Nursing Ireland through medical crisis


THE SOCIAL NETWORK:Norah Casey revealed that there was a possibility she might have become a nun when she launched Jubilee Nurse: Voluntary District Nursing in Ireland 1890-1974 at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland in Dublin on Tuesday evening.

The publisher and presenter came from a tradition of nursing: her mother and aunt were both nurses. “The parish priest was looking at me for the nunnery, and I suddenly thought the nursing didn’t look too bad,” Casey said.

She trained in Scotland, which she regarded as just far enough from Aughrim Street and the parish priest.

She worked for the Royal College of Nursing and started appearing on radio and television as a spokeswoman. “I found myself on Newsnight and Panorama and I started writing for newspapers.”

When she was 25 she changed career and trained as a journalist at Harlow College, in Essex. The Newstalk presenter has also started working with RTÉ on its new Today show and will be doing a dry run next week.

“Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh and I will be doing Fridays from Cork, and Maura Derrane and Dáithí Ó Sé are doing Monday to Thursdays,” she said.

Casey starts shooting a new series of Dragons’ Den in January. She told me she will miss Niall O’Farrell, who won’t be in the forthcoming series.

The authors of the book, Elizabeth Prendergast and Helen Sheridan, were delighted with the turnout. “Jubilee Nurse is a story about district nurses; they are also known as queen’s nurses, Lady Dudley nurses and, in Donegal, penny nurses,” said Prendergast. The Jubilee Institute for Nurses was funded by the public subscriptions raised to honour the golden jubilee of Queen Victoria’s reign.

Dr TK Whitaker came to give his imprimatur to the book. The economist and former public servant said his mother and aunt were Jubilee nurses. Whitaker is from Cúul Míin, in Co Clare. “As children my sister and I used to annoy my mother terribly on our way there in the jaunting car by saying, ‘The nearer you get the cooler and meaner it gets.’ ”

His Aunt Minnie worked with President Hillery’s father, who was the local doctor.

Dr Abdul Bulbulia, from Waterford, came to Ireland from South Africa in 1959 to study medicine. As a student he remembers Jubilee nurses had a major role, especially in Dublin in the early 1960s. “In Ireland, especially in the 40s and 50s, there was a huge shortage of doctors, and it was the nurses who carried the whole medical system and services. People were afraid to go into hospital, and TB was rampant.”

Dr Bulbulia’s granddaughter, baby Alisha Corrigan, was present. Her father, Kieran Corrigan, is the publisher of the book.

Who we spottedDelia McDevitt,whose late mother, Mary Duffy, was a Jubilee nurse from Donegal, her daughter Sarah McDevitt and friend Marion Caffrey.