Wednesday Wisdom – Heroism in Times of Trouble

[Wednesday Wisdom: Another alliterative title for a random blog post.]

In a previous post I told how one of Arthur Kennedy’s first actions on arriving in Kilrush was to arrange the conversion of a former abattoir into a hospital. With the hospital up and running he encountered problems getting nurses and others to enter the hospital in order to tend to the patients. He resorted to showing an example by going in himself.

In fact, he earned a reputation for attending to the sick, dying and even the dead when no-one else would handle the bodies.

In Ciarán Ó Muchardha’s excellent book, Figures in a Famine Landscape, he quotes several extracts from contemporary newspapers remarking on Kennedy’s readiness to take risks in this way. In April 1848, according to an article in the Limerick Chronicle, Kennedy is praised for the courage and composure he displayed by his daily fever hospital visits, which had the effect of calming the nurse tenders who otherwise “would before now be frightened away by the awful mortality”.

Ó Murchadha points out that this behaviour was not untypical of “Union inspectors who, whatever their other faults, were notably courageous.” In the winter of 1848-9 two successive inspectors died of typhus in their posts in the Ennis Union, Kennedy acting as temporary stand-in on both occasions in addition to his Kilrush duties.

Doctors and Priests also sacrificed their lives as a consequence of bringing succour to those afflicted with disease as well as famine.

Ó Murchadha goes on to list several examples of Kennedy’s “recklessness” in assisting diseased and dying women and children. This is especially surprising given that he had a wife and child to whom he went home every night.

Back then, not only were there no known cures or vaccines for such diseases as typhus, cholera, dysentery and smallpox, there was no PPE. Nevertheless, I join the many who are saluting the unstinting dedication of the tens of thousands of doctors, nurses, paramedics, hospital porters and everyone on the front line in the current battle against Covid 19.

There are already many examples of such heroism, as well as ordinary people going the extra mile to help others, in stark contrast to the idiots who think it’s a gas to cough in a stranger’s face.

The first print proof of my fictionalised account of Kennedy’s time in Kilrush, Called to Account, is with the publisher, TSL, and I hope to have a copy in my own hands soon.

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