Health services struggle during war years

Thu, Jan 19, 2017

From the mid 1930s to the mid 1950s Galway medical services were on the verge of collapse. The situation at the Central Hospital was particularly chaotic. By 1933 the hospital had a nominal 317 acute beds but overcrowding soon became a permanent feature of the general and medical wards. In March 1938 the number of patients exceeded the beds by 10, with 251 in general wards, 52 in the fever, and 24 in maternity. It was common practice to accommodate patients on mattresses laid out between the beds.

Particularly distressing were the large number of long-stay tuberculosis patients.* In the era of pre streptomycin and other anti-tubercular drugs, many non-respiratory TB patients were often kept in restrictive Bradford Frames for one to two years. The mortality rate was seven per cent, considered unduly high even for the time. I have mentioned before that such overcrowding offered ideal conditions for many serious outbreaks of infectious diseases. In 1940 an outbreak of typhoid was attributed to a ‘carrier’ in the general wards.

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Galway’s new anaesthetist: ‘Stuffed with learning’

Thu, Jan 05, 2017

Two remarkable Galway people, Conor O’Malley and Sal Joyce, grew up in the Maam Valley, Connemara, in the closing years of the 19th century. Although they were cousins, they probably never met until they were both doctors working side by side in the Galway Central Hospital, on Prospect Hill, the forerunner of the present University Hospital, in the 1920s.

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Voices at Christmas

Thu, Dec 22, 2016

‘If we had extra geese or cockerels my mother and myself would bring them to the market in Loughrea on the second Thursday before Christmas that was known as 'Big Thursday'. The market was held on the main street that time, you would not collect much money, maybe three shillings per goose but that would help to buy the Christmas.

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The night Stephen Gwynn MP nearly lost his pants

Thu, Dec 15, 2016

The outbreak of World War I brought to a head the divided camps among Irish nationalists, both of whom wanted Home Rule, or Independence, but both saw different ways to achieve it. Probably because of the large army presence in the town, and the natural benefits that the army brought to traders, as well as the family connections that had developed over the years between town and soldiers, the majority of people in Galway town favoured the British military approach.

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Wrestling with ‘foreign born professors’ at UCG

Thu, Dec 08, 2016

It is easy to imagine the paroxysms of fury, outrage and purple faces that must have gripped the venerable membership of the UCG governing body, when they heard that the chairman of the Galway county council, Máirtín Mór McDonogh (who was also a member of this academic conclave) soundly rap them on the knuckles.

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More than eighty Galway girls emigrated on the ‘Earl Grey Scheme’

Thu, Dec 01, 2016

Between 1848 and 1850 more than 4,000 adolescent female orphans emigrated from Irish workhouses to the Australian colonies arriving in Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide. Their emigration become known as the ‘Earl Grey Scheme’ after its principle architect, Earl Grey, Secretary of State for the Colonies at the time of the Great Famine, suggested the move, and organised its operation.

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Australia offered some relief for Famine orphan girls

Thu, Nov 24, 2016

The extreme winter conditions of 1846/47 exacerbated the mounting crisis that the Great Famine had already created. The number of deaths from hunger in Galway town averaged between 25 and 30 a week. As well as the main workhouse on Newcastle Road (now the University College Hospital) auxiliary workhouses had opened at Barna, Newtownsmyth, Merchants Road, St Helen Street, and in Dangan. Six soup kitchens operated throughout the town feeding some 7,000 people a day and more as newcomers streamed in from rural districts. On one bitterly cold morning two children were found frozen to death on High Street. Another child dead nearby.

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‘What part of Galway is Ireland situated?’

Thu, Nov 17, 2016

By the 16th century Galway was a compact, well laid out town with handsome buildings. The wealth of the Tribal families, built up over decades of canny and adventurous trade, was reflected in their luxurious homes; fragments of which, in delicate carved limestone, remain around the old town.

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A medieval tale of fashion, wealth and love

Thu, Nov 10, 2016

Hands up those who know who was the Coco Chanel of 15th century Galway?

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Liam Ó Briain - Memories of the Easter Rising

Thu, Oct 27, 2016

One of the real benefits of the the centenary commemorations of 1916, is the amount of research and new material that has been published on the background to the Rising, and in particular on the personalities of the men and women involved.

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The end of the Galway Line?

Thu, Oct 20, 2016

General Robert E Lee’s surrender to the the Union army at Appomattox court house on the morning of April 9 1865, brought the four year Civil War to a close.

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Waiting at Tiffany’s on Broadway

Thu, Oct 13, 2016

In the Diary of September 22 I asked whether the ‘gallant and humane’ Captain John Wilson of the The Minnie Schiffer, who miraculously snatched from certain death 591 passengers and crew from the burning PS Connaught, ever received the ‘elegant service of plate’ especially commissioned for him from the prestigious Tiffany and Co of Broadway, New York. The plate was paid for by the merchants of New York and Boston ‘in appreciation of his gallant conduct at sea’ on that fateful evening October 8 1860.

The Minnie Schiffer was a small brig, returning from the south of France with a cargo of fruit and wine. About 100 miles out of Boston she came across the drifting PS Connaught practically blazing from head to stern. Its passengers and crew faced a certain and terrible death. The burning ship was too hot and dangerous to set alongside. Instead ‘in a space of about eight hours during the increasing murk of a stormy October evening - and all accomplished without loss of life, despite the hundreds of persons involved, many of whom must have been stressed, disorientated and terrified’, Capt Wilson ferried the despairing people across to his brig, in life boats.

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Galway’s streets ‘are full of Confederates’

Thu, Oct 06, 2016

Despite the challenges, dangers, bankruptcies, and in some cases, exploitation, by the mid 19th century Galway had a small but profitable fleet of sailing ships. In previous weeks I have outlined some of the achievements and failures of the Galway Line, which between 1858 and 1864 completed a total of 55 trouble free return voyages to New York and Boston. One of its ships, the Circassian, which I discussed last week, sailed from Galway on September 21 1859 to New York with 342 passengers of whom 108 were first class. One hundred and seventy persons who applied for passage were turned away as the ship was full.

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Racing the Union’s blockade of Confederate ports

Thu, Sep 29, 2016

The American Civil War (1861-1865) offered rich pickings to qualified seamen and shipowners looking for quick profits. The Union blockade of southern ports was beginning to have an effect on Confederate trade. But any ship which steamed safely through the blockade could command high prices for its cargo. On the homeward journey, if you were lucky, large profits could be made on a cargo of cotton which was in big demand in Britain.

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Did Capt John Wilson ever receive his well earned plate?

Thu, Sep 22, 2016

There can be no greater horror for passengers and crew than facing death on a burning ship in a heavy sea, that was sinking by its bow. Which death would you choose? Stay on board and be burnt? Or chance your luck in the waves?

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The loss of the PS Connaught, flagship of the Galway Line

Thu, Sep 15, 2016

The loss of the PS Connaught, October 8 1860, launched to reverse the sliding fortunes of the J Orwell Lever’s Galway Line, was a severe blow to the company. Although the local press tried to make the most of the fact that of the 591 people on board, not one life was lost, the bad publicity soured the public towards the Galway Line, which was also in financial trouble.

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Justice at last for the Indian Empire incident?

Thu, Sep 08, 2016

Despite the excitement, the prospects, the agreement to carry mail, and new luxury ships, the Galway transatlantic adventure headed by J. Orwell Lever ended in failure within six years.

But, as Tim Collins wrote in an earlier article,* ‘as an historic failure, its record is impressive. Ultimately the Galway Line employed 16 steamers (eight paddle-powered, and eight screw-powered) which made a total of 55 return voyages across the Atlantic between 1858 and 1864. The voyages were made during winter months as well as during the calmer summer sailing season. Six ships were involved in serious accidents due to ice and fog as well as storms, while five made only one trip, or foundered on their first crossing.**

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