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The McManus Family
By Brian Hoban
26, Nov 2012 - 19:42

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The McManus family who lived in Killedan, Kiltimagh achieved fame in the early twentieth century. Emily played a key role in nursing circles during WW1 & WW2 and later as Matron of Guys Hospital in London. Her brother Dermot and sister Lottie were key figures in the Irish Literary Revival.




I remember Miss McManus visiting my mother (formerly Kathleen Gilmartin, Ross, Killala) in our shop in Newtown, Castlebar. My mother trained as a nurse in Guys Hospital where Miss Mc Manus was nursing tutor. There was a book published in 1956 entitled "Matron Of Guy's" by Emily Elvira Primrose Mac Manus. This book is available in reference section Mayo Library some years ago.

Daughter of Leonard Strong McManus, Emily made a lasting contribution to modern nursing during a long career which saw service in both WW1 and WW2 and additionally saw her awarded OBE (1947) and later CBE for services rendered. She served as Matron of Guys and also as Matron of the Bristol Royal Infirmary.

The name and work of Miss McManus was known far beyond the famous hospital. She writes of her early life, her family background and her experience in WWI. After four years as matron of Bristol Royal Infirmary she was asked to return to Guy's as Matron where she served until her retirment in 1947.

Miss Mc Manus played an important role in WW1 & WW2 for the work she carried out with the Red Cross. Emily McManus was Matron of Guys from 1927 to 1946 and brought her experience of World War I to bear throughout the photographed underground surgery and casualties of World War II.She lived for a number of years of her retirement in a summer residence the family had near Pontoon. She died in the Sacred Heart Home, Castlebar, after all her fame and dedicated work as a nurse.

Remembered in London

A permanent Mini Museum for Guy's Hospital, London celebrating the institution's colourful and innovative past with exhibits, photos and paintings has been established with the help of £50,000 funded by Guy's and St Thomas' Charity . A recent press release from the museum includes the following:

"Eminent women are represented by Sarah Swift, Matron from 1900 until she became Matron-In-Chief for the British Red Cross Society in the Great War and Emily McManus, Matron from 1927 who brought her experience of World War I to bear throughout the photographed underground surgery and casualties of World War II."

The following is a short description I came across about her hitch-hiking in France on her days off during WW1.

Many people born in the last days of Queen Victoria probably had their first taste of hitch-hiking in France during the First World War. The word common among soldiers in the First World War was 'lorry-hopping' or 'lorryjumping'.

It wasn't only officers and soldiers who used lifting as a way of getting round behind the lines in wartime France. Nurses did it too. A woman who later became matron at Guy's Hospital, Miss Mc Manus, did a lot of lifting on her days off:

"Another sister and I decided to 'lorry-hop' forward, to see one of the recently released French villages that had been in German occupation during the whole war. Luck was with us, for a staff car passed and kindly gave us a lift.... They set us down with good wishes and we took a left hand turn. Soon a lorry came along and we were speeding on the road once more ...." from the writings of Emily Mc Manus.

About the McManus family:
The McManus family came from Westmeath. James McManus, perhaps inspired by the travel stories of his uncle, Capt. James Corrigan, left Ireland to seek his fortune as the manager of a sugar plantation in British Guinea. There he married an English girl named Charlotte Strong, in 1845. Her father was the Rev. Leonard Strong who bought lands in Ireland, among which were the Killeaden property.

The Reverend Leonard Strong, a church missionary, with an address in Torquay, Devon, England in 1876, held an estate of 926 acres in the parishes of Bohola and Killedan, barony of Gallen, county Mayo in the mid 19th century. According to Emily MacManus the Reverend Leonard Strong gave the Killedan property to his son in law James MacManus in 1853. James MacManus was her grandfather. The MacManus family lived in Killedan for a number of years but moved to England when the land agitation began. 470 acres belonging to the Strong family was vested in the Congested Districts' Board on 16 Jan 1901.

Two other members of the Mc Manus family were writers of note and actively involved in the Irish Literary Revival. They were :

1. Lottie Mc Manus: writer and novelist, of Killedan House, Kiltimagh.

James McManus gave the Killeaden property to James and Charlotte McManus in 1853, soon after their return to Ireland. They had lived briefly in Westmeath and in Castlebar where their daughter, Lottie, the writer, was born in what is now Heaton's store in Ellison St., Castlebar. It was only while living in Sussex, the family having left Killeaden, that she began to read about Ireland, and to realise that her earlier views were misinformed and crude. "The Bog of Stars" by Standish O' Grady had a great effect on her, and whetted her appetite for things Irish. At this time, too, she became aware of Raftery's poem, in praise of her own Killeaden.

In 1897 she returned to Killeaden, having become completely Nationalist in her outlook. "The door to the inner court had been locked to the writer (i. e. herself), for but one key would open it, the Irish language".

Whatever about the success or otherwise of her efforts to learn Irish, she set about founding branches of the Gaelic League throughout Mayo. Irish, she tells us was the mother tongue of the older folk, especially when conversing among themselves or saying their prayers. Their grownup sons and daughters could speak it, too, but seldom did and never to their children. It was regarded as a mark of degradation.

In the following June 1898, she called on Fr. Denis O'Hara, P.P., Kiltimagh, "with the hope of establishing a branch of the Gaelic League in the parish". Although he received her kindly, he believed that the revival of the language was "impracticable and a sentiment". Nevertheless, he agreed to preside at a meeting held after second Mass on a fine July day of that year. Forty members enrolled after the formal speech, and Coillte Maghach had the second branch in Mayo, after Newport.

2. Captain Dermot Mc Manus.
D.A. Mc Manus was born in Killedan, near Kiltimagh and was well known author in the Irish Literary Revival. He served in World War Iwhere he reached the rank of Captain.He entered TCD after, and participated in affairs of the Thomas Davis Society; acted as review editor of the Irish Statesman in the early 1920s and met W. B. Yeats; issued The Middle Kingdom: The Faerie World of Ireland (London 1959; rep. Colin Smythe 1973); delivered paper on the Irish Literary Revival to the Harrowgate Literary Society, 1965; d. circa 1990.


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