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Dingle Hospital During the Famine

The following is an excerpt from the:

"Irish Medical Directory -Directoryof Hospitals":

It's a description and history of the Dingle Community Hospital, and containsa few interesting items about Dingle during the Famine, including the factthat there was an epidemic of cholera in 1849, information on the formationof the Dingle workhouse, and the existence of a local newspaper.

Dingle Community Hospital - St. Elizabeth's

Dingle, Co Kerry. Tel 066 51455 / 066 51172

"Southern Health Board Community Hospital. Dingle Hospital has 43 beds andoffers continuing care, short trem and hospice care. Dingle benefited fromsome improvements in the 19th Century Ireland but also shared in the sufferingof the rest of the country. Cholera broke out in 1834 in Dingle and thenin 1849 in the Barony. The famine caused much death, starvation and emigration.In Black 1847, the Parish Warden of Dingle wrote to the Tralee Board of Guardiansstating :

'Since I received the resolution of the Board, there have been made to meover a hundred applications by parties seeking to be sent to the Workhousein Tralee. They say they are satisfied to die after going there as they aresure of getting something to eat while life remains and of being buried incoffins.'

In January 1848 Lord Ventry offered a free site for a temporary Workhousein the town and the Dingle Union was formed. In June 1851 the were 4,760residents, and in 1852 a new building was erected. In 1889 four nuns camefrom the St John's Convent of Mercy in Tralee, Sr. M. Elizabeth, Sr. Baptist,Sr. Ursula and Sr. Colman. They had been employed by the Dingle Union WorkhouseHospital and the local newspaper reported that 'it is needless to say thatthese charitable ladies will watch with zeal and care over all those undertheir charge'. By this time the Dingle Workhouse had just 189 inmates, ofwhom 69 were in the Hospital. Conditions were poor.

The patients were on straw mattresses placed on raised planks, Bedclotheswere soiled. Attendants were dirty and careless. Rations were thrown on thebeds as some patients were able to little for themselves. The windows werethick with hardened dust and cobwebs everywhere. Patients were so unkemptit was said that they would frighten anyone. Dickens's Martin Chuzzlewitcaricatured well the nursing conditions at that period. The new Sisters recruitedsome respectable girls and with great patience and labour, things began totake shape.

In February 1922 the Board of Guardians was abolished and its functions weretransferred to the health board. In the 1950's wards were improved and maternityfacilities were upgraded at the Hospital. Tuberculosis was endemic in Kerryin the 1940's and 1950's and two wards were given over to patients awaitingbeds in the Sanatoria. In 1971 The Southern Health Board took over itsmanagement.

Medical Officers down through the years included the following: Dr GeorgeWilliams (1848-1873), Dr F Miles (1873-1912), Dr P Moriarty (1922-44) andDr D Savage (1946-1970). An excellent booklet detailing the history of thisfascinating Hospital has been compiled by Dr Finbar O'Shea, and was publishedin 1989. It is dedicated to the Nuns and Nurses who served the people ofWest Kerry for the past 100 years.

Irish Medical Directory

Thanks to W.J. Mansfield for providing this information.