30th anniversary of North Infirmary closing

30th anniversary of North Infirmary closing

The North Infirmary was the first general hospital to be opened in Cork, and it treated patients for centuries before closing.

This month marks the 30th anniversary of the closure of the North Infirmary hospital, the first general hospital to be opened in Cork which treated patients for centuries until its closure on November 26, 1987.

This celebrated structure, almost 300 years old, played a part in the lives of every family in Cork throughout its long tenure.

North Infirmary.
North Infirmary.

Opened in 1720, built on the site of the St Mary’s Church that was destroyed during the Siege of Cork in 1690, the hospital held a significance in the hearts of Cork people.

“It will always be a big part of the history and landscape of Cork City,” said Lord Mayor of Cork city, Cllr Tony Fitzgerald.

“It was a huge loss and a very emotional time for everyone when it closed down and I think it is still remembered by many people to this day.” This decision to close was greeted with disbelief at the time as thousands took to the streets in protest.

Twelve thousand black-edged mortuary cards were distributed and protesters carried posters stating ‘Keep our hospital operating’ and ‘Don’t make our hospital a casualty’.

The last patient, 82-year-old Mary McCarthy, left the building by wheelchair and was driven by ambulance to St Patrick’s Hospital.

The Butter Exchange Band and Shandon bells played a duet of Old Lang Syne as two thousand people, each with a lighting candle, looked on while the lights were slowly switched off from the top to the ground floor.

Dental Hospital in the North Infirmary taken in the 1950s.
Dental Hospital in the North Infirmary taken in the 1950s.

An iconic building in the history and skyline of the city, the hospital was surrounded by a number of fascinating mementos of Cork’s colourful past from a religious, historical and political viewpoint.

Former Taoiseach and Cork GAA legend Jack Lynch was born nearby.

Annie Moore, the first passenger to arrive at Ellis Island in 1892, hailed from nearby Rowland’s lane.

The Infirmary was also at the forefront of some of Ireland and Cork’s most historic events.

Photo taken of the roof of the North Infirmary Hospital, from an Annual Report of the Hospital of 1924.
Photo taken of the roof of the North Infirmary Hospital, from an Annual Report of the Hospital of 1924.

In 1832, the city suffered a severe cholera outbreak and the North Infirmary staff responded brilliantly.

The building was then turned into a fever hospital during the great famine in 1847 and In World War I, the nuns’ great work was awarded the Red Cross from King George V.

“I’d like to pay tribute to all the nuns and workers who gave so much to the hospital throughout its time,” said Cllr Fitzgerald.

“In particular, the Daughters of Charity deserve tremendous praise for making it such a caring place, not just in terms of health and well being, but in a homely sense.”

“It played a huge part in the history of Cork city and the wider county,” said Cllr Fitzgerald.

“The hospital made a contribution to people’s lives, particularly on the northside that will never be forgotten,” he added.

Cork memories of the North Infirmary

Helen Sheehan, Commons Road.
Helen Sheehan, Commons Road.

“EVERYONE on the north side was devastated when the North Infirmary closed,” said Helen Sheehan of Commons Road.

“My mother was in there and she got great care and it was a great hospital.”

Mrs Sheehan said coming from a family of 12 children, they spent a lot of time in the North Infirmary. “There were 10 girls and two boys and we were all accident prone,” she laughed. “Every time something happened, it was only a run across the road and we’d all be seen straight away. You can’t go into hospitals now because it’s seven or eight hours waiting and then you’d be on trolleys.”

Ann Barry, Farranree.
Ann Barry, Farranree.

“IT was a huge shame that they closed it,” said Ann Barry of Farranree.

“The nuns did a great job there over the years and to close it was very sad.”

Ms Barry added that the North Infirmary could have helped in current health crisis had it remained open.

“You’ve people crying out for beds and they’re lying in trolleys in hospital corridors and what are the government and our new Taoiseach doing about it?

“He was Minister for Health and a doctor himself and he couldn’t sort it out,” she added.

Paul Cronin, Gurranabraher.
Paul Cronin, Gurranabraher.

PAUL said he was a regular in the accident and emergency of the North Infirmary revealing he suffered injuries from stray fish hooks and bicycle accidents.

He said that he was very against the closure of the hospital and that it still strikes him as a mistake.

“I would’ve been very much against it,” he said.

“To this day, it’s a shame that they closed it.

“It was a very bad political decision that was made because there’s nothing there now,” he added.

“There was never any queues or anyone waiting on trolleys or anything like that. It was just you’d go in, some nurse would examine you and a doctor would stitch you up and you’d go off home. The North Infirmary would not allow children under 14 visit anyone in the upstairs wards according to Ms O’Brien. She said she would wear matching Aran jumpers with her older sister in order to get around the regulation. “It was the only way I could get to see my father.”

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