Mary McDonald (O’Shea)
Twenty two year old Mary McDonald (O’Shea) was doing her midwifery training in the Rotunda Lying in Hospital at Easter 1916. Mary was tending a woman who was suffering with acute depression in a room above the Round Room when fighting began. She had left a war zone having served as a nurse in Normandy, France in 1914, before finishing her studies in England and returning to ‘peaceful’ Ireland.
During the Rising the British Military occupied the hospital and Mary and the staff were given orders to get on with their work, not go out of doors and keep away from the windows. Mary later recalled: ‘Shots and explosions were then the order of the day.’ Throughout Easter week as Mary later wrote: ‘we could not keep away from the window in spite of the warnings. We saw several people shot they were dragged off the street and put into our morgue. Following surrender she saw the leaders of the Rising as they were held in the hospital grounds.
Mary completed her training in Dublin and worked in England before returning to live in Laois where she had spent her childhood. She married and became Mrs O’Shea. From 1935 to 1950 it is said that she delivered 2,000 babies covering an area which included Abbeyleix, Durrow, Ballinaskill, Shanahoe and Raheen. She made her way around the district on a bicycle. As a result of being knocked from her bike by a car, she was forced to retire.