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The 150th anniversary of Marymount

Wednesday, 16th September, 2020 3:08pm

Mid-September 1920 coincided with the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of St Patrick’s Hospital on Wellington Road.

The anniversary was referenced in Cork newspapers. This year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the hospital’s foundation but in recent years has been relocated to Curraheen and has morphed into the Marymount University Hospital and Hospice.

The original hospital from 1870 was the brainchild of the Sisters of Charity. They had won the admiration of Cork general practitioner Dr Patrick Murphy from an early stage. The Sisters had visited his father and sister on their deathbeds during the cholera epidemic of 1832. Dr Murphy had owned a tan-yard and some house property.

In August 1849, Dr Murphy made a will and bequeathed all he possessed (except a few small legacies) to the Sisters of Charity, on the condition of their having established within two years from his demise, a hospital or room for cancer patients.

In the event of their non-compliance with this condition, his property was to be divided by the bishop amongst the other Catholic charities of the city. Dr Murphy died in December 1867.

In October 1868, the Superior General of the Sisters of Charity Francis Magdalen McCarthy and Mother Mary Camillus came from Dublin to the Cork Convent of St Vincent’s to discuss the potential foundation of a hospital. Before leaving, both had agreed with Mother de Chantal, the Cork Superior, that a hospital was a good project to pursue, and directed that a suitable spot be sought out.

The affairs were put into the hands of two young men, brothers Edmund and Peter O'Flynn. They were builders, who by their own hard work, had worked their way up from being house carpenters. A field was found, situated in St Patrick's Parish, near to Victoria Barracks (now Collins Barracks). It was on high ground, with a bright southern aspect. The contract to build the new hospital was given to the O'Flynns.

On 8 May 1869, the first stone of the new hospital was laid. Mother de Chantal, several sisters from St Vincent's Convent, a few of their secular friends, Dr Murphy's executors and the local Canon Browne, assembled for the occasion. The official takeover of the building took place in mid-September 1920.

In 1877, John Nicholas Murphy from Clifton in Cork built an orphanage on Wellington Road, next to St Patrick’s Hospital for children of middle class parents who were left destitute. He invited the mother superior of the Sisters of Mercy, based at St Marie’s of the Isle to take charge, providing at the same time maintenance for the nuns and children, including all other expenses. In time, the Sisters of Charity took over the space as residents.

The design of the orphanage was by George Goldie of the firm of Goldie and Child, London. This firm also designed the beautiful church of St Vincent’s in Sunday’s Well, the parochial churches of Bandon and Ballincollig and Sligo Cathedral. Highly ornate in style, the material of the church was in native old red sandstone, with limestone dressings.

Fast forward to the Annual Report of St Patrick’s Hospital for 1903, there were seven wards in the hospital. Of these, two were set apart for cancer patients (one male ward and one female ward). The remaining wards were for the reception of patients suffering from diseases pronounced incurable.

The hospital report shows that several of the other patients who, though they were received as seemingly hopeless cases, lived several years in the hospital owing to the “care received and the rest enjoyed”.

More patients suffered from consumption than from any other disease. Several of these improved so much during their stay that they were able to return to their families and seek employment. Some were permanently cured, while others, a few years after they left the hospital, returned again to pass their last days within its precincts.

The visiting of the sick and poor in their own homes was still carried on. Two Sisters of Charity worked on this mission in the area. The sisters still visited and taught catechism in the local community, Victoria Barracks military school and in St Patrick’s Hospital itself.

At the turn of the twentieth century, although the number of patients in St Patrick's had increased, its income had not. The endowment of £300 per annum left by the hospital’s founder, Dr Patrick Murphy, was assured.

Through the interest of kind friends, the Sisters received a share in the regular city-wide church and hospital Saturday collection, which was a great financial source. Several kind benefactors of the hospital had died by 1900.

Matthew Honan, J P Sugrue and several others had generously remembered the poor incurable patients in their wills. During this period, Mrs Fitzgibbon endowed a bed as a memorial to her son, John Mary Fitzgibbon, a one-time patient of St Patrick’s.

In 1907-1908, a generous donor, Miss Isabella Honan gave finance for a new chapel for the hospital. The bishop of Cork, Dr O'Callaghan laid the foundation stone on the 11 June 1908. Many of Cork’s clergy and several distinguished visitors attended the ceremony.

The new chapel was most conveniently placed, at right angles to the connecting corridor between the convent and the hospital. The chapel was arranged on a cruciform plan; the crossing spanned by lofty moulded arches on handsome granite shafts bearing ornamental stone with moulded bases. The ceiling was groined and moulded in pitch pine. The walls were made of red sandstone to match existing buildings. The style of architecture was early decorated gothic.

As the early twentieth century progressed, improving existing facilities, and providing more services for the patients at St Patrick’s were on-going priorities. Regular local sweepstakes, held in the city in aid of the hospital, created finance towards services.

The old St Patrick’s Hospital site is now occupied by Griffith College campus.

Happy 150th anniversary to Marymount University Hospital and Hospice.

The above text are extracts from Kieran’s book ‘A Dream Unfolding, Portrait of St Patrick’s Hospital/Marymount Hospice Cork’ (2004, hospital publication, out of print).

Kieran’s new book Witness to Murder, The Inquest of Tomás MacCurtain is now available to purchase online (co-authored with John O’Mahony 2020, Irish Examiner/ www.examiner.ie).

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