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Dingle Hospital During the Famine

The following is an excerpt from the:

"Irish Medical Directory -Directory of Hospitals":

It's a description and history of the Dingle Community Hospital, and contains a few interesting items about Dingle during the Famine, including the fact that there was an epidemic of cholera in 1849, information on the formation of 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 and offers continuing care, short trem and hospice care. Dingle benefited from some improvements in the 19th Century Ireland but also shared in the suffering of the rest of the country. Cholera broke out in 1834 in Dingle and then in 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 Guardians stating :

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

In January 1848 Lord Ventry offered a free site for a temporary Workhouse in the town and the Dingle Union was formed. In June 1851 the were 4,760 residents, and in 1852 a new building was erected. In 1889 four nuns came from 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 Workhouse Hospital and the local newspaper reported that 'it is needless to say that these charitable ladies will watch with zeal and care over all those under their charge'. By this time the Dingle Workhouse had just 189 inmates, of whom 69 were in the Hospital. Conditions were poor.

The patients were on straw mattresses placed on raised planks, Bedclothes were soiled. Attendants were dirty and careless. Rations were thrown on the beds as some patients were able to little for themselves. The windows were thick with hardened dust and cobwebs everywhere. Patients were so unkempt it was said that they would frighten anyone. Dickens's Martin Chuzzlewit caricatured well the nursing conditions at that period. The new Sisters recruited some respectable girls and with great patience and labour, things began to take shape.

In February 1922 the Board of Guardians was abolished and its functions were transferred to the health board. In the 1950's wards were improved and maternity facilities were upgraded at the Hospital. Tuberculosis was endemic in Kerry in the 1940's and 1950's and two wards were given over to patients awaiting beds in the Sanatoria. In 1971 The Southern Health Board took over its management.

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

Irish Medical Directory

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


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