Saturday 21 January 2012

The Old School

Nothing to do with military nurses, but I thought rather interesting. I bought a copy of this image recently, originally published as an appendix to 'The Medical History of the Meath Hospital' in 1892. It shows four members of the nursing staff of Meath Hospital, Dublin, in 1872, and is an outstanding example of a reputable group of nurses of that time. I use the word 'reputable' as many nurses were known to be drunken, illiterate and untrustworthy, often incapable of earning a living elsewhere. Meath Hospital was Ireland's most firmly established civil hospital, being founded in 1753, and I think it has to be assumed that these four were chosen to represent the best of its staff in 1872. With the organised training of nurses in its infancy at that time, there were enormous changes over the next twenty years, which meant similar group of the 1890s looked very different indeed.

It's often extremely difficult to stretch our minds away from the crisp, uniformed nurses that have been familiar in our hospitals since the beginning of the twentieth century. Luckily, the survival of images such as these are a reminder that hospital life wasn't always so! The four women are named, from left to right as:

Fever nurse Hodgens
Night nurse Spring
Surgical nurse Murray
Accident nurse Brazil

A toast to the old school, fading fast.