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View of “The Rotunda,” the Dublin Hospital for Poor Lying-in Women, begun 1751, opened for patients 1758. From Warburton, Whitelaw, and Walsh’s History of the City of Dublin from the Earliest Accounts to the Present Time (1818). THE ROTUNDA HOSPITAL AND THE PEOPLE OF DUBLIN, 1745—1995 CORMAC Ó GRÁDA historians of the Dublin Hospital for Poor Lying-In Women—alias the Rotunda —have dwelt on the glories of its architecture and the contributions of its masters and others to medical science.1 Hitherto they have paid less than their due attention to the hundreds of thousands of Dublin women who gave birth there and to their children. The balance may be restored somewhat by eschewing obstetrical and architectural history in favor of using the hospital’s own records, for they provide insight into a number of issues in the social history of Dublin.2 In petitioning for funds for new premises in 1755, the hospital’s founder, Bartholomew Mosse, claimed that “since the opening of the said hospital [in 1745] there have been few or no instances of a child exposed or murdered within the city or suburbs of Dublin.” The claim is certainly exaggerated, but it highlighted the most important aspect of Mosse’s mission—helping the city’s poor.3 From its beginnings, a signiWcant share of the city’s working-class mothers gave birth in the Rotunda. The hospital was speciWcally meant for them; middle-class mothers would long continue to have their children at home. A statistical abstract prepared by Bartholomew Mosse, describing the twelve-year residency in the THE ROTUNDA HOSPITAL AND THE PEOPLE OF DUBLIN, 1745–1995 49 1 See: T. Percy Kirkpatrick, The Book of the Rotunda Hospital: An Illustrated History of the Dublin Lying-in Hospital (London: Allard and Son, 1913); C. P. Curran, The Rotunda Hospital : Its Architects and Craftsmen (Dublin: Three Candles Press, 1945); O’Donnell Browne, T.D., The Rotunda Hospital, 1745–1945 (Edinburgh: Livingstone, 1947). 2 A shorter version of this essay appear in The Rotunda, 1745–1995, ed. Alan Browne (Dublin: A. & A. Farmar, 1995). I am grateful to the secretary of the Rotunda; to Brian Donnelly , National Archives; and to Robert Mills, Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, for allowing me to consult and refer to Rotunda documents in their care. My thanks, too, go to Alan Browne, David Dickson, Tony Farmar, Arnold Horner, Eleanor Holmes, Brendan Walsh, and Patricia Walsh for their comments and advice. 3 For comparison, see James Kelly, “Infanticide in Eighteenth-Century Dublin,” Irish Economic and Social History, XIX (1992), 5–26. Wrst lying-in hospital on George’s Lane, now South Great George’s Street, shows this. Between 1745 and 1757 Mosse and his associates had treated almost four thousand women. Mosse noted occupations of their men: 578 were soldiers and seamen, 765 “poor” weavers, combers, or dyers, 1,252 tradesmen and laborers, another 835 “poor servants.” Mosse had no occupational information on the partners of 228 “poor women from the country.” By the 1820s, before another major maternity hospital was opened across the LiVey in the Coombe, over one Dublin birth in four occurred in the Rotunda . The Rotunda’s catchment area was altered by the creation of its southside rival, but the social composition of its intake was largely unaVected . Rotunda mothers continued to be overwhelmingly the wives of unskilled laborers and artisans. The hospital’s administrators and medical men kept careful records, some of which have been lost. Much remains, however , and the hospital’s surviving archives—most of which have now been deposited in the National Archives—throw a good deal of light on the lives of many generations of ordinary Dublin people. From the outset, the Rotunda was a favorite charity of Dublin’s wellto -do, who attended its concerts and took tea and walks in its gardens. The ethos of the hospital’s management and support was quite Protestant but its clientele was heavily Catholic from the outset, and £12 15s was received in 1786 from “the Romish Clergy of LiVey St” for the use of the Rotunda for a “spiritual concert.”4 Members of the Irish ruling classes paid for the erection...


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