“So on this 19th day of January 1921 they took us back to Galway Fail which now admitted both of us. In the jail we fund another political prisoner, Miss Anita MacMahon, of a writer and a worker for Land Reform in Achill. She had been there for some time a and showed the signs and strain of imprisonment”. Alice M Cashel, recalled in her witness statement decades later. Anita was more than half way into her six month sentence for possession of seditious documents.
Anita who was used of having more freedom than most in her time must have found incarceration very difficult. Moreover, she had to endure being locked up while her friends were free and able to participate in the war against the British forces. Emily would have visited her if at all possible, although it may have been difficult for her to leave Dublin while she was working as a nurse or traveling when nearly every train was held up due to ambushes, searches and sometimes violent attacks. The latter would have been less of a problem for Emily than missing work.
WS Ref #: 366 , Witness: Alice M Cashel, Member Cumann na mBan, Galway; Vice-Chairman Galway County Council, 1920-1921
Lady Rachel Dudley was celebrated as one of the beauties of her generation. A favorite of the Prince of Wales she turned heads everywhere she went. The loveliness of her face was far surpassed by her generosity and willingness to help those less fortunate.
Born Rachel Gurney, to a family of Quaker bankers, she showed talent as a singer as a young girl. Her golden voice captured the attention of the Duchess of Bedford, who took her and her sister on as protegees, paying for lessons by renowned Italian composer and singing teacher Paolo Tosti. The young Rachael was about to embark on a singing career but fate intervened.
Miss Gurney was about to adopt music as a profession when at that junctuire her friend Lady Edith Ward, came riding by with her brother Lord Dudley, who fell in love first with the voice and then with the singer. “I wanted to marry the most beautiful woman in England – I could not marry you so I will marry Rachel Gurney.” Lord Dudley was heard to have said to his mother.
The Nottingham Evening Post 28 June 1920
The wedding took place in Christchurch, Chelsea, London on 18th September 1891 (which happened to be Emily’s 24th birthday). The wedding aroused much curiosity in population, who all but stampeded to catch a glimpse of the beautiful bride!
Christchurch Times 19 September 1891
Belfast News-Letter 26 April 1920
12 July 1924 – Weekly Irish Times – Dublin, Dublin, Republic of Ireland
“In the summer of 1920, while the War of Independence was raging, Lady Rachel came once more to Screebe Lodge. She was alone. On the morning of June 26, she went for a swim, and never returned. Her body was later retrieved from the sea.”
On June 26th 1920 after traveling from England to Screebe House, the family’s summer residence in Connemara just the day before, Lady Dudley went for a swim to freshen up. After a long and tiring journey, she decided to take a dip as a way of revivification. She did not return.
Lady Dudley was swimming off the jetty at the back of her residence and had taken a lifebelt with her when she entered the water. On the jetty observing her was her maid, Ms Norman, who remarked that Lady Dudley had swum 30 yards from the jetty and appeared to be enjoying herself when she suddenly got into trouble. She threw her hands in the air and sank below the water’s surface. She disappeared from sight and only her lifebelt came to the surface. Her body was later recovered.
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.
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 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’.
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’.
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.