Limerick’s deadly brush with the Spanish flu

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Limerick in the early years of the 1900s was badly hit by the Spanish flu pandemic.

WOMEN’S suffrage, the First World War and St Joseph’s Hospital will be among the topics highlighted at a centenary event hosted by Limerick Archives next week.

As part of the ‘Decade of Centenaries’ programme, the event in St Mary’s Cathedral on Thursday, June 28 will include an in-depth examination of the impact of Spanish Flu on the city in 1918.

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The pandemic killed almost 100 million people around the world, and in six months infected 800,000 people in Ireland causing around 23,000. Limerick was badly affected by the virus, with a big number of fatalities recorded in the area.

Its impact on St. Joseph’s Hospital, which was a relatively safe haven from infection, will also be examined. The number of people who died from the flu in the asylum was far less than the local and national average.

World War I will also be highlighted, as St. Joseph’s asylum saw a new wave of patients being admitted who were declared ‘shell-shocked.’

Historian Sinead McCoole will also look at the topic of women’s suffrage, with the national movement gaining huge popularity during that year.

Limerick Archivist Jacqui Hayes said, “1918 was a chaotic time for the people of Limerick, and our experts will provide a lot of information that people may never have heard of. The Spanish Flu pandemic was a sad chapter in Limerick’s history, and some of our own records on the Mount Saint Lawrence Cemetery show that there were a number of fatalities locally.”

“The records on St. Joseph’s Hospital also give an insight into how the asylum dealt with these unfortunate soldiers who may not have been a part of the 1,000 casualties that Limerick suffered, but came home traumatised. Luckily, our speakers will be able to tell the soldiers’ stories for the first time. We will also hear about how the women’s suffrage movement gained traction, as a number of high-profile women spoke out for their individual rights,” she explained.

Other speakers at the event, which gets underway at 7.30pm, will include Sinead McCoole, Margaret Buckley, Dr Peter Kirwan, and Stuart Clancy.