St. Luke’s Hospital Clonmel - New book will preserve its history

Attending the launch of the St. Lukes Hospital, Clonmel, history book were, seated, Dr. Jim Morrison, who performed the launch, and author Eamonn Lonergan. Back, Martin Lonergan, Mayor; Dr. Michelle Brannigan, John Duane, assistant director of nursing; Marie McMahon, County Museum curator and County Council chairman Michael Fitzgerald.
A book that’s described as preserving the history of the former St. Luke’s Hospital in Clonmel in a real way has been launched.

A book that’s described as preserving the history of the former St. Luke’s Hospital in Clonmel in a real way has been launched.

The commemorative history, written by the hospital’s former administrator Eamonn Lonergan, was launched at the County Museum.

The last patients were discharged from St. Luke’s in July 2012, marking the end of in-patient services in the hospital after 178 years. It was replaced by a modern, community-based and patient-centred mental health care service with new facilities in Clonmel, Cashel and Tipperary town.

John Duane, assistant director of nursing, South Tipp Mental Health Services, said the hospital meant so much to people and when it closed it was decided that its closure should be marked. The St. Luke’s Hospital Ball was revived, a photo supplement was published in The Nationalist and in this new book Eamonn Lonergan had included much of the content from the original history that he wrote in 1984, as well as updating it with new material and photos.

Congratulating Eamonn Lonergan on what he said was a marvellous publication, Michael Fitzgerald, chairman of Tipperary County Council, said the book would preserve the hospital’s history in a real way.

The hospital had been part of Clonmel’s landscape since it opened. However this was not just a book about its history but an informed reference guide to health services in the county and the country, he said.

The book was launched by Dr. Jim Morrison, the former chief psychiatrist of the county Mental Health Services. He had worked with Eamonn Lonergan for over 30 years and described him as a first-class manager who was extremely highly thought of by the Health Board and everybody with whom he came in contact.

Tracing the history of the hospital, Dr.Morrison said that many years ago its patients had included not just people suffering from mental illness but alcoholics, the elderly and even disturbed children, who were in wards with adults because there was no separate accommodation.

He said that great efforts had been made during those years to overcome the stigma attached to mental illness.

Dr. Michelle Brannigan, clinical director of the South Tipp Mental Health Services, said the book was a fantastic opportunity to celebrate what St. Luke’s meant, as it had been much more than just a building.

Martin Lonergan, the first Mayor of the new Clonmel Borough District, said the book was very well produced and extremely interesting.St. Luke’s had been involved with community life in Tipperary for so many years and there was hardly a family in the county who hadn’t been connected with it in some way.

The book hadn’t set out to analyse the mental health services in any critical way but was a recording of how those services had developed over the years, stated the author Eamonn Lonergan.

It was the smallest asylum (as they were then known) built in the country but like others it expanded and in 1958 some 903 patients were accommodated there. The hospital opened in 1834, some 50 years before the GAA was founded and before Tipperary was divided into two ridings.

The notable people who worked there included Olympic champion Dr. Pat O’Callaghan and Johnny Healy, the boxing champion who represented Ireland.

Proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to the Mental Health Association.