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Previously unpublished Mother Teresa letters go online

Author: Petrina Vousden
25 January 2017
  • Holly Cooper, Janice Redmond, Gerardine Montgomery and Patrick Ussher

HUNDREDS of previously unpublished documents including letters from Mother Teresa about a hospice for AIDS patients are included in an online archive documenting 30 years of the Irish Hospice Foundation (IHF), .

HUNDREDS of previously unpublished documents including letters from Mother Teresa about a hospice for AIDS patients are included in an online archive documenting 30 years of the Irish Hospice Foundation (IHF).

People can access the free online resource from today and browse through collections which feature some of the best known names from the world of music, poetry, literature, broadcasting and politics who have supported the IHF over three decades.

There are 2,000 items in the online archive created to mark the 30th anniversary of the IHF.

Mary Kennedy, M.C. at today’s launch in the Royal Irish Academy, said: “This archive spans three decades of the IHF since it’s foundation in 1986 and features some very familiar names that have supported the hospice movement. It maps the history of the hospice including ground breaking IHF programmes like Hospice Friendly Hospitals and Nurses for Night Care, innovative fundraising projects like the Whoseday Book and their pioneering research.

It brings items that were hidden to light in an easy accessible format. If you’ve been involved with the IHF you may well find your image or name mentioned in the archive. The archive will evolve and update so if you have items of interest then contact the IHF to have them included.”

The free online resource contains over 75 Collections, 1070 images, 223 text files, 66 videos and 20 audio recordings at present.

Mother Teresa, Bono, Maeve Binchy, Gabriel Byrne, Seamus Heaney, Pat Kenny, Miriam O’Callaghan, Marian Finucane, Gavin Friday, TK Whitaker, Christy Moore are all featured in the archive.

Items at archives.hospicefoundation.ie include:

  • TK Whitaker’s speech and photos from IHF launch in 1986
  • Original photograph of Seamus Heaney’s hands  by photographer Perry Ogden with notes for cover of the Whoseday Book – a Unique Diary for the Millennium. The book in aid of the IHF had 366 contributors including poets, filmmakers and song writers.
  • Correspondence between Dr Mary Redmond and Mother Teresa.
  • Correspondence relating to the preparation of the Whoseday book including draft sketches and letters for the final publication valued at £550,000 in 2000. The collection was bought by Bank of Ireland and was donated to the National Library.
  • A unique design agency sketch giving layout of the Peter and the Wolf book which was illustrated by Bono in aid of the IHF.
  • The original letter from Dr Mary Redmond to  Sr Frances Rose O’Flynn of Our Lady’s Hospice Harold’s Cross in 1985 recounting how the death of her father highlighted the importance of hospice care for terminally ill patients and their families.
  • A meeting memorandum between Dr Redmond and Dame Cicely Saunders– founder of the modern hospice movement – in February 9th 1986.

Laura Rooney Ferris, IHF Information and Library Manager and archive creator said: “Often after a death, the first thing we do is open family albums or boxes in the attic to bring back memories of a lost loved one. At the IHF we’ve spent three decades supporting people at end of life so the occasion of our 30th anniversary was a time to pause and gather on our own memories.

  

In creating this digital archive we are publically sharing our family album. We are incredibly grateful to Mary Redmond’s family for this large collection of her personal papers and documents, and also to former board and staff members and people involved throughout the 30 years who kindly contributed. We’re calling on members of the public to share their photographs, memorabilia and items related to the IHF projects for addition.”               

     

Denis Doherty, IHF’s longest serving board member said: “A look back at the RTE documentary ‘Today Tonight – A Hospice for the Dying’ in the archive shows the remarkable vision Dr Mary Redmond had in setting up the IHF. The programme, aired 30 years ago, shows death for ‘many people’ in Ireland at that time ended in severe pain and isolation. Few doctors and nurses were trained to care for the special needs of the dying, the bereaved and those in pain. There were only three named hospices; one in Cork, Dublin and Limerick. The idea of dying without pain seemed a curiosity - an alien concept.

“The work of the IHF and its supporters has changed that. The hospice movement with its concentration on quality of life, excellent symptom control and care of both the dying and their loved ones has grown from a ‘small movement’ to a national movement.”

Mr Doherty said the IHF will continue to strive for the right of every individual in Ireland to live as well as possible up to the moment of their death. “It will continue to embrace Dr Redmond’s vision that no one will face death or bereavement without the care and support they need.”

The archive was launched in tandem with the IHF’s impact report ‘Our Impact 1986-2016’ outlining 30 years of achievements.

Jean McKiernan, IHF Chairperson said: “The archive and impact report show great strides in the expansion of hospice and palliative care services. The IHF is making a difference at end-of-life in homes and across healthcare settings 24/7. None of this work has been achieved alone we work in partnership with individuals, communities and organisations across Ireland.”

For example more than 150 hospitals and nursing homes have signed up to IHF programmes to improve end-of-life care. About three thousand healthcare professionals take part in IHF education and training programmes every year.

The IHF’s Nurses for Night Care Service is helping 500 families annually, giving people the option to be cared for in their own homes during their final days.

It has invested €4.5 million in palliative care services for children since 2005.

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