Lost History

by Anne Treacy née Hallinan

Who are you Kathleen Lynn?
You are an inspiration,
Mayo born, educated.
A doctor in 1899.

As Medical Chief to Connolly’s Citizen Army
You witnessed Lock Out poverty.
In 1916, you Commanded City Hall
Your presence shocked the British Military.

Women of grit and privilege
Served time, Kilmainham time,
You among them,
Your days staccatoed with executions
Why were you all
Wiped from our history?

What men dared to silence your name?
Alone, your portrait hung, un-named.
Unknown amongst the portraits of learned
Fellows in the Royal College of Surgeons.

You sat, a TD, in our first Dáil,
Éire born, with dreams of our equal Nation.
Lockout babies cried to you,
Dr Kathleen.
So you Founded St Ultan’s Hospital for infants.
Your army of nurses taught ragged tenement mothers
Skills of survival,
Lowering infant mortality and TB.

You dreamt of a healthy nation,
Fostering rigorous research by Dorothy Stopford Price,
In 1937, at St Ultan’s, the BCG vaccine pioneered,
Dr Kathleen, Dr Dorothy unpaid,
You were not in my history books.

I bow to your resilience,
Your generosity in life.
In death you bequeathed your home to
An Óige.
Awed by you Kathleen Lynn,
I wonder
Who knows your name?

This poem was composed during a series of creative writing workshops for Comhrá na mBan Centenary Writers Group led by Emily Cullen at Westside Library, Galway during September – December 2023, as part of the ‘Reflections – A Commemoration of the Irish Women of 1923.This project was presented by Galway City Council, Galway Public Libraries & Galway City Museum & supported by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sports and Media.