Michael Nee was a man so full of life and its joys that his sudden and unexpected death from a pulmonary embolism left his family and countless friends not only heart-broken but incredulous. Born in Athlone in the centre of Ireland in 1942, he was brought up with a close awareness of his country's recent history, and was a warm, shrewd and witty commentator on the life, politics and literature of his native country. He was an outstanding schoolboy athlete, winning the Irish schoolboy sprint championship, and holding the Connaught long jump record for 30 years, as well as playing rugby as a fleet-footed fly-half at the highest schoolboy and university levels.
After qualifying as a dentist at University College Dublin in 1967 (the many friends he made there were friends for life, and the source of innumerable hilarious anecdotes, inimitably recounted) he became part of that diaspora of 1960s-educated Irish only too glad to escape from the suffocating orthodoxies of their homeland at the time. Late-'60s London was another thing altogether, and Michael savoured its pleasures to the full, along with many fellow countrymen and a growing circle of English friends who were quick to love his wit and warmth. He was a peerless raconteur, never afraid to tell a familiar joke as a new one. "It's the way you tell 'em," as he could justifiably claim.
He joined a National Health dental practice in Edmonton, which he soon took over and built up to one of the largest in London, opening a Harley Street practice in 1986. It was a very busy one, friends becoming patients and patients becoming friends. Behind his warm, engagingly theatrical manner at work lay an up-to-date, dedicated, supremely skilled and sympathetic professional, devotedly supported by his practice manager and assistant of many years, Paula Brennan.
Outside his work the centre of his world was his family – his wife of 41 years, Ragnhild, and his sons, Gervase (who will follow him in the dental practice), Patrick and Marcus. Each night Michael could look forward to the product of Ragnhild's outstanding culinary skills; for many years she combined care of the home and children with helping manage the practice. The elder two boys inherited his love of food and golf – family games were competitive affairs, the ferocity softened by Michael's wit. They are, along with Ragnhild, and as Michael was, superb skiers. Marcus's learning difficulties showed Michael at his tenderest, indulging his son's passion for deafening clubs by taking him on late-night weekend visits to the noisiest ones; they soon became the doormen's favourites.
The number, range and (to his envious friends) the sheer number of his holidays, long and short, were remarkable; he was an infallible guide to the best new restaurants. Loyal to the ones he liked, inventive in his buying of good wine, the most joyous of golfing companions, and sound guide to new books and theatre – he had broad and well-informed cultural interests, which enriched his conversation, while his Irish education had left him with an astonishing amount of poetry he had by heart.
Few find so much in life to enjoy, spread so much joy around them, and leave so many so saddened by their going. Michael was one of that blessed band. His funeral at St Joseph's, Highgate, overflowed with those mourning the premature loss of such a treasure.
Michael Nee, dentist: born Athlone, Ireland 7 September 1943; married Ragnhild (three sons); died 20 April 2011.Reuse content