but not Forgotten

Left Dr Kathleen Lynn. McCoole Collection.
Right Lynn Family gravestone in Deansgrange Cemetery. Photo: Tara O'Reilly.

Kathleen Florence Lynn

Officer Commanding in City Hall Garrison, 1916.

Born: Mulafarry, Killala, Co Mayo, 28 January 1874
Died: Ballsbridge, Dublin, 14 September 1955.
Buried: Deansgrange Cemetery, Dublin.

The Lynn family are buried together in a plot in Deansgrange Cemetery. The tombstone lists a number of this family including Dr Kathleen Lynn. It states that she was a doctor, and a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland, but it omits the fact that she was Commanding Officer at City Hall garrison in 1916 and also the founder of St Ultan's, the first infant hospital in Dublin.

Nurses lined the route as Dr Lynn’s coffin passed St Ultan’s Hospital in September 1955. She was buried with full military honours. The Irish Citizen Army provided a guard of honour for her, as she had been a Surgeon General in their army. Members of the 7th Eastern Battalion fired three volleys over her grave, and a bugler sounded the Last Post.

Kathleen was different. She chose a profession at a time when many prejudices existed against female doctors. In 1899 she received her medical degree from the Royal University and obtained a post-graduate degree in the US. She was the first female resident at the Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital in Dublin.

In 1904 she became a GP practising from 9 Belgrave Road, Rathmines. She supported the Lock Out of 1913 and as a result joined the Irish Citizen Army. In the 1916 Rising she was Chief Medical Officer in the City Hall garrison, but when the Officer Commanding was shot, she, as next highest-ranking officer, took over the garrison.

She was elected to the Sinn Féin Executive in 1917. Active in the War of Independence, she was arrested in 1918 but was released to assist with the Flu Epedemic.

In 1919 she established St Ultan’s Hospital with the help of her friend Madeleine ffrench Mullen. At the outset, only women staffed the hospital. Kathleen pioneered the use of the BCG vaccination over ten years before it was in general use in Ireland. She promoted the work of Maria Montessori who visited St Ultan’s in 1934, and established a Montessori ward in the hospital.

Elected to the Dáil, but having opposed the Treaty of 1921, she did not take her seat. By 1926 she distanced herself from politics and concentrated on her hospital. She remained as a member of Rathmines Urban District Council until 1930.

Always a humanitarian, she was Vice President of Save the German Children, an organisation which located homes for German children in Ireland during the Second World War.

She continued to work as a doctor until she was over eighty. Today her hospital is gone but during her lifetime she saved and changed the lives of countless people. Believing in social justice, she spent her life improving the conditions of her fellow countrymen and women.