The Curragh Military Hospital and the Army Nursing Service


As published in An Cosantóir in March, 2012
By Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald / Photos by Cpl Noel Coss (retd)

302_001The Curragh Military Hospital has a long and varied history. Over many years its staff has treated British troops, World War Two internees, and IRA prisoners, as well as countless numbers of our own troops and their families since the Irish Free State Army took over the hospital from the withdrawing British Army in early September 1922.

Photo 1

Members of the newly formed Army Nursing Service outside the Curragh Hospital in 1922, the only person identified is Sister Mary Ward (back row centre) from Kilfenora, Co. Clare, who was Lt Col CJ Browne’s great-aunt.

One of its busiest periods was during the 1970s when many prominent Republican prisoners were treated there, including a number who had gone on hunger strike in Portlaoise Prison. Many of the current sisters of the Army Nursing Service (ANS) came to the hospital during the ‘70s, and they speak very admirably of this period in the hospital’s history. Staff Sister Miriam Hyland told us that when she came in 1976 there were 34 sisters in the hospital providing full-time care 24/7, 365 days a year for soldiers, and from 1983/4 to their families as well.

Photo 2

This document is an Army Form C. 348, dated 6th June 1904, from OC 11th Hussars asking for his men to be inoculated on a Sunday, and the hospital’s OC replying that Sunday was not convenient.

The Curragh hospital was the first to be licensed to inoculate against yellow fever within the Defence Forces and over the last five decades the majority of our troops who have travelled overseas on UN peace-keeping missions have received their inoculations there.
In the current era, the hospital’s main function is in the area of occupational healthcare, with the sisters specialising in vaccinations and operating the family clinic (the only one in service in the DF) and is centred on primary care. With only five sisters remaining the hospital provides out-patient and specialist clinics to soldiers, and GP care to their families. With the reduction in staff, the hospital now provides only a 9-5 military medical facility and the family clinic.

Photo 3

The remaining members of the ANS at the Curragh: (l/r) Sisters Margaret Grelish, Merriam Hyland, Sheila Deasy, Marion Cleary. (Not in the photo is Sister Finola Neylon.)

With an average service of 32 years and a combined service of 158 years, the remaining sisters have some great memories, and also some tragic ones, from over the years.
An interesting little fact we came across was a door on the now decommissioned chapel, which carried a sign saying ‘The blessed sacrament is not revered here’ and yet it still houses statues made by a Benedictine monk in the 1970s.

Whatever the future holds for the hospital, we hope the long-standing ghost story of the army nurse in her grey uniform and red cape doing her rounds in Ward 7 in the middle of the night doesn’t put off any prospective tenant.

Photo 4

Sister Deasy cares for a young family member Aaron Fitzgerald.

We would like to thank Lt Col C Browne (Rtd), Lt Col M Murphy (OC CMH) and the sisters for kindly speaking to us and allowing us to visit.

Read these stories and more in An Cosantóir (The Defender) The official magazine of the Irish Defence Forces –

Veterans Recall Happy Memories


As published in An Cosantóir in October 2012.
By Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald – Photos Cpl Noel Coss

IMG_2586IMG_2608On 2nd August 2012 staff from An Cosantóir visited Hamilton Park Residential Facility in Balrothery, Co Dublin. The centre looks after people with a range of health problems, including Alzheimer’s illness and brain injuries and provides pre- and post-transplant convalescent care, as well as day care and respite care. IMG_2612Two of the facility’s residents are retired Defence Forces personnel, Pte Oliver Reilly and Sgt Patrick Reilly (no relation).

Oliver (aged 76), from Stamullen, Co Meath, served in Gormanston Camp with Tpt Pl, Air Corps Admin Coy, from1957-1980. Oliver is a veteran of 37 Inf Gp ONUC, Congo, and also served with UNICYP, Cyprus, in 1973. Patrick (aged 86) from Granard, Co Longford, served 25 years and also finished his service in Gormanston Camp, although he had a long career prior to that with 5 Inf Bn in Collins Bks, Dublin.

The two former soldiers’ behavioural therapist in the centre is a serving RDF member, Cpl Gillian Dunne of A Coy, 65 Inf Bn, based in Swords. Gillian, who has served six years in the RDF, had contacted us to let us know about the two retirees who still enjoy having the Cosantóir read out to them. Director of Nursing, Debra Lynch, said that along with family visits, seeing us in uniform and hearing stories from An Cosantóir will help Patrick and Oliver to relive their old soldiering memories, which also helps the residence with their care.


Pictured (L/R): Debra Lynch, Patrick Reilly, Oliver Reilly and Gillian Dunne

We hope our two former colleagues will enjoy this article and we send them our best wishes.

Read these stories and more in An Cosantóir (The Defender) The official magazine of the Irish Defence Forces –

The World’s Toughest Cycle Race (RAAM)


Published in An Cosantóir on June 1, 2011.
By Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald – Photos courtesy of Donncha Cuttriss

01 RAAMIt requires stamina, true grit and sheer determination to take on a gruelling 12-day, 3,000-mile journey on a bicycle, but that is exactly what 39-year-old, former corporal, Donncha Cuttriss has been training for every day since he left the Defence Forces in January. His goal is to be the first Irishman to participate as a solo competitor in the Race Across America (RAAM), widely recognised as ‘the world’s toughest cycle race’. The race starts in Oceanside, California, and ends in Anapolis, Maryland, passing through Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania on the way, and climbing to 10,849ft at its highest point.RAAM logo

Donncha (‘Capper’ to his friends) is an ultra-cyclist adventure sports athlete with a growing reputation. The ethos that moulds an athlete like Donncha is probably best summed up in a quote from the famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) cyclist Lance Armstrong who said:

“Pain is temporary; it may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.”

02 RAAMWhen Donncha left the Defence Forces in January 2011 he had completed 21 years service, during which he had served in 1 Fd CIS, the DFTC, and 1 Fd Engr Coy. He also had 10 trips overseas to missions in Lebanon, Eritrea, Liberia and Chad. He credits his military service with equipping him with the necessary attitude and skills required when training for a challenge such as the RAAM. Donncha must average 22 hours cycling a day to achieve the fitness and stamina levels needed to compete in the race. He has already completed 24- and 30-hour cycles with his crew, and his training continues. He departed for the US on May 16th to complete his last month’s training before the big race starts on June 15th. On the day the race starts RTÉ are to broadcast a documentary on Donncha’s training and preparations for the race.

03 RAAMUsing his efforts to raise money for charity is also very important to the Corkman and his chosen charity is the Meath-based Aisling Group International, founded in 1988 by Marie Byrne, which provides help and information for people in relation to drugs and alcohol misuse. The Aisling Group’s domestic and international charity work received deserved recognition in 2008 when it was presented with an All Islands Special Endeavour Award by President Mary McAleese. Thankfully, people like Donncha give us mere mortals a chance to help worthwhile charities the easy way, by ‘donating a little to help a lot’.

04 RAAMFundraising was launched 2 months ago by Cork’s Lord Mayor Michael O’Connell where Donncha was accorded a Civic Reception. In one event Donncha’s friends organised a 25km charity cycle through Cork City, setting out from Collins Bks and stopping off at the Elm Tree Bar & Restaurant in Glounthane for light refreshments. The Elm Tree is owned by Capper’s old schoolmate and lifelong friend Derek Walshe who generously donated €3,000 towards Donncha’s costs for the RAAM, which are estimated at €20,000. Everything received above that amount will go to the Aisling Group. Donncha’s bike worth €6,000 was sponsored by in Dublin.

Another of Donncha’s old school friends, Sgmn Darren O’Connell (1 Fd CIS), also deserves special mention for his enthusiastic support for Capper’s efforts. Anyone wishing to donate to Donncha’s venture can do so through the ‘Donate’ section of the Aisling Group’s website, or ring 046-9074300. You can follow Donncha on his journey by visiting blog

Donncha signed off, saying:

“I hope I can inspire others to believe they can achieve whatever they want to achieve in their lives, and I also hope I can provide any information and support to help anyone to achieve their life’s goals.”

Read these stories and more in An Cosantóir (The Defender) The official magazine of the Irish Defence Forces –