Emma Humber, adventures in the National Library of Ireland

This post was written by Emma Humber emma-humber-screen-shot-2015-05-31-at-22-56-58who entered her final year of study at Maynooth University this September. Emma’s mentor was Dr. Dympna McLoughlin. In this post, Emma gives you an insight into what a week researching in the National Library of Ireland is like….

This week I began the Summer Project for Undergraduate Research with the Maynooth University History Department, researching Medical Dispensaries in pre-famine Ireland in The National Library of Ireland. I entered the library with an extensive reading list on a topic I knew very little about. However, the books and pamphlets interested me greatly as they discussed disease, death and scenes of poverty. I soon found the topic of Medical Dispensaries dealt with the idea of a darker Irish history, which is an area I am passionate about. It also showed a plan implemented by Britain that was actually beneficial to the sick, poor Irish population – something I believe is overlooked majorly in the storytelling of our countries history.

Now, on to the diseases: not to sound morbid BUT learning about these diseases, their symptoms and eventualities really excited me.

  1. Hectica – a pulmonary consumption
  2. Morbilli – Measles
  3. Dolor – a feeling of endless discomfort
  4. Aphonia – An inability to speak due to disease of the mouth
  5. Pernio – inflammatory disease of the skin
  6. Phymosis – a congenital narrowing of the foreskin limiting retraction

These are just a few examples of diseases from the period with more popular ones being small pox, cholera, dropsy, diarrhea, fever both contagious and not contagious, herpes and various other venereal diseases.

The documents I viewed showed these medical charities survived on donations from the rich to pay for a medical officer, a place to hold the dispensary and to pay for the medication provided. Very little else in most circumstances could ne provided to the poor like food or clothing, which would have been preventatives for many diseases suffered by them. I am looking forward to having a more in depth look at dispensaries next week.