Category Archives: Nursing

The Advantage of a Foreign Language

Emily a fluent French speaker had an added advantage when seeking work abroad. She could translate freely between employer and the locals when required. The below taken from Wintering in the Riviera, by William Miller describes the advantage of speaking the local language had.

The first great stumbling-block in the way of going abroad is to many, especially elderly persons, the want of knowledge of the language of the country to which they wish to direct their steps, or the want of power to converse in it freely.

There can be no doubt that it is of great consequence to have an acquaintance with the language of the country in which one desires to travel or reside for a time. People are saved much inconvenience and often money when they can talk it with fluency, and can comprehend what the natives say—usually the more difficult operation. At the same time, in all frequented parts of France, Italy, and Switzerland, either English or French will carry any one through.

Although Emily had a command of the French language, she would have got by without it in the South of France. Most hotels had at least one English speaker, and some even to Emily’s delight had an Irish representative.

At the hotels, unless they be what I have called English hotels, one usually meets with people of all countries. In one hotel in France, I was informed we had representatives of eight different nations, counting English, Scotch, and Irish as one. It has struck me, however, that although the French language is so generally spoken, the French themselves, while found travelling in every part of their own land, are very seldom seen in other countries.

Lost in translation

In his book Wintering in the Riviera, William Miller explains the sometimes disadvantages of speaking the language of the visited country. In his and Emily’s time they did not have the advantages of television or the internet, although there were plenty travel guides, but few ways of experiencing another country before visiting it. It was common to experience some kind of culture shock. William Miller gave the following advice for those who might partied with the locals;

There is nothing so difficult as to get merry with those who speak another language, into which everything has mentally and slowly to be translated, and the flashes of merriment often will neither brook translation nor abide deliberative meditation.

How Emily fared in the situation is hard to say now but always sociable she seemed to have fitted in easily. During her stay at Hotel Splendid in Mentone she seemed to be on friendly enough terms with the other guests to ask them to contribute to Kingstown Lifeboat disaster fund of 1895.

The Irish Times – Page 5 Saturday 18 April 1896


According to her biographer Iosold Ni Dheirg, Emily worked for a family as a private nursemaid and traveled with them to France and Germany. It is not clear how long she stayed in France as a nursemaid with that particular family. She certainly stayed long enough in the country to become a fluent French speaker

With French and a good command of German she had certainly had the option to travel as a nurse. Iosold Ni Dheirg, who knew Emily personally mentioned that she had a great sense of adventure, another reason behind her visit. The third possible reason could possibly have been that she was on a tour of Europe, not an uncommon for young ladies at her time. Having lost her parents and all but one of her siblings, her other relations may have taken her to the Continent as part of her education.

Either one of the ways described or another way completely young Emily found herself in the South of France in the Spring of 1896, having  brush with destiny too.

Ní Dheirg, Íosold. Emily M. Weddall: Bunaitheoir Scoil Acla. Baile Atha Cliath: Coisceim, 1995



Emily Weddall was fluent in French, a language that she would speak with anyone that would converse with her in it. She would have learned French as a schoolgirl at the Irish Clergy Daughter’s School. Her education there was geared towards finding employment as a governess, or a similar profession. At the time Emily attended the principal was Lady Mrs Danner. The subjects offered were; Holy scripture, English, French, German, Italian, Latin, geography, arithmetic, reading, needlework, pianoforte, vocal music and drawing.

Clergy Daughter’s School

Established in 1843 and incorporated by scheme of the Education Endowments Commissioners, 1894 the school was situated on Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin and shared premises with Alexandra College. Its object was to assist the clergymen and families of clergymen with limited means in the education of their children. The School catered for girls aged ten to eighteen whose fathers were Church of Ireland clergymen. The school closed in 1969. The site in Earlsfort Terrace was sold and the funds used to support boarding at Alexandra College and elsewhere.

Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin, where Emily attended school in the 1870’s and 80’s.

Emily did not pursue a career as a governess but instead as nurse. It was not necessary to have a second language to study nursing, but it did help to broaden her nursing options. Being a fluent French speaker helped her secure employment in France.

Clergy Daughter’s School Reports 1868 – 1886. Courtesy of Church of Ireland Library.


The “Sketcher”

It was not long before Paul Henry and his wife Grace settled into Island life, although it took a little time for them to learn the customs peculiar to the area. In the early days he had become known as the “Sketcher” and local people began to avoid him. Not knowing what he had done to upset people he asked advice of the local nurse.

“Even then I did not realise the reason for this, and it was left to my good friend Nurse Comerford to explain to me that my making drawings of the people was bitter resented. Then I saw where I stood. I had come up against one of the oldest superstitions world, he belief that something of the sitter entered into the drawing.”

Postcard photograph of Keel Village Postmarked 1910. From Valentine series.

Postcard photograph of Keel Village Postmarked 1910. From Valentine series.

This proved a problem for Henry as his livelihood was dependent of providing a London publication with sketches of anything that would be of interest to them. Luckily for him Emily Weddall made it her business to befriend him Emily  took him and his wife Grace under her wing and introduced them around.

Keel village in 1910 this is one the sights that inspired Paul Henry Reproduced with kind permission of Mayo Public Library, Castlebar.
An Irish Portrait, Paul Henry’s Autobiography, 1951. P 53

Dr Kathleen Lynn

Dr Lynn

Dr Lynn

Dr. Kathleen Lynn was born in Mayo. Like Emily Weddall her father was a Church of Ireland Minister. She was educated in Alexandria College, Dublin before completing her medical training at Cecilia Street (a Catholic University medical school).
Dr Lynn worked at Sir Patrick Dun’s Hospital, where Emily did her nurses training, but at different times.  Emily the older by a few years, attended Sir Patrick Dun’s in the 1890’s, Kathleen began working there in 1899, after completing medical school. At the time it was hard for female doctors to secure work, Sir Patrick Dunn’s progressive for it’s time took her on, on her own merit.

It is not clear when and where both women first became acquainted, it was likely through the Gaelic League, Cumann na mBan or through medical circles.  Kathleen Lynn either attended or helped with Scoil Acla as she was named on a list of attendees and supporters in a Mayo News article in the summer of 1915. They were life long friends, and would be meet many times again over the following four decades.

Kathleen Lynn: A Revolutionary Doctor | An Dochtúir Reabhlóideach

Kathleen Lynn was one of our first female medical graduates.  During the course of a distinguished life, she was a medical leader, campaigning feminist and social activist, a rebel of the emerging Irish nation, a suffragette and a public representative.  She had a pioneering medical career whilst taking part in Ireland’s War of Independence…To read more about Kathleen Lynns remarkable life:

Sources 08/07/2011
Mayo News August 1915
Photo: 04 August 1917 – Daily Mirror – London, London, England