Last month I was perplexed by a query I received from a descendant whose ancestor had been born in the ‘Killarney Lying-in Institution’. I had never heard of it and set off to research it. I was able to access a print-out from Civil Registration of the actual birth of Richard Byrne in April 1870. There were seven births on the same page all registered in June 1870, of children born in the Killarney Lying-in Institution’, All of the other Killarney births were for children born at home.
The search was more difficult than I expected. I tried older and not so old Killarney contacts but no one seemed to have heard of it. Damien Switzer and Michael Leane were particularly helpful with hints on where or what it might have been. But it was on a search of old newspapers that I eventually found the details.
The first thing I found was a list of Subscribers to the new Lying-in Institution from the Kerry Evening Post 1865:
Then the Cork Daily Herald, Friday, March 16, 1866 provided comprehensive details, including the numbers using it in its first year, financial details and even the menu or diet served to the patients:
The first quarterly meeting of the committee of the Killarney Lying-in Hospital was held on Tuesday in that town, at which the following ladies attended:-
The Lady President, the Viscountess Castlerosse, Mrs. Leahy, Mrs and Miss Murrough Barnard, Mrs. Gallwey, Mrs. Coltsmann, Mrs. Alex Murphy, Mrs. McDermott, Mrs. O’Keeffe, Mrs. Doran, Mrs. McDonagh Mahony, Mrs. Cook, Mrs. Wade, Mrs. Leech, Mrs. Chute (the Rectory)l, Mrs. Dennehy, Mrs.Griffin and Miss Wright.
Letters were read from the following ladies, regretting their inability to attend:- Mrs. Shine Lawlor, Mrs. Mahony (Dunloe Castle), Mrs. Manders, Mrs. Murphy and Mrs. and Misses Cruise.
Miss Horsely, in the absence of Mrs. Dudgeon, read the following statistical report of the state of this institution:- ‘I have the pleasure of presenting the ladies of the committee with the first report of the working of St. Ann’s Lying-in Institution since its opening on the 1st January last. I am happy to inform you that its success has far surpassed our anticipations. During the first week, five patients were admitted; and up to the present time, twenty confinements have taken place, all of them with favourable results. Of these, three, I understand were serious cases, that would probably have terminated unfavourably in their own houses. We may hope, therefore that the institution will prove a source of great safety and comfort to the poor, who already seem to appreciate its advantage.
No regulated scale of diet was adopted during the first month in order that we might have the experience to guide us in making rules. There were in the institution during the first week, five patients; second, six; third, six; and fourth, six. The expenditure from the 2nd January to the 4th February for bread, butter, milk, tea, sugar, candles, soap, and oatmeal was £6.5s.6d, making an average outlay of five shillings and sixpence per week for each patient. Several of the patients had a friend to stay with them during their confinements who had tea given to them, which raised the average cost. Soup and skim milk have been regularly supplied from Killarney House; also brandy and wine when necessary. The matron’s wages, including board, are £5 per month. The servants are £1.4s. The washerwoman was paid £3.5s. up to the 1st March for washing and sitting up at night when required. Owing to the necessity of drying the house rapidly after plastering and repainting it, the expenditure for fuel has been considerable, £4 for coal from the 20th December to the 1st March, besides £2.1s. for turf.
The following scale of diet having been adopted, the average cost per week for each patient will be reduced to about 3s. per week. Ordinary diet – breakfast, 8oz of bread, 1oz of tea (to make one pint), 1oz sugar. Dinner, 8oz of bread, 1pint of broth. Supper, 8oz of bread, 1/2oz of tea, 1oz of sugar. During the night, 1pint of gruel. One pint of milk a day is allowed to each mother and baby. Seems in most cases, to be much needed. The following ladies have contributed clothing:-
Lady Castlerosse, Miss Herbert, Mrs. M. Barnard, Mrs. Coltsman Mrs Downing, Miss Horsley, Mrs. Atkinson, Mrs. O’Keeffem and assistants, Mrs. O’Keeffe, Mrs Maunders, Mrs. Leahy Mrs. Wrey. As the entire management of the hospital has hitherto devolved on me, and as my stay in Killarney is uncertain, I am anxious that the supervision of the institution should be shared amongst us. Mrs. Mm. M. Bernard has kindly undertaken to keep the accounts, pay the various bill, and otherwise regulate the expenditure. Mrs Griffin will take charge of the clothing department, keeping an account of the clothes belonging to the hospital; and also of such as may be sent by charitable ladies to be given to the babies they leave the shelter of St. Ann’s. I had better add here, that materials, whether new or old, this purpose, will be most thankfully received by Mrs. Griffin; and to avoid any mistakes had better be directed to her. It has occurred to me that if some of the ladies who are interested in the welfare of St. Ann’s would form themselves into a visiting committee and visit it in turns, we should thus secure a constant supervision, which is so necessary for the well-being of the patients and the good order of the establishment. Thus no great demand would be made upon the time of any one lady, whose week of visiting would only occur at considerable intervals and the patients would feel that a constant interest was taken in their welfare. Cork Daily Herald, Friday, March 16, 1866
While I cannot say how long the Lying-in Institution operated in Killarney it obviously was still going strong in 1870 from the births recorded on the Civil Register in that year.
Was that in Killarney town and had it any connection to the other hospital in the town which is I think was called ST FINANS,which was an institution for the mental unwell.
Catherine, no it was not St. Finians. I published a blog last week on the various hospitals and institutions in Kerry (courtesy of Damien Switzer). See here
Thank you so much for your amazing research. The birth registration of my grandfather James Byrne (brother of Richard) in 1866 remains a mystery. Maybe he too was born in The Lying in Hospital in it’s first year of operation. Family History! One question answered raises so many more.
Barbara, you are probably correct. I have tried the Civil Register for your grandfather’s birth record between 1866-1870 but there is nothing there. It may be as you suggest that he was born in the Lying-in Institution because they seemed a bit slow at registering births and in fact may not have registered him at all.
Hi Kay, a wonderful read, thank you. I was curious myself and I came accross an excerpt taken from an article published by the Ulster Medical Society – Two Hundred Years of Midwifery ‘ which is quite interesting https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1891762/
‘Midwifery was looked upon by physicians as totally beneath their high calling.’
‘Pregnancy was regarded as a normal event so no special attention had been given to pregnant women during the antenatal period and in labour. When Mosse returned to Dublin in 1742 he was horrified at the conditions in which poor pregnant women lived, were delivered and reared their children. He wrote “Their lodgings are generally in cold garrets open to every wind, or in damp cellars subject to floods from excessive rains; themselves destitute of attendance, medicines and often proper food; by which hundreds perish with their little infants and the community is at once deprived of mother and child.”
He immediately decided to help. He collected money from friends and opened, in 1745, the Dublin Lying–In Hospital in Great George’s Street. ….’
Anne, thank you for this potted history of maternity in the oountry. While the diet might not sound great in Killarney it was a great improvement on what was the norm at the time – a bold initiative really.
It was a meager diet for new mothers. Bread broth tea and gruel with 1 pint of milk a day.