Diary reveals Temple Street hospital’s part in 1916 Rising

A compelling account of Easter Week found in order of nuns’ archives

A compelling account of how a Dublin hospital became caught up in the Easter Rising has been discovered in the archives of an order of nuns.

Temple Street hospital was on the periphery of fierce fighting during Easter Week 1916 and the nuns who ran it struggled to cope as it cared for adults and children injured in the fighting. The wounded treated at the hospital included an eight-year-old boy, William Cullen, the father of the entrepreneur Bill Cullen.

A four-page account is contained in the archives of the Sisters of Charity, who ran the hospital at the time, and is in the form of a diary, although the author is unknown.

It begins on Easter morning, when the nuns could hear the start of the fighting. “Just at 12 midday some of the nurses rushed in saying there is trouble going on down town and that the Sinn Féiners had taken the Post Office.


Diary extracts

“At first no one believed them, but at 12.30 there was no doubt left. Firing could be heard and we got in the first wounded.”

Extracts from the diary appear in a book entitled Temple Street Children's Hospital: An Illustrated History which will be published today by the hospital's archivist, Dr Barry Kennerk.

One of the first to die in the Rising was 19-year-old Laurence Mulligan, from Co Westmeath, who was admitted with a gunshot wound to the leg. He was operated on by an unpaid medical student with a nun providing the anaesthetic because doctors were struggling to get to the hospital on account of the fighting.

The diary records: “Poor Larry got some relief and we had great hopes he would pull through; but a few days after, gangrene set in, the leg was amputated, but he died. He had a most lovely death – received Holy Viaticum every day for the week he lived.”

A local woman, Mary Kane, received a bullet injury to the top of her skull while she looked out the window of her home in Waterford Street (the street no longer exists). She survived.

The account tells of how Jesuit priest Fr John Fahy, from Belvedere College, risked his life giving the last rites to those caught up in the fighting.

“One night, Fr Fahy was hearing confessions. It was late when he was finished. Every time he opened the door to go home, he was fired at. Finally, through the influence of an army doctor whom he knew and who sent an ambulance to convey him to Belvedere, he made his way home.”

Collecting bodies

The fighting was so dangerous that a civilian carter,

Patrick Fitzsimons

, was shot dead travelling around the various hospitals to collect the bodies on a horse and cart. Fr Fahy took over.

There is also an account in the book of how the Temple Street hospital mother superior, who had republican sympathies, hid the republican Cathal Brugha from the British authorities on Bloody Sunday 1920.

The whole hospital was put under house arrest and none of the nuns was allowed out. Brugha escaped out the back door into a house owned by a boilerman. When the boilerman returned home, he found Brugha sitting at his kitchen table with two revolvers in his hands. Brugha’s brother Alfred details the conversation. Brugha told the boilerman: “If those people come in, you will find my dead body there and don’t be surprised to find six or seven of the bodies of our visitors.”

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times