St Luke’s: 150 years of caring in Cork city

Established in Cork city in 1872, St Luke’s Home has just celebrated 150 years of caring for the older person. CHRIS DUNNE traces the history of the Mahon centre
St Luke’s: 150 years of caring in Cork city

Staff Joan Jeffery - who retires shortly after 28 years with St Luke’s Home - Orla Coleman, Director of Nursing, Eugene Browne, social worker, Colette Culver, Assistant Director of Nursing, and Sally Rodgers, CNM, at the recent 150th anniversary party at St Luke’s Home in Mahon. Pictures: Larry Cummins

ST Luke’s Home is celebrating an amazing milestone of 150 years in existence.

A modern, purpose-built residential care home, it provides full-time nursing cover and is located in extensive grounds at Mahon, on the banks of the River Lee near Blackrock Castle.

The 128-bed home is made up of four units: Wise House, Exham House, Gregg House, and Maguire House - the latter with 38 beds is its dedicated Dementia Unit.

St Luke’s is also home to a Day Care Centre facilitating older persons from the community, and an Education Centre (Northridge House) providing courses and training to all involved in the care of the older person, in addition to having a Foundation through which fundraising, legacies and donations are secured and managed.

A painting of Miss Frances Fitzgerald Gregg, who founded the original St Luke’s Home in 1872.
A painting of Miss Frances Fitzgerald Gregg, who founded the original St Luke’s Home in 1872.

The original Home was founded in Cork in 1872 by Frances Fitzgerald Gregg, daughter of Bishop John Gregg. In 1993, driven by new health and safety regulations and the ever-increasing cost of maintaining an ageing building, the Board made the decision to move the Home from Military Hill to a green-field site in Mahon.

Incorporating the latest thinking in care for the older person, the new building was built in modules and comprised of 90 beds. 

Since it was established, St Luke’s Home has built a reputation as a leading provider of residential care and support services for older people in the Cork region. Its ethos is based on Christian traditions of care, but it welcomes residents and Day Care service users of any and no faith.

St. Luke’s is a voluntary organisation operating under the patronage of the Church of Ireland and the main Protestant Churches in Cork. It is governed by a voluntary Board of Directors. The Right Rev. Dr Paul Colton, Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross serves as President of the Home. A professional body of management, nursing and administrative staff operate it.

Stephanie Kidney, Head of Services and PA to the CEO at St Luke’s, with Laura Clare and daughters Ruby and Mia at the 150th anniversary celebration at St Luke’s Home, Mahon. Pictures: Larry Cummins
Stephanie Kidney, Head of Services and PA to the CEO at St Luke’s, with Laura Clare and daughters Ruby and Mia at the 150th anniversary celebration at St Luke’s Home, Mahon. Pictures: Larry Cummins

There is always something going on at the Home, many social events take place like arts and crafts, singing, and afternoon orchestral sessions to entertain the residents. Gardening is popular too while the conservatory provides a space for the daily social club and other activities. There is a dedicated family space for the use of the residents and their families. There is also a hairdresser salon, a library the residents can avail of and the Oyster restaurant.

Joan Jeffrey, Deputy Director of Finance and Administration, has worked in St Luke’s for 28 years. 

“And before that I would have had relatives in Military Hill whom I would have visited,” she says. “I recall as a child attending the annual Christmas Bazaar, so St Luke’s has been a huge part of my life.

“Now, when we look back to when St Luke’s was founded, we remember all who have been residents and their families throughout that time, all the staff who cared for them, the board members, volunteers, our invaluable fundraisers and generous benefactors. I wish St Luke’s all the best for the next 150 years and hope it continues doing what it is doing.”

Tony O’Brien, CEO, says it is a great honour and privilege to lead St Luke’s Charity and Home in its 150th year. “From its humble but visionary and purposeful origin in 1872, St Luke’s is proud of its status as being one of the foremost providers of Residential Care, Education and Training Services in the care of the older person in Cork and the wider community,” he said. 

“We continue to be a leader in the provision of dementia care. “Our values of Respect, Partnership, Accountability, Integrity and Excellence influence the way in which we deliver our services.”

Mr O’Brien paid tribute to Home Residents and their families, past and present, as well asstaff, volunteers, colleagues, supporters and friends, “who, throughout the years, have displayed remarkable dedication, resilience and loyalty”. He said these were “clear qualities that have allowed us to provide a high level of resident-centred care and top class accredited education training and research services.

Angela Dennehy (centre) with daughter Gillian Redmond and husband Tom Redmond and great-grandchildren Sadie, Conor, Isla and Matilda O’Brien enjoying ice-cream at the party. ABOVE: St Luke’s Home
Angela Dennehy (centre) with daughter Gillian Redmond and husband Tom Redmond and great-grandchildren Sadie, Conor, Isla and Matilda O’Brien enjoying ice-cream at the party. ABOVE: St Luke’s Home

“Our Outreach program has delivered significant collegial and financial support to fellow charitable health organisations in Cork.

“Our community dementia support service has played its part in providing crucial family support when needed. We would like to thank the Health Service Executive for their continued support of St Luke’s and its ideals and principles of providing our quality level of care to people at a most vulnerable time of life.

“Providing our services at the expected level requires a continued focus and drive on our fundraising requirements each year. Our annual financial fundraising target is €500,000. We welcome all pledges of support.”

Mr O’Brien said, in the 150th year, “our wish is to remember and reflect on past achievements of St Luke’s in a period of stability and calmness while looking forward to a bright future.”

Other services at St Luke’s include physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech and Language, holistic and other therapies. There is also a dietician and chiropody.

Myla Briones, Judy Hennessy, Teresa Hennessy, from Bishopstown, and Brian and Karen Hennessy at the St Luke’s Home celebration.
Myla Briones, Judy Hennessy, Teresa Hennessy, from Bishopstown, and Brian and Karen Hennessy at the St Luke’s Home celebration.

The facilities include landscaped private gardens overlooking the Lee, a conservatory day room, in-house laundry, multi-denominational chaplains (coordinated by the Church of Ireland Chaplain) and a chapel for regular services and private worship, a hairdressing service, rooms for recreation including art, crafts and music and the James Joyce Library.

With the help of its volunteers, St Luke’s Home also offers social and leisure activities such as art therapy, beauty therapy, outings, bingo, book clubs and poetry readings, creative writing, spirituality sessions, fitness, gardening, pet therapy, musical evenings, reminiscence therapy, multi-sensory therapy, Sonas therapy and social activities.

From left, Christina Hill and daughter Anne Skuse at the celebration.
From left, Christina Hill and daughter Anne Skuse at the celebration.

The Right Rev Dr Paul Colton, Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, said of the anniversary

“It was here at our home, the home since 1782 of successive Church of Ireland Bishops of Cork, at Bishop Street, opposite Snt Fin Barre’s Cathedral, that, in the early 1870s, Miss France Fitzgerald Gregg, the daughter of one of my esteemed predecessors, the Right Reverend Dr John Gregg, did what we would call today ‘blue sky thinking’. She was compassionate. She recognised a great need in the Cork city and county of her day. She knew the importance of matching the ideas and words of her Christian faith, with practical care in action. Together with others, in 1872, she founded what was then the Home for Protestant Incurables.

That name, in itself, while blunt and graphic, reveals something of the times in which, what today we call St Luke’s Home, was founded in Cork. Then, in a polarised society, what was done was done by religious denominations on their own, in isolation, and, in the main, for their own members. That does not denigrate the charitable enterprise; it is the way things were then. Then too, voluntary groups, in the absence of State intervention in such fields, were the ‘only show in town’ in many areas, including healthcare and in providing services, such as they were, to older people, and people with additional needs.

Mary O’Leary, of Blackrock, with family enjoying the 150th anniversary party at St Luke’s Home.
Mary O’Leary, of Blackrock, with family enjoying the 150th anniversary party at St Luke’s Home.

“This year, in a very different Cork and society in Ireland, with a vastly changed landscape and understanding when it comes to care for older people and people living with dementia, we are not only giving thanks for that brave initiative back then, but also, and more important, we are celebrating what St Luke’s Home has become, and looking forward to the opportunities that lie ahead.

“The Church of Ireland and the mainstream Protestant Churches in Cork, being tiny minorities, are, I believe, justifiably, proud of what they have done through St Luke’s Home for the last 150 years, with the support of so many, serving people regardless of religious denomination, faith or outlook, but simply on the basis of need.

We are pleased to be a significant employer in Mahon in Cork, and rejoice too in our many partnerships with the HSE, and other agencies and sister charities working in similar areas. Most of all we give thanks for the generous solidarity and support of the people of Cork and further afield.”

 Ann Foley, Blackrock shares a laugh with daughter Colette Slocum.
Ann Foley, Blackrock shares a laugh with daughter Colette Slocum.

DATELINE

1995: The Mahon Home was officially opened by President Mary Robinson.

1997: 125th anniversary celebrations

2000: The Day Care Centre was opened by President Mary McAleese and blessed by Dr Paul Colton Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross.

2002: The Conservatory, a Millennium project, is completed.

2003: Micheál Martin TD, Minister for Health and Children, turns the sod for the fourth unit and officially opens the conservatory.

2004: Exham House becomes operational.

2005: New entrance lobby, plus major refurbishment and upgrading on all three original care units is completed.

2008: Upgrading of main corridors, dining room and kitchen extension is completed.

2010: Work commences on the new Education Centre, Northridge House on the grounds of the Home.

2011: St Luke’s Home Foundation established. Northridge House opens. Maguire House becomes a 38- bed Dementia Care Unit. Day Care Centre expanded and rebuilt.

 Tony O'Brien, CEO, St Luke's Home, with Cllr Deirdre Forde, recently elected Lord Mayor.
Tony O'Brien, CEO, St Luke's Home, with Cllr Deirdre Forde, recently elected Lord Mayor.

******

Northridge House Education and Research Centre is located on the grounds of St Luke’s Home. This unique training centre has been named to celebrate the generosity of the Northridge family, whose generous bequest facilitated the building of the Centre.

Over time, three of the Northridge siblings were cared for in the adjoining St Luke’s Home.

The Centre was established as a dedicated vocational training centre to enhance the quality, consistency and relevance of education to individuals and institutions committed to the Care of the Older Person, both in the public and private sector. In time, it provided a broad spectrum of management training programmes.

It provides modern facilities with a Conference Room that can host 100 attendees and four fully equipped training rooms. It has developed several innovative training programmes and had established links with HSE and various Skillnets Agencies. The Centre has developed links with several 3rd Level colleges and has partnered in a number of research projects.

In a fast-changing environment, the Centre offers up to date programmes either in the Centre or in offsite settings in various Nursing Homes.

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Echo 130Echo 130
EL_music

Podcast: 1000 Cork songs 
Singer/songwriter Jimmy Crowley talks to John Dolan

Listen Here

Add Echolive.ie to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more