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Collections Spotlight – Writing Desk of Sr Mary Aloysius Doyle (1820-1908)

Every week we shine a light on a different object from our collections that you may not have seen before.
This week we have a writing desk which belonged to Sr Mary Aloysius Doyle (1820-1908). Born Catherine Doyle, in 1820, in Old Kilcullen, Co. Kildare, Catherine entered St Leo’s Convent of Mercy, Carlow in 1849 where she received the name Sr. Mary Aloysius and was professed in 1851. Sr. Mary Aloysius taught in Carlow Mercy schools from 1849 until 1854, when she left Ireland with a group of sisters to nurse soldiers in the Crimea as part of a campaign of nursing by Florence Nightingale – the Crimean War lasted from October 1853 until February 1856. On her return to Ireland, Sr. Mary Aloysius was appointed Superioress of the Gort Foundation, Co. Galway in 1857 and opened a school there 2 years later. In 1878, a new foundation was opened at Kinvara, Co. Galway where Sr. Mary Aloysius spent much of her later life. In 1897, as the only surviving Irish war nurse, Sr. Mary Aloysius was invited to Windsor Palace, London to receive the Royal Red cross – on the event of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee – she however declined the invitation.
The writing desk comprises a polished wooden box polished (possibly cherry wood), with brass inlays, and a brass name plate, which opens out to form the writing desk, inlaid with leather and a gilt border. The dates on the name plate ‘1851 – 1901’ suggest the desk was presented to her on the celebration of the Golden Jubilee of her profession. She published her memoirs in 1904 titled ‘A Sister of Mercy’s Memories of the Crimea’ (Burns and Oates). When asked one time what she thought of Florence Nightingale, Mother Aloysius replied that she did not like her as she was too ‘bossy’ but that she was a great woman for getting things done for the poor, wounded and sick.
Writing Desk opened out to reveal interior inlaid with leather surrounded by a gilt border
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Fahy, M. de Lourdes, 1977/78 Mother M. Aloysius Doyle (1820-1908).  In Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society, 1977/1978, Vol. 36, pp. 70-77



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