Kate Middleton Curtis

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Kate Middleton CurtisIt is fitting on International Nurses Day 2018 to remember one of the most notable figures in Irish nursing before and during the First World War. Katherine Elizabeth Middleton Curtis was born in London in 1860 and married to the noted Engineer and Merchant William Charles Middleton Curtis. Moving to Ireland, she became a member of the Blackrock Nursing Division of the St John Ambulance Brigade in Dublin and was a regular contributor to the Irish Times on nursing and medical matters. Always an innovator, Kate was involved in various public initiatives to raise public awareness of hygiene and health; she ran first aid courses for women from 1911 and was also involved in Kingstown ‘Health Week’, held in April 1913. Kate was one of the best-known members of St John Ambulance and noted in her diary on 20 October 1914 that she was also ‘the oldest ambulance lady in Ireland.’

Kate was matron of the Convalescent Home for Soldiers and Sailors at Temple Hill House in Blackrock, taking up the post in October 1914. She remained in place until April 1915, when it was converted into an Auxiliary Hospital for Service personnel. Temple Hill was one of 70 such centres in Ireland during the war and it specialised in orthopaedic services for injured service personnel. Originally it had 20 beds but was later expanded to 36 and over 500 patients passed through the building during the war. Kate kept an autograph book of her time in Temple Hill which was signed by many of the soldiers she cared for.

Kate Middleton Curtis died on 29 January 1918 of appendicitis, aged 58. Her legacy lived on after the war in the Kate Middleton Curtis Cup, awarded annually to winner of the St John Ambulance First Aid competition. Her personal papers were donated to the Royal Dublin Fusiliers Archive at Dublin City Library and Archive and can be consulted in the reading room in Pearse Street.

The Kate Middleton Curtis collection can be view online at Digital Repository Ireland.

Bernard Kelly, Historian in Residence, Dublin City Library and Archive.

Dublin City Council Historians in Residence are available to meet groups and schools, give talks, walks etc, run history book clubs and advise on historical research.


See Also: Listen back to Women of the Brigade: Pádraig Allen, St John Ambulance Ireland discusses some women of St John Ambulance who contributed to the war effort during the First World War.

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