Some Caring Friends |
The 12th May 2020 was both International Nurses Day and the 200th Anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale. It had been my hope that, to coincide with these events, I might deliver an address at a Sunday service in May and dedicate it to the nursing profession. Alas, at the very time and for the same reasons that our collective debt of gratitude to all the caring and health professions had soared, the doors of our church remained closed for services.
The planned address was to open with a few words on the 1918 stained glass Wilson Memorial Window and the panel 'Love', represented by the image in the of Florence Nightingale nursing the sick and wounded. The body of the address however was going to be made up of some stories about four former members of the St Stephen’s Green congregation who dedicated themselves to caring for their patients and to improving public health. As I won’t be able to dedicate an address to our current health workers any time soon I have instead compiled some short biographical information on the four people whose names appear on memorials of different types around the church building. Each of the four people have stories that are worthy of separate Oscailt *articles but I hope these few very condensed bios are of interest to readers, particularly those readers who have nursed and cared for others during the current crisis.
(*A longer article on Margaret Huxley penned by RD appeared in the January 2009 edition of Oscailt)
Travers R. Blackley (1801 – 1870) Surgeon
Despite or because of its location the large two panelled window over the book table at the top of the stairs seldom catches much attention from people entering or leaving the church. This is a pity as the window has some very interesting historical connections. Emblazoned down the panels of the window are the words Enter Into His Gates With Thanksgiving And Into His Courts With Love and with praise. Across the bottom of the window are the words; 1868 - Presented by Travers R. Blackley
Dr.Travers Blackley was baptised in Strand Street Presbyterian Meeting House in 1801. It is noted in our baptismal register that his father, John Blackley, had died before Travers was baptised leaving his widow Temperance with three very young children. Travers Blackley studied medicine and was admitted as a member to the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland in May 1827. Two years earlier he had married Elizabeth Lewery and they lived in Ashtown Lodge near the Phoenix Park. The baptisms of six of their children are recorded in the church register. Elizabeth died in 1853 and Travers married Jane Montgomery in First Presbyterian Church (Rosemary Street) Belfast. He died in 1870 and is buried in the Church of Ireland graveyard in Clontarf.
The name Travers appears as a forename or middle name repeatedly across generations in the Blackley family tree, and with good reason. Travers Blackley was given the same forename as his maternal grandfather, Travers Hartley the noted Dublin MP. Travers Hartley was himself given the family name of his maternal grandfather, Reverend Elias Travers, as his forename. Elias Travers, the son of a non-conformist minister, entered the ministry in Ireland in 1669 and was minister to the Cook Street congregation in Dublin from 1691 until his death 1705. As such, the Blackley window is a connection back to the formative years of our congregation.
Dr. Thomas Wrigley Grimshaw (1839–1900) Surgeon, Medical Statistician and Registrar-General
Born near Belfast, Thomas Wrigley Grimshaw and his wife Sarah (Settie) are remembered on a memorial on the east wall of the church. Dr Grimshaw married Sarah Elizabeth Thomas in 1865. (She was the daughter of Rev. Thomas Felix Thomas, minister of the Eustace Street congregation). They had nine sons and three daughters. Two of their sons and a daughter (Temple, Violet and Harold) who died in childhood. Temple is remembered on a plaque next to the pulpit. Two other sons (Cecil and Ewing) were killed in the First World War.
Thomas Wrigley Grimshaw was the son of a dentist and a descendant of Lancashire cotton merchants who founded a calico-printing business in Greencastle, Co. Antrim. He entered TCD in 1856 and graduated in 1860. He was admitted as a licentiate of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland in 1862 and continued his surgical training in Sir Patrick Dun's Hospital and Dr Steevens' Hospital. As his career progressed, he was appointed to a number of senior posts in different Dublin hospitals and institutions.
Grimshaw was a member of the Statistical Society of Ireland and was appointed as President of that body in 1888. As a statistician he brought a scientific data-based approach to presenting evidence in support of proposals to address the major public health issues of the day. Among his many published medical articles were articles on the relationship between the geography of Dublin and the outbreaks of cholera in the city. Dr. Grimshaw was one of the founders of the Dublin Sanitary Association and of the Dublin Artisans' Dwellings Company Limited. He presented papers setting out statistics that demonstrated why Dublin Corporation should clear areas of slum buildings for the Artisan Dwelling Company to build new dwellings upon. He later presented evidence to show how disease rates in these new dwellings were far lower than in comparable areas in the rest of the city.
Thomas Grimshaw was appointed as Registrar General for Ireland in 1879. In his twenty-one years in that office he improved the procedures for the collection and compilation of comprehensive and accurate data relating to births, deaths marriages and census information. He was dedicated to his work and remained at his post up to a few days before his death in January 1900. In addition to his professional work, Dr Grimshaw dedicated a lot of his time and effort to the support of several Dublin charities. His philanthropic work is recognised on a Dublin Tourism plaque situated at the site of his former home at Dawson Street and worded Dr.Thomas Wrigley Grimshaw 1839 – 1900 Physician and Philanthropist Lived On This Site 1861 - 1881.
Margaret Huxley (1856 – 1940) Nurse
Situated high on the east wall of the church is the trefoil Memorial Window dedicated to Margaret Huxley. The window was a gift to the church from her great friend the artist Sarah Purser. Born in London in 1856, Margaret Huxley commenced her long and distinguished career at St Bartholomew’s in London before coming to Dublin in 1883 to take up the post of ‘Lady Superintendent’ (Matron) at the Eye and Ear Hospital which was then in Molesworth Street. Her abilities were soon recognised and within a year she was appointed as Matron of that great old Dublin institution ‘Sir Patrick Dun’s Hospital’. The author of the history of this hospital writes in the chapter ‘Nursing Arrangements’ that, ‘within a very short time of Miss Huxley’s arrival, a new era of hospital nursing began’. As part of her pioneering work she established Sir Patrick Dun’s School of Nursing as the leading Nursing School in Ireland. Through this school and in cooperation with other training schools she continually strove to raise the educational standards of nurses and by extension the status of nursing in Ireland and abroad. She was a leading light and President of the Irish Nurses Association.
When she retired from her role as Matron at the hospital in 1902 her colleagues subscribed money with the intention of making a presentation to her. However, she refused to accept the money for
herself and instead it was used to establish a ‘Margaret Huxley Memorial Medal’ which for many years was awarded to the nurse who attained highest place for conduct in her examinations.
Following her retirement Miss Huxley ran the private nursing home ‘Elphis’ in Lower Mount St. The street was the scene of an intense battle during the 1916 Easter Rising and Miss Huxley was at the forefront of the efforts by staff from Elphis and the nearby Patrick Dun’s Hospital to provide aid to the large numbers of wounded and dying casualties. It has been estimated that almost eighty casualties were rescued from the scene of the fighting by the collective efforts of the medical staff.
In her later years Miss Huxley put her considerable talent into supporting the practical efforts of church members to relieve the Dublin housing crisis. Funds were raised and a site secured on Cork Street for the building of ten family homes. When the crescent of houses was opened in 1927 it was named Huxley Crescent in her honour.
Stephanie Saville (1927 – 2018) Anaesthetist
Barbara Wright, who died in December 2019, penned the obituaries of her close friend Stephanie Saville that appeared in issues of The Irish Time and The Guardian in July 2018. In the obituaries Barbara said that Stephanie had witnessed and participated in huge changes in medical practice throughout her career and she had set an example for other female doctors to follow.
Stephanie was born in Dublin to Cyril Arthur Saville and his wife, Evelyn nee Maddocks. (There is a small plaque dedicated to Cyril in the area next to the organ) Stephanie was educated at Hillcourt school and Trinity College, where she studied medicine, graduating in 1949. Her first appointment as an anaesthetist was at the Royal City of Dublin hospital.
At a time when women were only beginning to forge careers in the competitive world of medicine, Stephanie was a role model for many female junior hospital doctors. She held positions in Bath, Bristol, Albany (New York) before establishing herself in London. She worked for two years at St Bartholomew’s hospital before being appointed to the Westminster hospital as a senior registrar. In 1960 she became a consultant anaesthetist at St Stephen’s hospital, London a post she held until her retirement in 1987. When she joined the staff at St Stephen’s (now Chelsea and Westminster hospital) she helped to set up the intensive therapy unit at the hospital, introduce epidurals as a regular practice in labour and was also in the forefront of those who hastened the development of anaesthesia for pain relief, and she started a pain relief clinic at St Stephen’s. By the time she retired, St Stephen’s had four well-equipped operating theatres, a large recovery area and an immediately adjacent intensive care unit.
Stephanie remained in contact with the congregation in Dublin and she married Thomas Atterton at St Stephen’s Green in 1965. Their marriage is remembered on a small plaque situated on the front of the Lectern that she gifted to the church in 1977. The Lectern once belonged to St Luke’s in the Coombe and it was purchased from the Church of Ireland when it closed that building.
Dublin Unitarian Church