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Location: Coach House, Kilmachthomas

John Coghlan

Summary

A Doctor of Famine times was remembered by Waterford Civic Trust earlier this month with a Heritage Blue Plaque unveiled at Coach House Coffee in Kilmacthomas.

The plaque honours Dr. John Coghlan, a distinguished doctor and humanitarian who arrived in Dungarvan in 1832, as a dispensary doctor, transferring to Kilmacthomas on February 1, 1833. He was to serve the community for forty years, winning their deep appreciation and respect as a highly regarded medical practitioner.

In 1845, famine broke out in Ireland and Dr. Coghlan advocated for a fever hospital in Kilmacthomas, serving as its medical officer when it opened. He also championed the workhouse and infirmary, which opened in 1851.

A great humanitarian, who was deeply concerned about the welfare of those entrusted to his care, he was active in projects tackling the poverty, squalor, disease and starvation prevalent in the district. These included a soup kitchen, the planting of vegetable gardens, the supply of clothing and blankets, improvements to housing conditions and the cultivation of a textile industry.

At times, his concern found him in conflict with the Board of Guardians, which was responsible for the management of the fever hospital and workhouse. Dr. Coghlan did not consider the diet in the hospital as adequate and informed the Guardians of his opinion. They were not willing to incur additional expense to remedy the situation. They pointed out to him a list of hospitals which were run more cheaply.

This prompted Coghlan, who died in 1874, to observe: “If it became the practice to put one hospital against another merely for the cheapness at which it carried out its duties, I know of nothing which could prove more destructive to the objects for which hospitals have been instituted.”

Des Griffin, Chair of Waterford Civic Trust, said he believes that it is important to record the actions and achievements of a person who did so much to improve the lives of others.

“During times of famine and great distress Dr. John Coghlan served the people of Kilmacthomas and the adjoining areas with great professionalism and real compassion. An unsung hero, the Heritage Blue Plaque gives him the public recognition he richly deserves”.