Category Archives: Nursing

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.

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