Author Archives: Maria

International Day of the Nurse

Three Nurses

Florence Nightingale

Today is the International Day of the Nurse, it is also the 200th birth anniversary of Florence Nightingale. Emily Weddall was a nurse too. Inspired by Nurse Nightingale, she trained at Sir Patrick Dunn’s Hospital, Dublin under the supervision of Nurse Margaret Rachel Huxley, who as a young girl was inspired by Florence Nightingale. Nurse Huxley can be credited with reforming Irish nursing.

Margaret Rachel Huxley

As a fully qualified nurse, Emily adhered to her very modern training, which commenced in 1891, when she was twenty-three, the appropriate age at the time. She nursed in public and private hospitals and as a personal nurse too. Her career took her to Europe and beyond, became a source of income to her in a time of great financial hardship. She applied her skills during a typhus outbreak in 1913 and during the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic. She also collected money to help fund the Lady Dudley Nurses.

Emily by Tina O’Rourke

Emily as a nurse was a valued member of Cumann na mBan, and gave classes in first aid during the Revolutionary years in Ireland. She also attended to wounded members of the IRA during the dark days of the War of Independence. She was known to cycle long distances during wet cold nights “to nurse a sick member or to save the capture of others”. When an apology was made or gratitude expressed to her, she always replied; ” It is my duty to help our soldiers”. She was in her own way a ‘lady with a lamp’.

Sources

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Margaret_Huxley.png

Belfast Weekly News 05 December 1907

Mayo News 3rd December 1952

Irish Independent 1905-2011 Date:May 21, 1913;Section:None;Page Number:3

Transforming Nursing

When Florence Nightingale set about changing the style of nursing it was not a profession it was employment that attracted the likes of the Dickensian character Sarah Gamp. It was certainly not a path for young ladies like Florence herself or those that came after her, such as Emily. It did not happen for her overnight in fact it took until she was well over thirty and the horrors of the Crimean War for her to fulfill a destiny that was ‘a calling from God’.

Young Florence

Florence, Italy

Nurse Nightingale, was born in the Italian city, Florence, which she is named after in May 1820. Her family were wealthy and well connected enjoying many privileges such as a two houses one for the summer months and the other for wintering. Her education was administered by her father, who taught her and her older sister, Frances Parthenope (after the Italian city she was born in) many subjects that would not have been imparted in traditional education. We do not know about her sister but young Florence had no interest in the more ladylike activities of home making and needlework. She was more drawn to what was considered in the day as masculine pursuits of reading philosophy. It was not masculine or feminine pursuits that inspired Florence to realise her destiny it was a divine calling.

In her teens Florence felt that God had called her forth to help alleviate human suffering. To her this took on the form of caring for the sick. She may not have known what form that would take, but as a devout Unitarian she trusted the calling of the divine. As nursing was not a profession or indeed a job as such it must have perturbed her greatly. She persisted even if her parents were less than pleased at her proposed path in life. Even if her education was at the time ‘liberal’, society still expected a girl from her background to marry well.

Her father relented and permitted her to attend a school in Germany which taught basic nursing skills for a short time in 1850. She returned in 1851 for further training, increasing her skill base to correct patient observation and hospital management. From there she traveled to Paris, where she spent time training with the Sisters of Mercy. The order was founded by the Venerable Catherine McAuley, an Irishwoman, who like Florence had a calling to help the sick and poor.

In 1831 Catherine founded the Sisters of Mercy, a Religious Congregation largely involved in the care of the poor, the sick and educationally disadvantaged. In the early days, her work was mostly among the people of Dublin, but in time the Congregation spread and became one of the largest Congregations of women, not alone in Ireland, but in the world.

http://sistersofmercy.ie/catherine-mcauley/

Sources

Based on article by Mary Rose McCarthy
https://www.florence-nightingale.co.uk/florence-nightingale-biography/
http://sistersofmercy.ie/catherine-mcauley/

Florence Nightingale 200

Florence Nightingale was born two hundred years ago this month. ‘The Lady of the Lamp’ the title she earned during the Crimean War, revolutionized nursing completely.

Nursing Before Florence

Before Florence Nightingale took on the occupation of nursing, transforming it to a a vocation it was not so much a profession but a poorly paid employment option. Nurses were usually old women, who took it on as means to support themselves when there were few jobs options open to them. ‘Nurses’ were almost always from lower ends of society, received little or no training and were noted for bad habits and their careless attitude towards the sick. If the infirm did not have it bad enough and had to go to hospital they found themselves in overcrowded unsanitary institutions, that did little to alleviate their suffering. In his 1844-45 novel, Martin Chuzzlewit, Charles Dickens captured the stereotype of a nurse all too well in the character of Sarah Gamp.

The face of Mrs. Gamp — the nose in particular — was somewhat red and swollen, and it was difficult to enjoy her society without becoming conscious of a smell of spirits. Like most persons who have attained to great eminence in their profession, she took to hers very kindly; insomuch that, setting aside her natural predilections as a woman, she went to a lying-in or a laying-out with equal zest and relish.


“When this book was first published, I was given to understand, by some authorities, that the Watertoast Association and eloquence were beyond all bounds of belief. Therefore I record the fact that all that portion of Martin Chuzzlewit’s experiences is a literal paraphrase of some reports of public proceedings in the United States (especially of the proceedings of a certain Brandywine Association), which were printed in the Times Newspaper in June and July, 1843—at about the time when I was engaged in writing those parts of the book; and which remain on the file of the Times Newspaper, of course.
In all my writings, I hope I have taken every available opportunity of showing the want of sanitary improvements in the neglected dwellings of the poor. Mrs Sarah Gamp was, four-and-twenty years ago, a fair representation of the hired attendant on the poor in sickness. The hospitals of London were, in many respects, noble Institutions; in others, very defective. I[…]”Excerpt From: Charles Dickens. “Martin Chuzzlewit.” iBooks.

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/968

“She was a fat old woman, this Mrs Gamp, with a husky voice and a moist eye, which she had a remarkable power of turning up, and only showing the white of it. Having very little neck, it cost her some trouble to look over herself, if one may say so, at those to whom she talked. She wore a very rusty black gown, rather the worse for snuff, and a shawl and bonnet to correspond.”

Excerpt From: Charles Dickens. “Martin Chuzzlewit.” iBooks.

Sources

https://www.florence-nightingale.co.uk/florence-nightingale-biography/
Belfast Weekly News 05 December 1907
http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/968

.http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/dickens/chuzzlewit/gamp.html

Easter Monday 2020

It is ten years since I took this photo of the the lonely grave of Emily M. Weddall. In the historical Republican Plot, it was perhaps the only unmarked final resting place of those who fought for Irish Independence.

It remained unmarked for many decades as Emily died without descendants, and her closest surviving relatives no nearer than Australia. Apart from the occasional visit from her friends, fewer and fewer as the year rolled by. But in 2012, sixty years after her death members of Scoil Acla, the same summer school she co-founded in 1910, decided to remedy the situation. In November of that year unveiled, a gravestone befitting the character of Emily Weddall.

Emily’s gravestone

The gravestone with an stained glass inset was meticulously chosen by the committee of Scoil Acla. It is a symbol of and a tribute to Emily who donated her stained glass panel of St. Brendan, by Wilhelmina Geddes (1887–1955) to Curran Catholic Church. Geddes was an Irish born stained glass artist, whose work graces churches, art galleries and museums all over the world. Emily purchased the piece at an art fair in London in 1925.

Sources

scoilacla.ie

https://www.fourcourtspress.ie/books/2015/wilhelmina-geddes/

Unleashed, the Black and Tans

In March 1920, a new ‘branch’ of the RIC (Royal Irish Constabulary), were unleashed on the streets of Ireland. They were mostly unemployed soldiers who returned from the battlefields of WWI, provided with casual looking uniforms of dark green tunics, over khaki trousers, a large black belt and RIC cap. Their distinctive attire earned them the name of Black and Tans, their colours not unlike a pack of foxhounds, but that is where the resemblance ended. They were poorly coordinated by the powers that be resulting in brutality above and beyond the call of duty. Below is a report from Tralee, Co. Kerry where the towns people suffered repeated brutality at the hands of the Black and Tans. It was only the tip of the iceberg of what was all too common occurrences during the War of Independence. Emily would herself come face to face with the ruthless pack.

Sources

Below is a picture taken outside a bank in Phibsborough, Dublin of the aftermath of the shooting of a civilian was shot dead and a soldier wounded. It was one of many of such incidences, which went on for over a year.

100 years ago, The Black and Tans deployed Joseph E.A. Connell Jr, History Ireland, Issue 2 (March/April 2020), Volume 28

Weekly Freeman’s Journal 25 September 1920

Weekly Freeman’s Journal 23 October 1920