remembers victims of 1918 epidemic
The outbreak of avian flu in south east Asia is a chilling
reminder of the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic which resulted
in the deaths of more than 20 million people worldwide.
Majella Loftus reports on the impact of the devastating
virus in Mayo and the efforts to commemorate the victims.
Back in 1918 there was not one family in County Mayo who
was not affected or knew someone affected by the Spanish
Flu epidemic which killed more people worldwide than
World War I.
Between 1918 and 1921 the flu ravaged the country and the
villages of East Mayo were the worst affected. It is said
the soldiers brought the virus home from the great war and
wherever it entered a house its toll was usually more than
one person, with up to 40% of the worldwide population contracting
A fitting memorial to the many people who died as a result
of the flu in Mayo has been erected on the outskirts of
Aglish Estate in Castlebar. A significant number of those
who lost their lives were patients in St Marys Hospital,
all of whom were buried without ceremony and most in unmarked
Some years ago, the older members of staff of the hospital
expressed a wish to build a memorial to these people. A
small committee was set up and because of the amount of
progress and development in the town. It took some time
to establish where the memorial could be placed and remain
as a reminder to all.
The victims were buried in a corner at the end of the wall
between St Marys Hospital and the County Hospital
during the period 1918 to 1921. Committee member, Mr Matt
Shaw said It was closed at that stage and they were
put into the old graveyard. They were patients who werent
claimed out and in that time things were very
The graves were unmarked and there was no records kept and
we dont know how many people were buried there.
In relation to the monument, Mr Shaw said as far back as
40 years ago, staff of the hospital had wanted something
done in their memory. Nothing could be done in the specific
area they were buried for the reason trees had grown up
around them and you could see the mounds still there.
Rather than move the trees, we didnt want to
disturb it because many of them wouldnt have been
buried that deep and a lot of them were buried without coffins,
so we moved it a little away. The memorial is placed
on the side of the new road between Caseys Garage
and the Westport Roundabout.
The graveyard is now cut off from the grounds of St. Marys
Hospital Farm. That was exactly where the burial ground
was, along the side of the road. If you examine from
the memorial to about 20 yards towards the Westport road,
the old wall is still there. There is an L shaped piece
of the wall that was between the old jail and St. Marys
hospital as it is since 1935. The wall was there when St
Marys hospital was built. It is a fine wall and went
all around the hospital except areas where it was deemed
fairly safe for the patients. said Mr Shaw.
Not happy with just the memorial, the committee have high
hopes of restoring the wall and making it safe and have
it there for the history of Castlebar.
Its there and it is not going to be knocked
so something will be done with it over the next couple of
years, said Mr Shaw. Its just to remind
people of where we came from and what we did with our mentally
Work on the memorial has been jointly funded by the Western
Health Board and the County Council with the work being
undertaken by personnel supplied by the Town Council. Over
the coming months two black bowls will be placed on each
side and flowers planted each season.
Mr Shaw explained, The wording is the same as on an
old headstone in the old graveyard which is up about 18
There is a common burial ground in the graveyard at
the back of McDonalds with no records
of where the people were buried. There is one headstone
sitting at the centre and it just said In Loving Memory
of All Those Who Lie Here, May They Rest in Peace.
We made the decision not to put anything other than that
on this new memorial.
Courtesy of the Western People