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The 'Spanish flu' epidemic in Ireland


JohnD66

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New article here on the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918-19, which globally killed something like 40 million people but here in Ireland also accounted for some 23,000 deaths.

Ireland and the great flu epidemic of 1918 | The Irish Story

The Bureau of Military History is full of fascinating nuggets about the epidemic, that are in the article. Republican women in Dublin, especially Kathleen Lynn of the Citizen Army set up an emergency hospital as did Cumann na mBan. One of which was attacked by pro-British crowds on the night of Armistice Day.

Seamus Babbington of Tipperary thought he had cured himself of the flu by drinking three bottle of whiskey.

Kevin O'Shiel of SF in Enniskillen thought that the flu was killing more Catholics than Protestants because they went to Mass more. Vincent White in Waterford, doctor and SF activist in Waterford recalled the poorest, who he treated for the epidemic, also rioted in favour of the Remondites in the 1918 election.

And there's more. A important topic for social history that's probably been overlooked?
 

Seanie Lemass

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Funnily enough, I was just thinking on similar lines when reading Bureau depositions. There is very little on it, but certainly worth a thesis or a book. Massive amount of deaths compared to the conflict here, or even to the numbers killed in the war.
 

JohnD66

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Funnily enough, I was just thinking on similar lines when reading Bureau depositions. There is very little on it, but certainly worth a thesis or a book. Massive amount of deaths compared to the conflict here, or even to the numbers killed in the war.
For sure. Over 20,000 in about 6 months.

There's really quitea lot if interesting stuff on it the Bureau check it out here.

There's also been a book on it, which I regret to say I haven't read yet, 'Ireland's last Plague'.

I could be wrong but I'm sure I read that this 'Flu was spread in part after armies in WWI
demobbed from camps throughout Europe and this demobilisation was the catalyst for the spread of this 'Flu?
Yes, which was useful angle for republicans to take in election propaganda in 1918 too. Some of them lobbied for returning soldiers to be quarantined.
 
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Levellers

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I remember as a kid a tumbled down house where the whole family - O'Briens - were wiped out by it.
 

Cruimh

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I could be wrong but I'm sure I read that this 'Flu was spread in part after armies in WWI
demobbed from camps throughout Europe and this demobilisation was the catalyst for the spread of this 'Flu?
Article makes point that Rallies - Victory WWI and Republican - had a role.

I found this interesting:

Similarly Sinn activist Ernest Blythe, in prison in Belfast for his political work recalled that, ‘out of the two hundred men in the prison barely thirty were on their feet’ by early 1919… A. lot of the prisoners were pretty bad, with a great deal of bleeding from the nose. Two men went off their heads and had to be removed to a mental institution. We had, however no deaths. Part of the reason for this may have been that the prison authorities supplied brandy with the greatest liberality.’
You would think the prison authorities would have been glad to see a high mortality.

And this

Kevin O’Shiel, campaigning for Sinn Fein in Eniskillen for the 1918 election incongruously thought that the flu struck down his supporters with partiality; Another circumstance that, was of enormous help to the Unionists was that the terrible and deadly post-war “black flu” was raging furiously throughout the constituency at the time, and falling with incredible partiality on the Catholic element, the Protestant element being uncannily immune. The explanation I got for that phenomenal state of affairs was that the Catholics were, as they were bound to be, far better church-goers than their religious and political antagonists, and hence the dire disease spread much more rapidly and more easily through their ranks’
 

JohnD66

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Article makes point that Rallies - Victory WWI and Republican - had a role.

I found this interesting:

You would think the prison authorities would have been glad to see a high mortality.

And this
Political dynamite to have republicans dying in prison at election time - especially after Thomas Ashe's death in 1917. I'd imagine the chief Secretary was telling the prison authorities to do everything to avoid more martyrs. Also remember this before the shooting war kicked off.

As for Kevin O'Shiel, some good old fashioned religious bigotry there, I think.
 

Cruimh

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Political dynamite to have republicans dying in prison at election time - especially after Thomas Ashe's death in 1917. I'd imagine the chief Secretary was telling the prison authorities to do everything to avoid more martyrs. Also remember this before the shooting war kicked off.

As for Kevin O'Shiel, some good old fashioned religious bigotry there, I think.
Not so sure about that in Belfast - Joe Devlin and AOH territory!
 

statsman

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Hmm, differently focused I would say, rather than more comprehensive, concentrating on media coverage. But still, interesting. Thanks for posting.
Fair enough. It goes some way towards explaining the forgotten nature of the pandemic.
 

JohnD66

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Not so sure about that in Belfast - Joe Devlin and AOH territory!
True enough but all over Ireland, imagine the headlines 'veterans of Easter Week allowed to die in cruel English captivity'. 'Arrested solely for their love of Ireland' etc.

This stuff played very well in those days.
 

Cruimh

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True enough but all over Ireland, imagine the headlines 'veterans of Easter Week allowed to die in cruel English captivity'. 'Arrested solely for their love of Ireland' etc.

This stuff played very well in those days.
As an aside - Blythe wasn't an Easter veteran - he was already behind bars at the time - and as it was Belfast, would be interesting to know how many of his fellow prisoners were Easter week veterans.
 

JohnD66

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As an aside - Blythe wasn't an Easter veteran - he was already behind bars at the time - and as it was Belfast, would be interesting to know how many of his fellow prisoners were Easter week veterans.
Ah yeah, but no need to mention that in election propaganda...
 
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