In memoriam: Dr Antony Harding (27 September 1962 – 14 June 2020)

A tribute by Jane Downer

Tony Harding grew up in Launceston, Tasmania and I met him during mutual years of residence at St Mark’s College in the 1980s when he was a Dentistry student and enthusiastic sportsman. In 1988 Tony underwent surgery for a liver transplant, a critical operation performed whilst he was in a coma. Following a long recovery, Tony was intent on skydiving despite contact sports being vetoed by his doctors. He maintained that it wasn’t a contact sport until you landed(!) Similarly, he determined that by playing goalkeeper he could continue with his love of hockey. Such was Tony’s resolve to carry on with life’s enjoyable pursuits, and it pleased him to convince medical staff with the photographs of his parachuting exploits. This was just the beginning of his commitment to highlight the benefits of sporting activities for donor recipients.

Tony lived each day full of gratitude to his donor, and through a lifelong participation in Transplant Games was an endorsement for organ donation and the positive outcomes for recipients. He represented Tasmania in the Australian Transplant Games from 1990 onwards, and he co-ordinated the country’s team parade in front of the Sydney Opera House for the 1997 World Transplant Games. Over the years he competed in athletics, squash, cricket, swimming, kayaking, badminton, petanque, darts, tenpin bowling and eight-ball, captained a volleyball team and won a multitude of medals (bronze, silver and gold). Tony was chosen as Australia’s flag-bearer for the World Games in 2005, and he chaired the national event in 2012.

Tony worked in neuropathology for the MS Research Australia Brain Bank at the University of Sydney, and for the Prince of Wales Medical Research Centre, contributing to the study of diseases such as dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntingdon’s. He was unflaggingly committed to being on standby for the swift retrieval of donors’ brains and getting them ready for diagnostic examination. Tony inspired trainees in the field, and was an empathetic ear to the families of donors. The anniversary of his transplant held great importance for Tony and he used to take cakes to work in remembrance of his donor, and in celebration of his own life.

Tony was an active supporter and Life Member of Transplant Australia. He was keen for his donor’s family to know about the quality of life which the organ transplant afforded him – he was able to travel the world, work, play sport, and get to know a number of nieces and nephews.

I was lucky to catch up with Tony on a very hot day in London in August 2019 after he had taken part in the World Transplant Games in Newcastle. Despite the heat he was on good form and we enjoyed lunch by the Tower Bridge with a view of boats on the river Thames.

Tony is remembered by his family, friends and colleagues as a gentle, stoical, good-natured and exceptionally generous person. The Royal Prince Alfred Hospital is to name new a autopsy suite after Dr Antony Harding. Friends of Tony from St Mark’s will plant a rosebush in his memory in 2023.

You can find out more about Transplant Australia here. There is a fundraiser for Transplant Australia here.

Written by Jane Downer

A rose bush in memory of Tony Harding will be planted near Walkley Cottage on Saturday 15 April 2023 at 10:30am, followed by a morning tea at the Grenfell Price Lodge. All welcome. RSVP to 08 8334 5600.

Tony Harding skydiving after his transplant, c.1989

Tony Harding visiting Oxfordshire with St Mark’s alumni Ruth Paterson and Jane Downer, 1991

Tony Harding as flag bearer for the Transplant Games