by ehistoryadmin on November 28, 2015

The Kildare Observer 13 May 1899



The Editor Kildare Observer.

The following letter has been addressed by Mr. Cooke- Trench to the Leinster Leader:-

SIR, – A good deal has been said and written during the past week about the old Kildare Infirmary, and the reasons why it was closed. Last alliance on the part of the few surviving Governors should see to imply acquiescence in the statements made, I wish once for all (and I shall not again trouble you on the subject) to enter my protest against their accuracy.

To begin at the beginning. It has been stated the buildings were erected out of public funds. The Infirmary itself was built before I was born, and I cannot therefore speak from personal knowledge, but I do happen to know that both my father and my grandfather were contributors to the primary cost, and I think I am justified in interfering that others were too, and that it was built, to a considerable extent at all events, out of voluntary subscriptions. The doctor’s house was built within my memory, and I think I am right in stating that it was built entirely from such, contributed mainly by the members of that much abused body, the Governors; the Duke of Leinster giving if I remember right, £300, Lord Kildare (grandfather to the present Duke), £100, and other Governors according to their means. I think Dr. Chaplin himself was a liberal contributor.

Then as to the governing body- your representative has been mislead in this as in other things. You describe them as a “close corporation,” that is one that co-opts its own members, and composed “Wholly of Protestants.” Neither is the fact. The Governors were, under an Act of Parliament, simply those who subscribed a certain sum, and so far from being a close corporation, it was open to anyone who chose to become a Governor. We can hardly be blamed if the majority of the largest subscribers belonged to Church of Ireland, but the statement that they were wholly so is very far indeed from the truth. Amongst my colleagues those that present themselves most readily to my mind as the most active are the Dukes of Leinster, Mr. G.P.L. Mansfield, Mr. Medlicott, Canon Bagot, and Dr. Kavanagh and before him his predecessor, Father Nolan, Mr. James Cassidy, Major Borrows, Baron de Robeck and latterly Mr. Heffernan. Mr. P. P. O’Kelly was also a governor, though not a very active one. Does this justify the assertion made to your representative that the government was wholly Protestant.

Dr. Chaplin sustained a very distinguished eminence in “his profession, such as to lead to his being appointed President of the Royal College of Surgeons. When he died Dr. Meldon, his successor in that office, travelled down from Dublin solely to look once more on the face of one whom he had so valued in life. Was the fact that he belonged to the Church of Ireland a sufficient reason why he should be excluded from the care of a hospital. Apparently the informant of your representative thinks that it should have been. A sad augury for the religious equality of the future.

As to abuses, I think that to any fair mind the above enumeration of the active governors will forbid the idea that any known abuses were tolerated. To say that the management was above criticism would be to say that if it was superhuman; but I think it speaks volumes for the management that the most serious complaint against it is that the patients were not imprisoned, but when well enough to benefit by exercise, were allowed considerable liberty, and that upon one occasion this was grossly abused. We are told that Dr. Kavanagh was made a governor to reform abuses. He attempted no reforms for the very sufficient reason that he found no abuses; nor was Mr. Heffernan much more successful.

Your representative has also been misinformed as to the closing scene. It is stated that the presentment was thrown out at Road Sessions. This is not the case. It was passed by the Road Sessions, but rejected by the Grand Jury.

As I happen to have been the member who moved its rejection, I suppose I may be assumed to know something of the grounds upon which it was thrown out. There had been a growing disinclination on the part of both Oesspayers and Grand Jurors from the northern part of the country to contribute to the support of an infirmary which was one of no use to them. Their easiest way of reaching Kildare was up one line of railway and down another; and as they found all they wanted on their way in Dublin. It was little likely that they would come on to Kildare. Complaints to the same effect reached us from the Dublin end of the country. It was further urged that there were excellent hospitals in Naas, Celbridge, and Athy, and that as Kildare had by the railway been brought within easy reach of these, it was unnecessary to maintain as additional hospital there, particularly one supported by taxes levied off the whole county, while each of the districts maintained its own in addition. There may have been other reasons in th3e back ground. I cannot tell, but these were the avowed ones, and it was on these that the Grand Jury threw out the presentment.

Thenceforth such of the governors as were also guardians set themselves to improve the work homes hospitals, and to remove from them as far as possible the taint of pauperlam. All the avowed reasons for closing the infirmary remain, and are strengthened by the great improvements that have since been carried out in the work-house hospitals, and by the establishment at the Curragh of cottage hospital were cases of sudden emergency can be received.

Re-typed by Lynn Potts




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