The Adelaide Hospital and Protestant Healthcare in Twentieth Century Ireland

Drugs case Adelaide

‘Follow the money’ was the sound advice of the enigmatic Deep Throat in Alan J. Pakula’s All the President’s Men. Follow the money, and you are on the trail of the truth, revealing who calls the shots and what priorities are made to matter.

The archives of the Adelaide Hospital allow the historian to pursue any number of avenues of enquiry. One of those avenues is to follow the money.

Especially well preserved from external influence, the Adelaide Hospital refused to accept money from the Hospital Trust Fund which raised its sums from the Irish Hospitals’ Sweepstakes, a lottery underpinned by statute.

Great effort went into raising funds through collections, fairs, and cultural events. In the 1950s, global talent was brought to Dublin’s theatres including Ukrainian-born classical pianist Benno Moiseiwitsch, Polish-born classical pianists Jan Smeterlin and Arthur Rubinstein, and Spanish-born classical guitarist, Andrés Segovia.

Why was it so important to resist the temptation of ‘the sweep’? A moral rejection of the vice of gambling played a role, but it was only part of the picture. There was an alternative and underlying fear.

The editor of the Church of Ireland Gazette argued that ‘with money will come the interference of those who administer it […] in this Christian land a hospital can also be a happy hunting ground for the saving of souls. A hospital can be a proselytizing agency, for a sick person may be too weak or too polite to say that he has come for physical treatment and not for spiritual experimentation.’

It was not gambling per se which the Adelaide Hospital was resisting, but interference from the predominantly Catholic world outside.

Robbie Roulston

Dr Roulston, UCD School of History and Archives, will give a paper to the UCD Centre for the History of Medicine in Ireland on Thursday 3 April 2014 at 5:00pm, entitled ‘”The most priceless possession of Protestants in this country”: the Adelaide Hospital and upholding Protestant healthcare in Ireland 1950-1972.’