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AMONG the few physicians of the seventeenth century whose names have been preserved from the stream of oblivion, is Nial O’Glacan of Donegal. Forgotten to-day, in his time he was one of the most distinguished members of the medical profession in Spain, France, and Italy, where for many years he had a long and distinguished career. Born in Donegal in the latter half of the sixteenth century, it is probable that he received the rudiments of his medical education from one of the families of hereditary physicians which at that time were attached to the Irish chieftains.
In the province of Ulster the hereditary physicians of the O’Donnell family were the MacDuinntsleibhes (later MacDunleavy and Donlevy), and several of their names are mentioned in the annals of the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries. The family had originally resided in County Down, but were driven out by the Norman chieftain de Courcy. We owe to several members of this family some of the finest Irish medical manuscripts in existence. There is a manuscript in the British Museum (Harley 546) at the end of which is written: “Here ends Gualteru’s book of the doses of medicines.
Cormac MacDuinntsleibhe has put this summary into Irish for Dermot MacDonall O’Line, and to him and his sons may so profitable a commentary render good service. On the fourth day of the Kalends of April this lecture was finished at Cloyne in the year 1459.”
The assumption, then, that O’Glacan was trained by a member of this family, in his native county, may be regarded as probably correct.
The training largely consisted in learning the aphorisms and other works of Hippocrates and certain works of Galen. This fact was mentioned by Campion in his History written in 1571, and also by O’Glacan himself in the preface of his treatise on the Plague. Early in life he left Ireland, and settled in Spain as early as 1602. This latter fact is inferred from his statement that he treated the great Hugh O’Donnell, Lord of Tirconnell, with a special poultice for a “venereo bubo” in the royal palace of the King of Spain. It is known that Hugh O’Donnell died at Simancas on 10th September, 1602, after an illness of fourteen days. For many years he travelled about the cities of Spain. In 1621 he was at Salamanca, and in 1622 Valentia, where he remained for two years. In these latter years he was engaged in treating the plague in special hospitals, and was, no doubt, highly paid for his services. Bubonic plague at that time swept Europe with terrific force, invading Spain, France, England, and Italy. Thus in 1630, eighty thousand people perished in Milan, and over five hundred thousand in the Venetian Republic, while in 1665 London lost sixty-nine thousand of its inhabitants. “The physicians delegated to treat the plague wore a strange prophylactic garb, consisting of a long red or black gown of smooth material, often of Morocco or Cordovan leather, with leather gauntlets, leather masks having glass-covered openings for the eyes, and a long beak or snout, filed with antiseptics or fumigants, for the nose. In his hand the pest-doctor carried a wand to feel the pulse.” He was held in considerable estimation for his dangerous services.
In 1627 O’Glacan was in France, and in 1628 he was appointed physician to the Pest Hospital of Toulouse. In the following year he published the Tractatus de Peste, an interesting commentary on the treatment of plague.
Some years later he was appointed Professor of Medicine in the University of Toulouse and Physician to the King of France. In 1646 he proceeded to Bologna, where he became the leading Professor of Medicine in the University, and published a system of medicine, Cursus Medicus, Bononiae, 1655, two volumes. The date of his death is unknown, and no further details of his life are available. The system of medicine is an extensive quarto containing three parts in two volumes. The first part deals with Physiology, or a general prolegomena to medicine as taught in the early seventeenth century. This part numbers some 436 pages. The second part deals with Pathology, or the causes and general symptoms of disease. This part, containing the theories of the time, is not so interesting, and numbers 372 pages. The third and last part deals with clinical medicine, especially the signs of disease, on crises, the pulse and the urine, great stress being laid on the examination of the two latter (as vividly portrayed in some of the canvases of Jan Steen, Franz Van Mieris, and Gabriel Metsu). The third part is the most extensive, and contains 876 pages. It is probable that only a small edition of this large work was printed, as the only copy in the country is the one in the British Museum.
No other copies are to be found in the medical libraries of Great Britain. Much more interesting than the above work is O’Glacan’s little treatise on Plague, the Tractatus de Peste, Tolose, 1629. I have illustrated this article with a reproduction of the actual size of the title page from my own copy.’The volume is a small 12mo, containing16+ 258 pages, and is divided into twenty chapters, with an appendix. This little volume is even rarer than his major work; the only other copy of which I am aware is to be found in the British Museum. The interest of this work consists in the many personal observations scattered through the text, and incidentally the treatise shows a very extensive knowledge of the dread disease.
We do not expect to find correct ideas on the etiology of plague, but on all other points that were a matter of observation only, there is a wealth of valuable and interesting material, and even some three or four reports of post-mortem examinations. Although the symptomatology of plague is protean, still in a few concise and accurate phrases the symptom-complex of the disease is clearly presented. Thus in chapter three: “The signs of plague are numerous …at one time headache and sleeplessness is troublesome, at another time heavy sleep, thirst, restlessness, vomiting, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, or again hunger, livid colour of the skin, or yellow. A prominent facies, an anxious expression, sudden lassitude, weakness of the limbs, and pain in the joints. High and continued fever, delirium, depression of spirits, rashes on the skin, buboes, tumours, syncope, a sense and feeling of weakness, andl other signs which denote a great putridity of the humours.
Although humoral pathology is now replaced by bacteriology, the above description includes most of the leading symptoms of plague. In addition, wherever possible, there is a constant reference to the authority of Hippocrates and Galen, whose opinions are regarded as final. The fourth chapter deal with Prognosis, and states that “Plague, like other acute diseases, is of doubtful and dubious prognosis. The following signs were frequently observed by me, that stout and well-nourished patients with looseness of the bowels, vomiting, with or without a bubo, rarely happened to be restore(d to health.” There is a considerable number of personal observations scattered throughout the work.
The headings of the chapters are interesting, as those on Purgatives, Clisters, Remedies of the Author,Remedies for the Poor, Buboes, Morbillis (Skin Rashes), Headache, Coma, Vomiting, and the Fumigation of Houses and Garments.
Under Phlebotomy we learn that it is especially for the sanguineous, bilious, and other robust persons, for the depressed individual and nurses rarely, and never for pregnant women. Also that blood-letting is useful in high fever, but always with prudence. Purgatives and clisters are recommended in certain cases. The most valuable sideline in the treatise is the notes on three post-mortems in Chapter 8, and another in Chapter 15. In this last the petechial haemorrhages covering the surface of the lung are described, as also the great swelling of the spleen, and that it was four pounds in weight. These observations entitle O’Glacan to be claimed as an early pioneer in pathological anatomy, the father of Pathology being generally regarded as
Morgagni (1682-1771). Modern readers might be interested in one of O’Glacan’s prescriptions. It is as follows: R. Mithraditii et Confectionis de Hyacintho āā, one ounce; Rad. Tormentillae, 2 drachms; Boli Armeni et Coralli rubri prep. āā, 1 drachm; Diamargaritanis frigidi et Diatriasantali āā, 1 drachm. Sacchari Candi, 3 drachms. Conservae acetosae, 2 ounces. Camphorae, 20 grs. Syrupi de succo limonum, quod suffcit. Signa.-Make a mixture after the manner of an opiate, and take one drachm by itself, or with a convenient liquor, as often as necessary.
In an age of polypharmacy the above was an agreeable mixture, but there were sone others not so palatable, such as “unum vidimus uno aut altero suae vrinae haustu curatum.” There are many other points of interest in this little volume, but lack of space forbids me to mention them. Those interested in historical medicine will find plenty of original material for study in the lives of Irish physicians.
Written in 1935 by Samuel Simms, M.D., B.SC., D.P.H., M.R.C.P.
John Ward, the second oldest son of Sean “Antoin” and Mary Ward nee Gallagher was born in Glenahilt, Burtonport in 1886. Like many of his contemporaries, the only source of making better future for themselves and their parents was emigration, so on the 2nd September 1911, John said goodbye to the Rosses and sailed from Derry Quay to New York City aboard S.S. Columbia.
From there he travelled to Pittsburg where he met a neighbour from home John Forker, who helped Ward settle in and find employment.
On the 5th June 1917, with the treat of American involvement in the war in Europe, John was drafted. He gave his address as 252 Hazel Way, West Homestead, Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. He was then a thirty year old steel worker.
He joined A Company, 320th Infantry Force, US Army as a mechanic. He was killed in action on this day October 9th 1918. John’s remains were buried in Nantellois Cemetery close to were he was killed in the Verdun region of northern France.
After the war, The US military repatriated some of the remains of its servicemen. The remains of John James Ward was re-interred in the grave of his kindred in Kincasslagh churchyard in 1921.
From an article that appeared in the Derry Journal in 23 September 1938.
AT RUTLAND ISLAND
In the “Irish Press” of the 20th inst.[September 1938] there appears a beautiful article containing certain reminiscences of Mr. James F. O’Donnell. ex-Co.C.. of Burtonport. who is described as “the grand old man of the place.” One can unhesitatingly assert that no more absorbing historical account has been written on the literary page of this high class daily since its inception. With the celebration of the ’98 Commemorations throughout the country at present, this revival of a memory of Napper Tandy and ’98 possesses a special appeal for all Gaels, but particularly for us in Tír Chonaill. What a pity that there are not more of the type of Mr. J. F. O’Donnell, who takes such pride in his ancestry, and in the storied past of his native Rosses. Another scion of this illustrious clan was telling me the other day that he is building a modern bungalow on the sea-shore site where his grandfather’s great-grandfather had a cabin and cabbage-garden in the dark and evil days of the Penal Code. My own children oft-times play around a hill-top site overlooking the Gweebarra, a seventh generation there of those who verily represent the survival of the fittest. It is also worthy of note that Captain Timothy O’Boyle, whose grandfather is mentioned in the Rutland reminiscences as nearly having been hanged for piloting Napper Tandy’s brig the “Anacreon.” in 1798, himself gave a gallant son to the struggle for Irish freedom during the days of the Black and Tans, in the person of the present Supt. Bernie O’Boyle of the Garda Siothchana.
PLANTED BY SASSANACH
In treating of Rutland Island, so named after the then Lord Lieutenant of Eire. the Earl of Rutland. but locally known in the Gaeltacht as InIs Mhic An Duirn. Mr. “J. F.,” as he is familiarly called, could not have chosen a more intriguing historical subject. Owing to its strategic position. it was seized and utilised by the Sassanach in the years immediately following the Great Plantation of Ulster—the aftermath of the Flight of the Earls from the shores of Lough Swilly—that ill-fated, creek-coasted Lake of Shadows which witnessed as well the capture of Red Hugh and the doom of Tone’s expedition of liberation. The island of Inis Mhic An Duirn was “planted” and we are told that the Marquis of Conygnham erected a bawn there about 1618. Large grants were expended later on in constructing buildings. saltpans. etc. for the development of the fishing industry.
It partly succeeded at first. for we are informed by Lewis that in each of the years 1874 and 1875 the people of the island realised £40,000 from the herring fishery. Co:. Conyngham speculated £50,000 on the building of houses and salipans and stores, and the establishment of a town here for the benefit of the Planters. About this same period, circa 1760, a grant of £400 was allocated for the slating of the old monastery church at Templecrone near Maghery, three miles west of Dungloe. It was here that “Croine Bheag. Virgin of Teampul Croine [sic] . . . of the race of Conall Gulban” (cf. Donegal Martyrology) had founded her nunnery two generations after the time of Colmcille. The splayed sixth-century window still remains to be seen in the eastern gable. The church lands were in Protestant hands now, and the then Marquis of Conyngham had a rectory and vicarage built there at Maghery in 1763.
NAPOLEONIC WAR DAYS
To return to Rutland, however, we note that its importance was greatly enhanced during the American War of Independence and the consequent initiation of the Irish Volunteers. But it was really with the advent of the Napoleonic Wars, at which time the Martello towers at Crowhey Head and Mullaghderg were erected, that Rutland Island became a key-position on the North-West seaboard. The nearest military posts were at Letterkenny, some thirty miles away, and at Ballyshannon forty miles distant. The prosperity of Rutland had, by now, begun to decline, and the “Parliamentary Gazeteer” of 1884-5 refers to it as the “site of an unsuccessful fishing establishment. Of the houses built in 1788 there existed a few years ago a . . dilapidated inn, a custom-house. a surveyor’s house, seven good houses in one street. and sixteen occupied dwellings in another street, and a few other structures of various characters.”
FADING OF MUSHROOM GLORY
And so the beginning of the end had set in for “phantom prosperity ot this garrison metropolis of the Rosses.” From 1785 till 1840 Rutland had reached the zenith of its mushroom glory. Through its post-office all correspondence for the Rosses and Gweeddore was transmitted. This flourishing island village possessed a quay, a custom-house. hotels, saltpans, stores, an inn. and many private houses in several streets, besides a strongly-fortified military barracks capable of housing over a hundred men. Yet. mirabile dictu, in the short space of less than half a century after Napper Tandy’s raid on this British outpost on Sunday, 16th of September 1798, there was not a vestige visible of all its insular greatness.
Lord George Hill. writing in 1847 “Hints to Tourists,” p. 33) describes how Rutland “forty years ago was a beautiful green island. with a military station—a most gay place. But what is it now! —a desert scarcely habitable, a little modern Pompeii. the blowing sand proving a surer though a slower agent of destruction than the flowing lava ” Sic transit gloria mundi.
Dr. Maguire in his “History of the Diocese of Raphoe” Pt. I, Vol. II. p 256) very aptly epitomises its fate in the following words:—
“Rutland, though it was long the garrison metropolis of the Rosses, never had a Catholic church. Nature herself protested against this exotic plantation, and its pampered ascendancy was buried in the indignant sands. The Fosters of the post-office and the Maxwells of the custom-house were mere mushroom gentry, like the mule they possessed neither pride of ancestry nor hope of posterity; and the indigenous O’Boyles have regained some portion of their inheritance. The last alien’s house was purchased by Father Dan O’Donnell for the proverbial song” The swan-song or those who oppressed our unfortunate ancestors.
“Thus shall memory often in dreams sublime,
Catch a glimpse of the days that are over,
Thus sighing look through the waves of time
For the long-faded glories they cover.”
The forging thus of real live links with the more or less tangible past of our own particular localities in, indeed. a far more valuable form of folklore-collection than the intricacies of that recommended national teachers by Dublin civil servants. For those of them who were with us in the Gaelic “push” of over twenty years ago there is respect due. For true-hearted Gaelic-speaking, Gaelic-loving men of the old stock, like Mr. J. F. O’Donnell, of Burtonport, not only admiration but a nation’s gratitude.