Category Archives: Nursing

Flu on Achill

Just as 1918 turned into 1919 the third wave of Spanish Flu stuck the country. The far reaches of Achill was no exception. Glancing through the death records on Achill of early 1919 the majority of deaths were either influenza or related illnesses such as pneumonia. Nobody had medical attendant, as few could afford a doctor. It was a rough winter on the island as it was most places in rural Ireland. Food was in short supply after the end of the war.

Due to the shortage of medically trained, people had to care for their ailing loved ones at home. Emily if she was not in working in Dublin, no doubt would have selflessly attended to the sick, just as she did in the Typhus outbreak of 1913. The district nurse in Achill at that time was Linda Kearns, who like Emily was a Republican and who was involved in the 1916 Rising.


Linda Kearns, a district nurse in Achill in the epidemic, lost no patients to the flu, and attributed her success to her ‘use of poitín as medicine’.

The use of alcohol as medicine during the flu epidemic was not uncommon as there was no other cure.


D.W. Macnamara, who was a junior doctor in the Mater during the outbreak, reflected that whiskey or brandy in ‘heroic doses’ had been a particularly popular option among ‘the older men’.

Sources

Dublin Evening Telegraph 13 January 1919
https://civilrecords.irishgenealogy.ie/churchrecords/civil-search.jsp

Cultures of Care in Irish Medical History, 1750–1970. Edited By Catherine Cox; Director, Centre for the History of Medicine, University College, Dublin. Maria Luddy; Professor of Modern Irish History, University of Warwick

1919 Dawns

As 1918 changed to 1919, life for Emily remained the same. The Spanish flu was still rampant throughout the world, and as a nurse she worked flat out nursing its victims. Financially she was no better off . She still hung on to her house on Achill, but only just. However, politically things in Ireland were on the brink of great change, that was something she could smile about.

Dail Eireann assembled at the Mansion House on January 21st, 1919, issued its Declaration of Independence, and formally and legally established the Republic of Ireland, electing Cathal Brugha as its first President. De Valera and Griffith, although members of the Dail were in Jail, but Brugha and Collins had escaped the round-up.

The Derry Journal, Wednesday, 21st December, 1955
Mansion House 1919

Sources

The Derry Journal, Wednesday, 21st December, 1955

MS 46 328/2 Coffey and Chenevix Trench papers, 1868-2007. National Library of Ireland. Department of Manuscripts.

Christmas One Hundred Years Ago

Emily spent Christmas in Dublin working in the Meath Hospital, as the flu epidemic showed no sign of abating. Her house on Achill was occupied by her friend Eva O’Flaherty, who kept the home fires burning while Emily attended to to sick. That year there were more patients than usual as the said flu epidemic and the soldiers war needed hospitalization.

Emily’s niece Enid (Siobhan), from Australia, who lived with her was in Dublin too. Like her aunt, she also became a nurse. In the winter of 1918 she was still in training. Nothing could have put her on a better learning curve than nursing children through the Spanish Flu. In a letter to Margo Trench, Emily conveyed the difficulties they were encountering as nurses during that trying time.

Medical advise to the public from December 1918


Below is an excerpt from the Irish Times of December 27th 1918, describing Christmas at Emily’s workplace, the Meath Hospital. The hospital was decorated for the season and gifts were left by philanthropists. The men on the wards were given a special treat of a pipe and tobacco, as in back then it was not considered a health hazard.

MEATH HOSPITAL AND COUNTY DUBLIN INFIRMARY

The entrance hall was very tastefully decorated with holly, ivy and flags and the wards were neat and orderly. Large tables were arranged on the different landings and laden with a great profusion of Christmas delicacies, the gifts of numbers of ladies and gentlemen who take an interest in the hospital. Several soldiers are at present patients and their comforts, as well as those of the other sufferers, were well looked after. All rules, as far as possible were relaxed for the occasion.

Mr. Francis Penros, the Secretary; Miss Broadbourne, R.R.C. Matron; Mr. Tivy and Mr. Hill, House Surgeons, assisted by Sister Nellie, Sister Murphy, Sister Veron, Assistant Matron, were indefatigable, in their exertions to see that all the patients who could partake of it had a good supply turkey and plum pudding and other comforts. Mr. Thomas (Messrs, Kapp and Peterson) presented the male patients with a good supply of tobacco and pipe as he does every year.

Sources

Irish Times 27 December 1918 

MS 46 328/2 Coffey and Chenevix Trench papers, 1868-2007. National Library of Ireland. Department of Manuscripts.

Evening Despatch 28 October 1918

Evening Herald (Dublin) 31 August 1895

Nursing during the Spanish Flu Outbreak

Emily Weddall was stationed in the Meath Hospital, Dublin in October 1918, during the height of the outbreak of the Spanish flu.  This was the second of the three waves that traveled around the world quicker than in peace time, as it was still officially wartime. One month later the war was over but the flu epidemic had many more lives to claim before it finally dissipated in the spring of 1919.

As a trained nurse, her services were in high demand. She seemed to have an greater than average resistance to illness, and was one of the few to escape the ravages of that particularly virulent virus.

…But in 1918, as World War I approached its end, nothing could have prepared them for what was to come – the deadly Spanish Flu. Massive troop activities and a population weakened by hunger and war helped spread the disease. There was no cure for Spanish Flu, and doctors struggled to treat it. Good nursing was the only thing that helped and it was typically women that bore the brunt of trying to halt this deadly killer…https://www.hippocraticpost.com/events/nursing-during-the-1918-flu-pandemic/

As stated above good nursing was key to making the victims as comfortable as possible. Emily, who was trained by Margaret Huxley, who was like her English counterpart Florence Nightingale, revolutionised Irish nursing. Emily had some contact with the Florence Nightingale Nurses, and may have done some training with them. She was well qualified to nurse the flu victims.

Sources
https://www.hippocraticpost.com/events/nursing-during-the-1918-flu-pandemic/
http://www.oscailtmagazine.com/unitarian%20magazine/Great%20Woman.html
http://rcnarchive.rcn.org.uk/data/VOLUME088-1940/page027-volume88-february1940.pdf retrieved 02/06/2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Remedies for the Spanish Flu

The flu remedies offered in the newspapers, chemists and indeed on street corners, as those in desperation would try anything. Few had any effect but there was some sense in some remedies, such as the one below.

An Indian doctor, Dr. Muthu, did not so much offer a cure, maybe more of a preventative measure to prevent the virus attacking those who were still untouched. He suggested that good nutrition would build the body up, making it stronger and more resistant to the disease. He also suggested wearing masks by the sick and those attending to them. Emily would have benefited as a nurse, whether she did or not cannot be known. She avoided the disease even though she was in the midst of it as a nurse. She may have had been able to afford better nutrition than many of her times, but she like everyone else endured the same wartime stresses as everyone else. Her determined and sometimes stubborn character may have stood for her in that instance.

Sources
Belfast Telegraph 13 March 1919