independent

Friday 24 October 2014

Weeshie: 'Don't let St Finan's fall into disrepair'

KERRY LEGEND MAURICE FITZGERALD LAUNCHES BOOK

KEVIN HUGHES

Published 21/11/2012 | 16:56

Legendary Kerry Footballer Maurice Fitzgerald (centre) launching Weeshie Fogarty's book 'My Beautiful Obsession' Chasing the Kerry Dream with Weeshie and Gabriel Fitzmaurice Kerry poet and author at the Gleneagle Hotel, Killarney on Friday. Credit: Photo by Michelle Cooper Galvin

SPORTS journalist and broadcaster Weeshie Fogarty has warned that the St Finan's Hospital site will quickly fall into a state of disrepair if it remains unused and little is done towards its upkeep.

A former psychiatric nurse at the county facility, the Killarney man gave 38 years of service to the local hospital which saw its Victorian section close earlier this year.

"It has to be used for something and quickly before it falls into disrepair - there are community groups out there in need of accommodation and this is an ideal location," he said this week.

"People should be asked to apply to be sorted out and provisions should be made for certain groups. It's the biggest building in Kerry and was a community building, so it would be nice to keep it that way," he adds.

The Killarney man was speaking following the official launch of his book, 'My Beautiful Obsession: Chasing The Kerry Dream', which was launched by Kerry star Maurice Fitzgerald in The Gleneagle Hotel on Friday evening.

While the book largely features the author's sporting highlights and obsessions, it also tells of his time spent within the walls of the county psychiatric facility. Poignant and heart rendering at times, it details life both for staff and patients as well as the changing treatments over the years.

Joining the hospital 50 years ago last March and qualifying as a psychiatric nurse in 1965, he tells of how he was thrown into the deep end, ward five, which slept up to 40 "disturbed" patients.

He feels that some patients were "buried alive" for 40 years or more while there's a poignant piece concerning a seriously ill patient who died whilst on his watch and a note attached to his files in case of death.

'When John dies we are not to be contacted, the local Killarney undertaker MD O'Shea will handle all burial arrangements', it stated.

Highlighting how electro-consulvive therapy was used in many cases, he admits that it was "far too easy" to have a patient admitted back then.

Yet, despite the hardship and suffering within the walls, Weeshie says he would do it all over again.

"It was a rich and fulfiling life's work and, in spite of the harshness of the early regime there, I would enter the same profession if I had the choice again," he states.

"It is important to be clear that life inside the hospital was, for many who were admitted, far better than what they left outside. The hospital had electricity and running water before many rural areas of Kerry and the good these hospitals do is rarely documented," he continues.

"It would take a book of its own to recount my 38 years, there's so much history at St Finan's. That's why I would like to see the building put to good use and not left to decay," he adds.

See page 39 for more photos

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