In 1667 Dublin Corporation spent three hundred pounds in laying foundations for a poorhouse on the site now occupied by St. James's Hospital. However the wars between William and James intervened and the work was abandoned until 17O3 when Mary, Duchess of Ormonde, laid the foundation stone for the new development.
In 1727 a foundling hospital was opened on the site and many famous people including Jonathan Swift and the original Arthur Guinness served on the board of governors. Between 179O and 1795 Abraham Colles worked as an apprentice of Philip Woodroffe, surgeon to the foundling hospital and Dr. Steevens' Hospital. The foundling hospital was closed in the early years of the nineteenth century. The buildings were then used as a workhouse for the poor and it became known as the South Dublin Union. The workhouse infirmary which originally catered for sick inmates only began to take on an increasingly active role as an infirmary for the sick poor. Some very able doctors worked here during that period including Robert Mayne who published important papers on cardiological topics.
In 1916 the South Dublin Union was occupied by rebel forces and during the subsequent fighting a member of the nursing staff was accidentally killed. The hospital continued to develop as a municipal hospital with the formation of the new state and the name was changed to St. Kevin's Hospital.
Later in the century plans were made to amalgamate some of the smaller voluntary hospitals in the city and to build a new hospital at St. Kevin's which would become known as St. James's Hospital. The board of St. James's Hospital met for the first time in 1971 and the planning of the new hospital began. In the mid eighties the government's need to cut back on public spending brought about by the closure of Sir Patrick Dun's Hospital, Dr. Steeven's Hospital and the Royal City of Dublin Hospital in Baggot Street. Mercer's Hospital had already closed in 1983. Most of the services provided by these historic hospitals were incorporated into the rapidly developing St. James's Hospital. Many famous doctors such as Robert Graves and Robert Smith had worked in these voluntary hospitals. St. James's Hospital is now a major teaching hospital for Trinity College and there is a new Teaching Centre on the campus which was officially opened in 1994. This building incorporates the clinical departments of the medical school, the unit for dietetics and nutrition, the nursing school, the postgraduate centre and the library of the Faculty of Health Sciences. Plans are already underway to expand this centre and to include the Schools of Physiotherapy and of Occupational Therapy in the new development.
As can be seen from this short historical resume, St. James's Hospital has developed by the blending together of different traditions - traditions which give the hospital pride in its past and confidence in its future.
Professor D Coakley