Monthly Archives: February 2016

Inspriation 2 Margaret Huxley

When Emily began her training as a nurse Miss Margaret Huxley R.G.N. had just taken station in in Sir Patrick Dunns Hospital.  Like Florence Nightingale, Miss Huxley revolutionised nursing, especially in Ireland. She had taken up her position at Sir Patrick Dun’s just before Emily began her training. Now doubt her methods would have impacted Emily’s early nursing days, and stayed with her all her life. DSCF2310

As part of her pioneering work she established Sir Patrick Dun’s School of Nursing as the leading Nursing School in Ireland. Through this school and in cooperation with other training schools she continually strove to raise the educational standards of nurses and by extension the status of nursing in Ireland and abroad.


Margaret Huxley’s obituary of February 1940 in the British Journal of Nursing

In 1883 she came to Ireland, from that time until her death all her interests were centred in this country. Her first post was that of Matron of the National Eye and Ear Hospital, Molesworth Street, Dublin, where she remained for less than a year. The Board of Sir Patrick Dun’s Hospital, having heard of her worth, appointed her their Lady Superintendent, which post she held until 1902.

Systematic training for Nurses was non-existent when Miss Huxley took up duty at Sir Patrick Dun’s Hospital, but it was not long before the Nurses trained by her were everywhere in demand throughout the country.
In 1891, while still Lady Superintendent of Sir Patrick Dun’s Hospital, realising the need for nursing care and medical and surgical treatment for private patients, she acquired an ordinary dweling-house and opened it as the first Nursing Home in this country. she formed a company to run it, and trained Nurses were appointed to staff it and at the same time, some of the probationers from Sir Patrick Dun’s Hospital were sent there to gain experience in the care of private patients.

Miss Huxley worked ceaselessly for a uniform system of education and training for Nurses, and for State Registration. this book both time and money. In 1893, with the help of Dr. Richard Hayes, she was instrumental in starting a Central School where the nurses in training in a large number of the Dublin Hospitals received Lecture, and were examined. this school was ready, when State Registration came, to carry on and give all the theoretical truing required for the State Examinations, and it has proved of inestimable value to the nurses in training, and to the participating hospitals.

Nursing in Emily's time

Nursing in Emily’s time

It is easy to see Miss Huxley’s influence on Emily career on many occasions. Years later, when Emily had officially retired from nursing she made a comeback, when her services were required. In 1913, when typhus broke out in an Irish speaking area of Connemara, Emily went to the fever hospital to lend her services, as she could speak to the patients in their native tongue, making easier for them to communicate, easing their suffering. That is only one example of many.

Sources retrieved 02/06/2014
An Cliamheadh Soulis, July 1915
An Cliamheadh Soulis 21/06/1913

Inspiration 1Florence Nightingale

The Lady with the Lamp

DSCF3030.JPGA generation before Emily nursing had become a reputable career for young women. Florence nightingale had made a name for herself and revolutionized the profession.

During the Crimean War, a public fund for training nurses was set up . With the money raised the Nightingale School at  St Thomas’ Hospital was opened in 1860.

Florence became actively involved in the Nightingale School at St Thomas’ in the 1870’s in order to avert a crisis. The first student nurses or ‘probationers’ were receiving little formal training. A student from Sweden complained that in eights months she had learned only how “to be obedient and humble and not to think much of herself” The drop out rate was alarmingly high.

Once Florence learned this she set about reform, appointing a new sister and involving St Thomas surgeon, John Croft, to give lectures and set examinations.

With that her nurses were known world wide and took up positions as matrons. There was a branch in Ireland too, perhaps Emily had contact with them, as part of her training or may have reached a level of competence as a nurse that she could register with the Nightingale Nurses to find employment.DSCF3033.JPG

Many went on to lead the reform of nursing and raise it’s status as a profession. In Isold ni Dheirg, Emily’s biographer suggests that Emily may have had some training with the Nightingale Nurses in London after she finished at Sir Patrick Dunns Hospital or travel to the continent when she nursed in France and Germany.DSCF3041.JPG

Ní Dheirg, Íosold. Emily M. Weddall: Bunaitheoir Scoil Acla. Beann Éadair, Baile Átha Cliath: Coiscéim, 2010. retrieved 02/06/2014
Photographs curtesy of the Florence Nightingale Museum, London


When Emily began her nursing career she was already 25 years old. It was the lower age limit at the time. Below is a nice example of the criteria of the day for the nursing vocation:


Women desirous of being trained as Hospital, District and Private Nurses, should apply to the Lady Superintendent of Sir Patrick Dun’s Hospital; and if suitable, they will be received as Probationers under the following arrangements:-

1. Must pay an Entrance Fee.

2. Must be from twenty-three to thirty years of age.

3. Must read and write well, and bring testimonials of  good character.

4. They will only be received on the distinct understanding that they remain three months: subject, however to the approval of the Lady Superintendent at the end of one month, when if they are considered unsuitable to train, their services will no longer be required.

5. At the expiration of three months, if retained they will be provided with indoor uniform clothing.

6. The Probationers and Nurses will be required to wear the uniform clothing while at the Home or on duty elsewhere. Their outdoor uniform they will provide themselves.

7. If found efficient at the end of three months the following scale of wages will begin:- First year, £10; to be increased £2 every year during the term of training.

8. It is expected that at the end of eighteen months the Probationers will be fitted for Nurses, and heir engagement will then require them to serve two years and six months more in Hospital, District, or Private Nursing; to sick among the rich or the poor whenever called upon to do so.

9. At the expiration of three months from date of entry, every Probationer will be required to write a letter to the following effect:-

“To the BOARD OF GOVERNORS of Sir Patrick Dun’s Hospital.
“GENTLEMEN, – Having now become practically acquainted with the duties of a Nurse, I am satisfied that I shall be able and willing, on the completion of my training, to enter into service as a Nurse in an Hospital, District or in Private Houses; and I promise to continue in such service for the space of at least two and a-half years afterwards, in whatever situation the Lady Superintendent shall thin suitable to my abilities.
I am, Gentlemen,…”


Image courtesy of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland

Image courtesy of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland

Reproduced by kind permission of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, End of Year Report 1889-1899, p47.