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A Letter Found

When we received an email starting “I’m a graduate (Class of '88) and Fellow (1993) of the college with a side interest in History!”, and signed Houriya, it was one of those lovely surprises we like to find in our inbox

Dr Houriya Kazim had come across this student letter dated March 29th, 1946, on RCSI Student Union paper. It was in an online auction and its provenance was unknown. She bought it and reached out to RCSI Heritage Collections to offer it as a donation and arranged a friendly visit, along with her daughter, to hand deliver the find. 

We don’t know about you, but we are all quite taken with the writing manner and the contents. Would De Valera be flattered by the impression he made at the College Dance?  Mentions of the Compassionate Guild (scroll to end for more!), the ballet and a new hat... Dr Kazim was taken with the whole style of the letter and the glimpse offered into the wonderful world of this 1940s (female?) student. We are, of course, intrigued to know more. 

So, as you find yourself planning your Easter break just as the writer was 78 years ago, we invite you to read the two and a half pages of Pat’s news to Martin-in-another-college... enjoy! 

Letter RCSI/SU/03

Bonus content... 

Dr Ronan Kelly enlightens us on the Compassionate Guild with an excerpt from Every Branch of the Healing Art: 

Set up in late 1943, the Compassionate Guild was a student-led charitable initiative, whose primary concern was local poverty and its concomitant nutritional deficiencies. The Guild had about 50 active members, who bicycled about the city visiting the needy. A typical visit was reported in the Irish Times in December, when a student paid a call on ‘a family of six, living in a room twelve feet by fifteen’.3 (In 1942, it was estimated that some 20,000 Dublin families lived in single rooms.4) Yet again, the College authorities followed the students’ lead; within a year, former PRCSI Adams McConnell could be heard broadcasting an appeal on Radio Éireann on behalf of the Guild. ‘Many people,’ he said, ‘were still perishing in “a river of poverty” in this country’.

Inextricably related to poverty, the scourge of the nation at this time was tuberculosis. TB rates rise on a long slow curve – it takes perhaps 50 years for an epidemic to peak, as it had done in Ireland circa 1904; thereafter it began to fall decade by decade, but not fast enough, and in the 1940s Irish mortality remained higher than elsewhere in Europe.