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The Remarkable Career of Dr. John Coghlan in Kilmacthomas

In 1845, famine broke out in Ireland and Dr. Coghlan advocated for a fever hospital in Kilmacthomas, serving as its medical officer when it opened. He also championed the workhouse and infirmary, which opened in 1851. A great humanitarian, who was deeply concerned about the welfare of those entrusted to his care, he was active in projects tackling the poverty, squalor, disease and starvation prevalent in the district. These included a soup kitchen, the planting of vegetable gardens, the supply of clothing and blankets, improvements to housing conditions and the cultivation of a textile industry.

At times, his concern found him in conflict with the Board of Guardians, which was responsible for the management of the fever hospital and workhouse. Dr. Coghlan did not consider the diet in the hospital as adequate and informed the Guardians of his opinion. They were not willing to incur additional expense to remedy the situation. They pointed out to him a list of hospitals which were run more cheaply.

This prompted Coghlan, who died in 1874, to observe: “If it became the practice to put one hospital against another merely for the cheapness at which it carried out its duties, I know of nothing which could prove more destructive to the objects for which hospitals have been instituted.” Today on the entrance wall to the CoachHouse Coffee establishment at Carrignanonshagh, you will see the newly unveiled heritage blue plaque that honours Dr. John Coghlan. This is situated not too far away from where once stood the infirmary/fever hospital that he passionately advocated for the benefit of Kilmacthomas and surrounding area.

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