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Kathleen Lynn was born in Mayo on 28th January 1874, the daughter of Robert Lynn, a Church of Ireland clergyman, and his wife Catherine Wynn. Kathleen Lynn studied medicine at Cecilia Street (the Catholic University Medical School) graduating in 1899. Following her graduation she worked in a number of Dublin hospitals, and ran a private practice from her home at 9 Belgrave Road, Rathmines.
In 1913, at the request of Countess Markievicz, she treated Helena Molony. Molony stayed with Lynn while she recuperated and they ‘used to have long talks and she converted me to the National Movement’. Lynn became an active in the suffragist, labour and Nationalist movements. With Molony and Markievicz she supported the workers during the Dublin Lockout in 1913, and Lynn became a friend and supporter of James Connolly.
Lynn was a member of the Irish Citizens Army, and taught first-aid to them and Cumann na mBan. She used her car to run guns into Dublin in the weeks before the Rising, even storing some at her own house.
Lynn was Chief Medical Officer for the Irish Citizens Army, she was stationed at City Hall, from which post she treated the wounded. The position was re-captured by the British forces on the evening of Easter Monday and Lynn was arrested and imprisoned in Ship Street and Richmond Barracks, Kilmainham and Mountjoy Goals.
During the first three weeks of her imprisonment Lynn kept a fascinating daily account of events. The account was originally written in blue pencil on scraps of paper, these were later copied into a bound volume, which she continued to use as a diary.
Lynn’s professional background is clear in her concern about lice, fleas, unsanitary conditions and typhus. She also shows concern for the prisoners’ mental health; stress created by imprisonment and the rumours about the fates of comrades. She comments on the benefit of taking exercise, especially when ‘allowed to talk, such a comfort’.
A fascinating insider's view of the tumultuous weeks following the Easter Rising
Lynn was kept in custody in Dublin until early June when she was deported to England. Unlike other prisoners she was not imprisoned in England, but sent to work with a doctor near Bath. Lynn returned to Ireland in the summer for a month to nurse her sister who was ill. By the end of the year she was back at her home in Rathmines, re-establishing her practice.
Lynn remained active in the Nationalist movement; she was elected vice-president of the Sinn Féin executive in 1917, and a TD for Dublin in 1923, although she didn’t take her seat. In 1919 she co-founded Saint Ultan’s Hospital for Infants on Charlmont Street, providing much needed medical and educational support to impoverished infants and their mothers.
Lynn made spasmodic diary entries in the two years following the event of 1916; by 1919 she established a more regular pattern and from that year until shortly before her death in 1955 she made almost daily entries. A full transcript of the dairies is available for researchers to consult in the Heritage Centre reading room, please contact us to make an appointment.
In 1986 Lynn’s foundation, Saint Ultan’s Hospital, closed as part of a city wide reorganisation of hospital care. The administrative and historical records of the hospital were transferred to RCPI for safekeeping in our archive.
Four years later the family of Dr Kathleen Lynn donated her personal diaries to RCPI, so they could be kept with the records of the hospital which had been her life’s work.
Harriet is Keeper of Collection and manages the RCPI Heritage Centre. Contact Harriet with any questions about the Heritage Centre, its collection and to make an appointment to visit.