Category Archives: Nursing

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.

Belfast Telegraph 13 March 1919

Cures and Quackery

There was no definite cure for the flu even today, although symptoms can be managed a lot better and much less people succumb to the virus.

“Although there is currently no medical treatment that will cure the flu, there are four medications that may shorten the course of the virus and decrease the severity of the symptoms if you begin taking them within the first 2 days of the onset of the symptoms. All of these medications reduce the ability of the influenza virus to reproduce by attacking enzymes necessary for viral replication.”

Back in 1918, as today there were over the counter medicines to help remedy the flu, but like now they could only ease the symptoms. Worse still there were many newspaper adverts that sold potions that claimed to cure the flu among many other diseases, to the sick and vulnerable.

Below are examples of cures from the time of the Spanish flu some stood the test of time and can be bought today.

Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail 07 October 1918
Coventry Evening Telegraph 18 November 1918
Belfast Telegraph 02 November 1918

The flu Returns

This time 100 years ago World War One was in its final days, but death did not stop with the war. Something worse was on the horizon, although nobody could have imagined that in war time. An epidemic called Spanish Flu gripped the world in the winter of 1918-1919 and Ireland was no exception.

It came at a time when the world was in a weak state after four years of war, and took all by surprise. The medics were not prepared this is where Republican forces stepped in:

“Republican women in Cumann na mBan and the Citizen Army opened emergency hospitals during the epidemic”.

Emily, as a member of Cumann na mBan and a trained nurse lent her services. She found employment in the Meath Hospital and worked morning, noon and night, like everyone else with medical training. How she remained healthy is miraculous, but she did and ended up nursing her friends too.

“The influenza epidemic killed about 23,000 people in Ireland in 1918-1919”Read more

Ireland and the great flu epidemic of 1918


‘A Strange Malady’

In June 1918 strange and unsettling reports began to filter into the newspapers about a disease that was doing the rounds. In the beginning the stories only took up a few column inches, subtle at first, then getting more sensational. At the time the First World War was still raging and  most of the population were war weary. Reports of a disease was not uncommon disease spread quickly in the trenches. The first victims did not suffer too badly and most recovered within a few days. This fever was not taken too seriously at first, with reports calling anything from a poisoning to ‘strange maladies’, some reports cited it as a plague. The newspaper clipping from the Daily Mirror of June 21 1918, took a lighthearted approach to the disease;

Even if people were collapsing on the street from the virus it was still not taken as seriously as it could have. The report below from the Hull Daily Mail suggested the same, however it did revel how the virus came to England and by ship. The first reported death in the area was that of an Indian seaman, who arrived at Hull a few days previous. The report states that he contracted it after the ship docked. That is how it arrived in Ireland too, by sea when a ship docked at Cork carrying the virus.

Aberdeen Evening Express 26 June 1918
Daily Mirror 21 June 1918
Hull Daily Mail 28 June 1918

100 Years Ago 1918

Year 1918


1st. Richard Mulcahy, second-year medical student at UCD, is appointed Chief of Staff of the IRA in spring 1918.

11th. In a military base in Kansas, there are outbreaks of an unusually severe form of influenza, which are later understood to be amongst first recorded cases of the Spanish Flu.


21st. A bill was passed by the British Government to enforce conscription on all Irish men of military age, an Anti-conscription pledge signed by Nationalists.


11th. End of WW1


14th. 1918 Elections. Sinn Féin win landslide in general election.

The above are some of the events that shaped 1918. Emily had her own personal ups and downs that year too. The Great War was over and a sort of peace was restored, but in Ireland that would not last.

1917, the previous year saw the beginning of the Russian Revolution. Emily had investments in Russian industry, which were wiped and she lost her income. The realisation of her predicament did not hit her till the following year, 1918, when she returned home from her travels to be met with a pile of bills and bank statements that revealed her dire financial state. Emily had no choice but to return to work. Luckily she had her nursing career to fall back on. Her skills would become a necessity. In March of 1918 the first cases of Spanish Flu were reported.

“In a military base in Kansas, there are outbreaks of an unusually severe form of influenza, which are later understood to be amongst first recorded cases of the Spanish Flu. Over the coming year, this strain of flu kills an estimated 50,000,000 people.”

Later on it would come to Ireland. “Republican women in Cumann na mBan and the Citizen Army opened emergency hospitals during the epidemic.” Emily would find employment in the Meath Hospital, where she would remain for the duration of the epidemic and beyond. Most of her friends and colleagues would catch the flu, most would survive but her friend Cessca Trench would succumb to it. Emily herself escaped it completely.

In the wider world women would get the vote and for the first time. In Ireland after a long campaign they succeeded in getting the right for women to vote too. But they had to be 30 years of age and own property. Emily, who fell into that perhaps tiny category would have embraced the opportunity to cast her vote. 

Sinn Fein won the the General Election of that year, but they did not take their seats in Parliament, abstention being their policy. Emily’s fellow Cumann na mBan member Countess Markievicz was the first woman elected, but did not take her seat in Westminster, probably to Emily’s satisfaction.

Nottingham Evening Post 20 May 1918