The historical archive of the Royal Hospital Donnybrook is presented to the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland

RCPI adds to its rich archives in No. 6 Kildare Street

The extensive archives of the Royal Hospital Donnybrook, with materials dating back as far as 1743 has been presented to the Heritage Centre at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland at a special reception in the College this evening.

We are delighted to provide a safe home for such an important archival collection in the RCPI Heritage Centre. The Royal Hospital Donnybrook is one of Dublin’s oldest surviving hospitals, and the archive sheds important light on aspects of Ireland’s medical and social history. I’m sure that it will be of great interest to researchers, who will be able to consult the archive in our research room on Kildare Street. The Royal Hospital Donnybrook was founded in 1743, ‘to benefit the Poor in and near our said City who are afflicted with Disorders declared to be Incurable, by dieting, lodging, clothing and maintaining such poor persons and by supplying them with Medical and Surgical Assistants, Medicines and all manner of necessaries’ according to the Hospital Charter.

Ms Harriet Wheelock

Keeper of Collections, RCPI

The Royal Hospital Donnybrook has been part of the fabric of Dublin life for centuries. We are absolutely delighted that our extensive history, so carefully curated by Stephen, is now being incorporated into the archives of RCPI.

Mr Conor Leonard

Chief Executive Officer, Royal Hospital Donnybrook

A move to Lazers-Hill

Though it is not known who originally founded the hospital, it is known that the hospital was founded in 1743 because the Dublin Assembly Rolls of October that year recorded that "the Directors of the Hospital for Incurables, Lazers-Hill” (now Townsend Street) requested free water for their hospital. However, in 1750, Richard Colley (Lord Baron Mornington), Theobold Wolfe, Chichester Fortescue and Samuel Bridges bought a plot of land in Lazers-hill and built on it a new hospital into which they moved the patients in 1752.

When I saw the hospital archives back in 1997 I could not believe it - here were the lives of ordinary people living in an absolutely extraordinary institution, largely unknown and uncelebrated. I thought of the Muse of History, Clio, whose name means ‘fame won by glorious deeds’. The RHD could easily be called Clio because it has performed continuous glorious deeds down through its long years of service and shelter for the people of Dublin. Clio's mothers name is Mnemosyne, which means remembrance. Remembrance is at the heart of history, it is its DNA. So I was determined to create the archive and perhaps one day find it a final resting place. And after 21 years I have

Mr Stephen McCormac

Archivist, Royal Hospital Donnybrook

Today, the Royal Hospital Donnybrook (RHD) remains a voluntary, non-for-profit hospital, with an entirely voluntary Board, providing rehabilitation, respite, residential care and day hospital services. 

The Heritage Centre, Royal College of Physicians of Ireland

The RCPI Heritage is a fully accredited museum and the leading centre for research into the history of medicine in Ireland, as well as promoting public engagement thought open day, lectures and events.  

We are a research and educational centre specialising in the history of medicine and medical humanities in Ireland.

We are the proud guardians of over 350 years of historical archives dating from the foundation of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland in 1654. Our collections include manuscripts, books, prints, photographs and other unique items relating to the history of medicine and medical education in Ireland. 

We work to:

  • carefully catalogue and preserve a vast collection of manuscripts, books, images, items and artwork relating to the history of RCPI and medicine in Ireland
  • promote awareness of Ireland's rich medical history
  • grow our collections thanks to generous donations of library and archive material, medical instruments, images and ephemera
  • make the College's unique collections accessible to the public.

For more information, visit https://www.rcpi.ie/heritage-centre/