Category Archives: Nursing

St. Patrick’s Day on Achill in the time of Emily

“One Home Two Away”

It was possible that Emily spent St. Partick’s Day on Achill in 1919. The worst of the flu epidemic was over ending her long hours of nursing its victims. She was now free to travel back home to Achill after a long absence. Dublin was now her temporary home, as her employment as a nurse was there. However, correspondence with Fainne an Lae, the new name for the Gaelic League weekly, located her in Achill in March 1919.

St. Partick’s Day was then as it is now a big festival on Achill, celebrating it in the same way it was celebrated in 1882, to mark the fourteen hundred and fifty years that the saint arrived in Ireland.That year the Church called for a special effort to be made by the people of Ireland to celebrate the anniversary. Achill was well prepared. The year before the First Band or Tom Vesey’s Band was formed. Initiated by him and some local musicians.

“The First Band had always been known as Tom Vesey’s Band. Tom Vesey lived in the middle of the Village [Dooagh] and as a youngster he served his time in Scotland as a cooper… Tom Vesey was by all accounts a gifted cooper, and like all artists he tried something new, he made a wooden frame for a bass drum, a tanned goat skin was used to complete the drum. That drum was carried in the Saint Patrick’s Day parade for 26 Years.

As Time Marches on; A Brief History of Dooagh Pipe Band 1882-1982,

Some years later when St. Partrick’s Day became an official holiday (1903), and the Gaelic League took over, the local branch put on a concert, where the islanders were entertained with music, drama and song. When Emily arrived on Achill the agenda for St. Patrick’s Day was well established. She was happy to get involved and when the night was over her husband, Captain Weddall treated the performers to tea and cake.

The Accrington Drum

Years later, still when the Gaelic League and Scoil Acla was well established on Achill and when the Dooagh Band had acquired a new drum. The large drum was a gift from grateful music fans from Accrington, Lancashire. It went down in folklore as the Accrington Drum.

In 1914 a Mr. Rainsford was brought in by Mrs. Weddall, director of Scoil Acla to teach new members of the Band new tunes on the flute, he also trained the drummers. He trained them to cross the sticks on the big drum. He called the style – “One home two away”.

As Time Marches on; A Brief History of Dooagh Pipe Band 1882-1982


Sources

As Time Marches on; A Brief History of Dooagh Pipe Band 1882-1982; J.J. McNamara, J. McNamara, N.T.

Mayo News April 04 1908. Page 3

Special thanks to John ‘Twin’ McNamara


Darrell Figgis is out of Jail

In February 1919 Darrell Figgis arrived in Dublin on parole Durham Jail. The condition of his temporary release was due to the illness of his wife as well as the burning of his home. He would not return to prison as he and other prisoners that were held in British jails were not required to serve out their sentence, however the ones in Irish prisons were not released. When interviewed by the press he had the below to say:

“I have one complaint to make. It isn’t always very easy to stand steady in one’s place in a jail, but it isn’t made easier by continual rumours in the papers of our release, I can assure your. Besides, there’s another thing. I am under geasa [Irish for under obligation] not to discuss politics and I will only say this. Nothing would better suit the English Government than to turn national work into an amnesty or prisoners’ liberation movement. The best way to get us out is to get straight on with the nation’s work, and are good at it. If liberation is decided on, then look along the road and go all out for it. Either that, or leave it alone. This constant talk of release must be had for the country, and it certainly is bad for the men in jail.”

Emily had attended to Figgis’ wife Millie, when she was stricken by the deadly Spanish flu, with underlying health problems and was not expected to survive. Survive she did against the odds and made a full recovery.

Sources

Irish Independent 27 February 1919

Irish Independent 07 March 1919

More Cases of Flu

In January 1919, while the fist Dail was being formed and the Anglo Irish War was beginning. Life as continued as normal in most parts of the country. On Achill it was impossible to tell that great changes were unfolding in the country. Most people in Ireland, including Achill were too busy dealing with their immediate environment to contemplate what was taking place nationally.

After the Great War unemployment was high, but a new type of welfare was introduced, but that didn’t stretch too far if there was a number of mouths to feed. To make to make matters worse, the dreaded flu was still ravaging the land. Achill was not exempt, and in the first few weeks of the new year there were new cases. Had Emily been there at the time she would have been caring for the victims. But she was still in Dublin, nursing victims there and hoping to stave off the loss of her house for all long as possible.

Sources

Roscommon Messenger 18 January 1919

https://www.rte.ie/centuryireland/index.php/articles/new-unemployment-benefit-sees-massive-take-up-in-ireland

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.