Agnes Jones, Fahan Village

Fahan Presbyterian Church is within a few Km from the he monastic village of Fahan. The village ncludes the historic St. Mura's graveyard containing 8th century St. Mura's cross, the grave of Agnes Jones (nursing pioneer who worked with Florence Nightengale), the old abbey ruins the rectory, where the great hymnwriter Cecil Frances Alexander lived; the graveyard where 68 victims of the Laurentic are buried; Fahan House where Agnes Jones lived as a young girl.

Agnes Elizabeth Jones (1832 – 1868) of Fahan, County Donegal, Ireland became the first trained Nursing Superintendent of Liverpool Workhouse Infirmary. She gave all her time and energy to her patients and died at the age of 35 from typhus fever. Florence Nightingale said of Agnes Elizabeth Jones, ‘She overworked as others underwork. I looked upon hers as one of the most valuable lives in England.’

Agnes Jones was born at Cambridge into a wealthy family with both military and evangelistic religious connections. Her uncle was Sir John Lawrence, later Lord Lawrence who went on to become Governor General of India.

In the early years of Agnes Jones life, the family moved to Fahan in County Donegal, Ireland, though they followed her father's career with the army, notably to Mauritius. She was a deeply religious girl and was consumed by a passion to benefit her fellows and redeem herself from sin. During a holiday in Europe with the family she met and was deeply impressed by deaconesses who were from the Institution of Kaiserwerth, which had earlier overseen the early nursing experiences of Florence Nightingale. She visited the Institution in Bonn, returning home to Ireland to use the experience she had gained.

In 1859 she went to London, making contact with Florence Nightingale and Mrs Wardroper, senior nurse of St Thomas Hospital. Miss Nightingale said of her that she was " a woman attractive and rich and young and witty; yet a veiled and silent woman, distinguished by no other genius than the divine genius"

In 1862 Agnes Jones commenced nurse training in the Nightingale School at St Thomas Hospital in London. When her years’ training was complete, Miss Nightingale called her "one of our best pupils". However her greatest work was ahead of her and was in Liverpool.

In 1865 she accepted an invitation from William Rathbone to take the leadership of an experiment he was conducting in the Brownlow Hill Workhouse, one of the biggest in the country. This was to bring trained nurses to the care of sick paupers. This was a radical deviation from the normal practices of workhouse management, which by law were obliged to deter the very poor from entering the workhouse by making conditions inside worse than those available to the working poor outside. The conditions in the workhouse were described "disorder, extravagance of every description in the establishment to an incredible degree"

Miss Jones contribution to the welfare of the sick paupers was enormous, and she worked tirelessly to make the experiment a success. However the work took its toll upon her, and at the age of just 35 years of age she died of typhus fever.This condition was endemic among the poor of Liverpool during this period.

The memory of her outstanding contribution to nursing, to Liverpool and to the poor is commemorated in Liverpool. A window in the Anglican Cathedral is dedicated to her memory, and a statue to her exists in the Cathedral Oratory. Also, a local housing association has named a large student hall of residence after her.

 

Tooban 

Fahan 

Co Donegal 

Republic of Ireland