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’.
Dublin Evening Telegraph 13 January 1919
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