation for a number of years and was created a freeman of the borough of Wexford in 1972. He died on 29 July 1973 and the corporation honoured him with a public funeral, which was held in Rowe Street Methodist Church. His coffin, draped in the municipal flag, was taken through crowded streets with the businesses closed out of respect. He was buried at Crosstown Cemetery, Wexford. When asked what he would have wished for his epitaph, he replied: ‘Tell them I refused to grow old’.