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IN the public interest, and in view of recent events, a brief outline of the origin and history of the above Institution may be now deemed desirable. The facts here set forth have already been laid before the Kildare County Council, and with kind permission, have been taken from the available public records dealing with the Infirmary. The Governor’s Minute book provides what here immediately follows.           
To find an origin for our Infirmary we must go as far back as 1767. On March 31st of that year, it wasresolved, at Naas, that an Infirmary be opened at Kildare, and that the Duke of Leinster be appointed Treasurer. In October, of the same year, effect was given to this resolution. A house or two was taken, in what is described, as the S.E. corner of Nugent’s lane, Kildare—and a temporary Infirmary opened. Tb primitive Institution thus started was soon found, for its purpose, wholly inadequate. The available room was insufficient, the house itself in bad repair. As early as 1772it was agreed upon by the Governors that a proper Infirmary should be built, but as the Duke of Leinster was unable to secure a site for which he could give a suitable lease; and as the funds necessary to meet the proposed outlay were not forthcoming, the matter could not be proceeded with. Fresh meetings of the Governors called forth fresh resolutions, deploring the sad state of the temporary Infirmary—the ruinous condition of the building—the absolute necessity of something being done. The desired action was at length taken. To a lady by lineage noble, by fame historic, the spirit to initiate, the determination to execute, is to be attributed. Lady Louisa Connolly presided at the October Meeting of the Governors in 1773. She reminded those present, that idly resolving was no solution of a manifest grievance—that no reason was now apparent why steps should not be at once taken—and accordingly had a resolution, there and then, passed approving of one of the plans already submitted for a new Infirmary. A meeting specially convened at Merrion street, Dublin, on October 31st, 1775, sanctioned this resolution, accepted the estimate of a Mr. Owens, and gave him the contract for £1,140. Meanwhile a site, adjacent to the temporary Infirmary had been acquired by the Duke of Leinster, and on this plot the new Infirmary was built. The building, as then erected, can have been but a portion of the present. elaborate structure. Within a few years the new Infirmary was ready for occupation, and in 1777 we find the Duke of Leinster directing a Mr. Spencer to have the lease drawn up on terms, which shall be presently referred to. In 1778 a new contract is given to Mr Owens, for sundry works, in connection with the Infirmary, and even at this stage the accommodation must have been limited, as no provision was made for the Surgeon to reside within the Infirmary, and no residence could be secured in town. Of this the Doctor complained in August 1778.
No event of importance now marks the history of the Infirmary ‘till we approach the days of the Irish Rebellion. At this particular period an absence of record characterizes the Governors Minute Book, but the void has been fully supplied by a memorial, copied into the book, at a much later date. This memorial was addressed by the daughters of Surgeon Bolton to the then Lord Lieutenant, Earl Talbot, and the substance of it—as follows—is really an interesting page in the history of our County Infirmary. The memorial deals only with the wrongs inflicted on the Surgeon, by the Military authorities of the day. No mention is made therein of patients, if such there were at the time. It otherwise gives a complete chronicle of the missing order of events. It appears that in 1797 the Cork Militia occupied the town of Kildare, were billeted on the people, but for reasons made known at headquarters an order was issued by the Quartermaster-General residing in Dublin to seize the County Kildare Infirmary and hold it as a Military Barracks. This order was quickly carried into effect by Captain Frayne, commanding the Cork Militia. He came on the Infirmary “by surprise,” captured the Doctor inside, and landed him out on the road with such of his effects as probably were devoid of utility to military manoeuvring men. Dr Bolton did not attempt a re-capture, but wisely and hurriedly retreated to Naas where, as best he could, by keeping open a dispensary for the relief of the poor, he tried to discharge his duties of Infirmary Surgeon till his death in 1818.
The infirmary then was forcibly closed, but the Governors, in the interval, endeavoured, under difficulties, to extend such sick relief as was possible. Meetings were held at Castletown from October 25th, 1796, to December 5th, 1799. On the latter dlate the Duke of Leinster was desired to forward to the Lord Lieutenant a petition, protesting against the seizure of the County Kildare Infirmary, and the injury done to the buildings by the quartering of the troops.
The grants usual in that day must have been meanwhile continued by Grand Jury, for the Governors in their reply to Earl Talbot confirmed the Misses Bolton Memorial. Each detail they verified, and declared that Surgeon Bolton was regularly paid his salary to 1809, when their Treasurer, Mr. La Touche, died. Again, at the Lent Assizes in 1810, the public record shows the Grand Jury Grant of £100 for the County Kildare Infirmary.
As yet the Infirmary at Kildare had not been re-opened. A house had been kept going as an Infirmary at Naas, and even at Maynooth a house, given for this purpose by the Duke of Leinster, was opened in 1817. Here we find that the Kildare Infirmary becomes again available—the military had evacuated it, and the buildings had reverted to the Duke of Leinster. So the Governors assembled at Maynooth on June 18th, 1817, resolved—“That owing to Naas difficulties Kildare is the place for the Infirmary; that the Duke of Leinster’s offer of the former buildings be again accepted, and a meeting for this purpose summoned.’
Very soon after that, a meeting was held at Naas. The Duke of Leinster not only proferred [proffered – sic] the buildings to the Governors on the old terms, but strongly urged the meeting to take them back, and as a special inducement, tendered, in addition, all the monies he had received from the Government as rent, during the military occupation. When the motion was finally put to the meeting there was an equal number of those present, for and against, and as the Chairman could not give a casting vote, no decision was arrived at. But the Duke of Leinster was determined that the Kildare Infirmary should be secured to the people. He lost no time in pressing the matter home, for within a few weeks he completely carried his point at Athy, where the Assizes were then alternately held.
The Kildare Infirmary was to be again re-opened, and the next meeting of the Governors was held on July 1st, 1819, in the town of Kildare, to push on the project. They resolved that the Infirmary should be prepared as speedily as possible, and a committee for this purpose was appointed. Fourteen days later at a subsequent meeting the Infirmary was formally taken over by the Governors on terms as follows—“That buildings used as an Infirmary at Kildare be now accepted at a pepper corn rent and during such time as it shall be used as an Infirmary.” This gives the substance of the original lease as can be seen by a case stated for Governors and given in the minute book.
Seeing the deep interest and the generous spirit with which successive Dukes of Leinster have directed and guarded this Institution for over a century of its history, have not the present promoters reason to confidently hope for a restoration of the lease on [the – sic] above terms when the present Duke of Leinster attains his majority?
As we have seen the Infirmary was again in the hands of the Governors. The Committee was using all expedition fitting up the Infirmary. No more patients were to be taken in at Naas after January 2nd, 1818; as it was then believed Kildare would have been ready by February following. The house at Naas was handed over to Trustees to be held as a fever hospital. On February 26th, 1818, Surgeon Tomlinson was appointed to the Infirmary, and was to reside in the town of Kildare. The actual reception of patients seems not to have been earlier than March of this year. With the Infirmary again working its subsequent history, down to the year 1900, is one unbroken record of additions, improvements, alterations. The original buildings were immensely enlarged, apartments provided for the Surgeon within the house, a new laundry built, fresh grounds acquired. Finally, a magnificent residence is built for the Surgeon at a considerable public cost. The last entry on the last written page is an approval of repairs just carried out in accordance with the Surveyor’s instructions.
From its re-opening in 1817 the harmonious working of the Infirmary is long undisturbed, save by one incident in 1827. A mis-understanding unfortunately arose between the Gover­nors and the Duke of Leinster regarding the rent received by the latter during the term of military occupation. It led to the “case stated.” The Governors were advised that they had no grounds for their claims against the Duke, and thus the matter was allowed to drop. Until we reach the last decade of the Infirmary’s existence we do not again touch on any break in its record of progress. Hlere an expression of sadness and regret begins to mark the closing page.
As this outline is gleaned from the written record of the Governors, it is but natural that it should conclude in the light which controls, and in the spirit which animates, their final resolutions. To act otherwise—to go and seek elsewhere for reasons and motives that might provoke class hatred, and religious feeling, would not only, not promote, but actually impede, the object in view. Such a course would be deservedly and univer­sally condemned. In their effort to avail of the present offer of the Trustees of the Leinster Estate, the promoters of the re-opening of the Kildare Infirmary have all along proclaimed that their desire is, to relieve thus a public distress, to secure thus a public property. How real this distress, those who witness it, and those who experience it can best tell. How valuable the property now at stake, those who know it, or those who may be able to competently estimate it, can best say. It is noble, it is patriotic, it is Christian to work as one for the common good. No appea1 can so touchingly plead for this re-opening as the recorded expression of the Old Governors. With the experience of the past, with the prospect of the future before them, they viewed the threatened closing as a ”calamity.” Shall they not now, with us, welcome the promised re-opening as a true blessing.
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The second part of the booklet was a chronological history of the infirmary down to 1891. The complete text of the booklet is available in two parts on the Grey Abbey (Kildare) website - as Kildare County Infirmary Part 1 and Part 2


[Compiled and edited by Mario Corrigan - Reprint of  introduction to Fr. Delaney's booklet on History of Co. Infirmary which was published as part of the campaign to re-open the Infirmary - closed since 1886/7 it was re-opened in 1903. Full text available on www.kildare.ie/greyabbey  ]

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