Monthly Archives: February 2016

Emily Joins Cumann na mBan

In 1914 Emily joined the newly formed Cumann na mBan, translating as the Irish Women’s Council. Her friends such as Margot and Frances (Saidbh) Trench and Antia McMahon had already joined and Eva O’Flaherty was connected with the organisation too. DSCF3596Cumann na mBan was formed on 2nd April 1914 in Wynn’s Hotel in Dublin City Centre. Emily may have been at the founding meeting too, although it is impossible to find out now. She would have been in agreement of their aims.

They adopted a constitution which stated their aims were:

– To Advance the cause of Irish liberty
– To organise Irish women in the furtherance of that objective
– To assist in arming and equipping a body of Irish men for the defence of Ireland
– To form a fund for these purposes to be called the ‘Defence of Ireland Fund’.

Cumann na mBan needed a wide range of volunteers ,of which nurses were of utmost importance. Emily could and did lend her skills there. Many years later fellow Cumann na mBan member Kathleen Walsh from Waterford in an article The Fighting Spirit of Waterford: Cumann na mBan Memories;

“A Mrs Weddall a most efficient nurse was sent to us from Headquarters. She also gave us a course of lectures..”



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To read more about the formation of Cumann na mBan:

Munster Express 28 October 1955. Page 9


When Emily married in 1905 she gave up nursing as a career, although she still nursed her husband, Captain Edward Weddall, through bouts of an illness he picked up on his travels. When he died in 1908, she did not return to her career, but focused her time and energies on the Irish language revival and Gaelic League.

When there was an outbreak of typhus in 1913 Emily did not waste a minute but rushed to Connemara to lend her nursing services the victims, especially those from Gaelteacht, who only spoke Irish. Emily’s heroic action was reported on by the Irish Independent;

Mrs. Emily M. Weddall,Widow of the late Captain Weddall of Burnby,Yorkshire, and Rockfield House, Keel, Achill, who has hastened to Connemara to nurse the fever-stricken victims there

The site where the fever hospital in Oughterard one stood

The site where the fever hospital in Oughterard one stood

. Founder of the Achill Irish Summer School, who is best known in Gaelic circles as Bean Ui Uadal, and it is for the sake of this last remnant of the Irish-speaking nation she is making such a heroic sacrifice.

When Emily arrived on in Connemara (Oughterard) she was appalled at the authorities neglect of the area. He strong social conscience, compelled her to write and highlight the problem. She put pen to paper and composed the following letter to the Cliadheamh Soulis.

I came away last week to help look after the poor typhus patients here. I found all the typhus cases in Oughterard Fever Hospital, and only a few typhoid patients (who can’t be moved) in their own homes. I was going to write to you to ask you to insist on the establishment of a temporary hospital into which fresh cases (which are sure to occur) could be moved, but today the government representatives have at last arrived on the scene, Mr Birrrell, Sir Acheson McCullagh (Local Government Board), John Fitzgibbon, M.P., C.D.B., and Mr. O’Malley M.P. for the district. The doctor tells me that they have provided the hospital, and it is about time! The people have been treated worse than beasts should be treated, and they are almost all that remains to us of the unsullied ancient Irish race. I am glad the Gaelic League was first on the scene, but we ought to do something efficient to preserve these people and to enable them to find a livelihood in their own country…

The letter shows the beginning of Emily more involved in politics, and it would be because of that, that Emily would be back using her nursing skill again.

Irish Independent 1905-2011 Date:May 21, 1913;Section:None;Page Number:3
An Claidheamh Soluis May 1913. p 8



Sometime between April 1901 and March 1905 Emily traveled to Russia. She may have had some nursing work there or went as a lady’s companion, who may have required some nursing services. Due to the absence of records it is impossible to say exactly when and under what circumstances she went there, only local legend and a few facts that Iosold ni Dheirg remembered from the time she spent with Emily in her later years. In her biography Emily M. Weddall: Bunaitheoir Scoil Acla, Iosold ni Dheirg mentions that Emily had been to one of the palace of the Tsars, and that she kept a photo of the three Russian princesses in her house many years later.

Emily’s time in Russia is shrouded in mystery, and possibly will never be solved. Her time spent there was eventful and may have been the beginning of her developing a strong social conscience, which she was noted for all her life. One particular incident would have an strong effect on her character. It happened one snowy night…

Emily was awoken from her sleep by a commotion outside. She looked out her bedroom window to see a big group of poor men, in shackles been led of the work in the harsh climate of Siberia as a punishment to whatever crime they may have committed. It was snowing heavily. It was the most alarming sight she had seen in her life so far.


She would see similar scenes but the next time it would be in her own country many years later.

Ní Dheirg, Íosold. Emily M. Weddall: Bunaitheoir Scoil Acla. Beann Éadair, Baile Átha Cliath: Coiscéim, 2010.
Photo by Ciaran Parkes


Emily Burke’s nursing career afforded her the opportunity to travel. In the late 1890’s she spent some time traveling with her work. She may have got the job through her family connections or with the Florence Nightingale Nurses who had branches in Europe . As Emily was fluent in a few European languages, from her schooldays  she was had an added advantage to get jobs on the continent. Where or who she worked for  is lost in time but in her biography by Iosold ni Dheirig, Emily M. Weddall :bunaitheoir Scoil Acla mentioned she spent some time as a nursemaid for a family that traveled to France and Germany.

Emily returned to Ireland in the early 1900’s and according to the 1901 census she lived at Waltham Terrace, Blackrock, Co. Dublin. Her occupation was a nurse and it appeared that she may have been either a nurse to the elderly man or nursemaid to his grandchildren. It is impossible to say how long she remained in that particular job, but sometime after that and before 1905 she would get the opportunity to travel again, which was a life altering experience for her.


Ní Dheirg, Íosold. Emily M. Weddall: Bunaitheoir Scoil Acla. Beann Éadair, Baile Átha Cliath: Coiscéim, 2010.

Inspiration 3 Lady Dudley

Emily and The Lady Dudley Nurses Scheme

About Lady Dudley

Lady Dudley was the wife of a controversial Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, William Humble Ward, Third Earl of Dudley, who served from 1902 to 1905. In 1903, concerned at the extreme poverty in the congested district boards of the west, she began to fund raise to provide a district nursing service for the counties along the western seaboard. The link with the viceroy ensured the nursing associations were seen as fashionable charities, with fundraising led by the old ascendancy families who held garden parties in aid of the Jubilee and Dudley nursing schemes.
When Lady Dudley realised the extreme poverty in Ireland she was determined to do something to combat it through providing nurses to the worst affected areas. The West of Ireland including Achill was the prime area of her attention. She was so moved with what she saw in these areas that she felt compelled to write to the New York Times appealing for donations to fund the scheme she set up.

May I be permitted through the medium of your paper to appeal to the Irish people in America for a share of their charity on behalf of an undertaking which would, I think; recommend itself to them were they better acquainted with the necessity for it? I speak of the fund for the establishment of district nurses in the poorest parts of Ireland which has been in existence for nearly a year.

When Emily married in 1905, she more or less retired from nursing as a career but always supported nursing causes in her local community. When she moved to Achill she befriended the local district nurse, Miss Comerford. Emily was always quick to help where needed and when a local collector for the Lady Dudley Scheme was no longer able to continue in his post Emily Weddall took over from him. “Mrs Weddall has most kindly consented to take his [Mr. Hector] to take his place… We are thankful to Mrs. Weddall for coming to our help.”

Having Emily as the collector for the Lady Dudley Scheme, proved a great asset as Emily had a talent for being influential and was also well respected. “Mrs. Weddall, who was assisting Nurse Comerford with gifts; she was also instrumental in ‘obtaining some subscribers”.


The New York Times, March 14, 1904, Section , Page 8
The Irish Times – Monday, May 16, 2011, An Irishman’s Diary
Muintir Acla, Winter 1999, Sile A. NicAodha, p. 31.
Photo of Lady Dudley: