Chronology and story of Lucinda and the Trust
Lucinda Brady was born. She was a philanthropist, an artist, a writer on topics such as women’s charities, hospital work and nursing, and promoted the welfare of children. She engaged in philanthropic work to better the conditions of the poorer classes and was concerned about the welfare of children, her biggest concern being children crippled by diseases of the spine, bones and joints.
She married Dr Robert Sullivan (who died only 3 years later in 1868 and who was involved in education of children, having founded some schools named after him, which are still in existence).
Was an important year in Lucinda’s life.
She was appointed the Lady Superintendent of Nursing at the Adelaide Hospital Dublin due to her progressive and reforming approach. She was very upset seeing children so ill, living in damp impoverished conditions and dying. She wanted to open a care home to combine hospital care, schooling and occupation in a country home with fresh air and caring. Lucinda travelled to Lake Zurich to spend a month in a healing community there and she also worked in hospitals in Germany, Switzerland and London.
On Lake Zurich, Lucinda’s life was spared in an accident involving 2 boats which crashed. She was rescued moments before her boat, the St Gotthard, sank. She was a woman of strong Christian faith and attributed being saved to divine intervention and she decided to devote the rest of her life and her energies to alleviate suffering.
She then visited the hospital and training centre in Dusseldorf that Florence Nightingale had visited 25 years before as she wanted to learn something that might be turned to use back home in Ireland.
She wrote a letter to the Daily Express paper proposing to open a home for little children suffering with bone and joint infections in a very descriptive way and seeking funds and donations for this project. The Editor supported it and the proposal drew a strong public response and many donations were received over the next months. Many noted businesspeople were benefactors, including Lord and Lady Powerscourt. Lucinda purchased the building on Dargle Road in Bray that was a former workman’s hall and opened the Home, known as The Cripples Home in 1874 and 14 little beds were installed, decorated with bright paintings and bedcovers.
The Home had space for 14 children with many illnesses, and 2 years later Lucinda began building a new wing and it did indeed provide a Home, a hospital and an education for the children as she wanted. Lucinda fundraised and sought donations and the new wing, named after the Duchess of Abercorn, wife of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, was built with no debt, raising the capacity to 40 children.
One fundraising event was attended by the Duchess of Marlborough and Lady Georgiana Spencer Churchill. Visitors such as Mr Gladstone, a British Prime Minister, the Queen of Romania and Viscountess Powerscourt called, and there is much written about the visitors and their impressions of the home and of Lucinda in the press of that time. The standard of care was observed to be excellent and the children were loved and cared for and many made remarkable recoveries and went on to work and train in different areas which was part of Lucinda’s vision.
Lucinda remained Lady Superintendent until 1875 and Dr John Kellock Barton, senior surgeon and one of the founders of the Adelaide Hospital treated the children.
Lucinda developed cancer at 50 and died on 23 August 1881, and her sister Louise Brady took over the running of the Home.
The home became a registered charity in 1884 and rules were set up how it was to be governed with a body of governors of whom 4 would be Trustees.
Another new wing was built for children with diseases of limbs and skeletal problems, often from poor nutrition, and requiring many operations.
It was the year of the great flood, Louise asked for donations. A bray disaster fund was set up by Lord Meath and the Cripples Home was a beneficiary.
An open air sunlight balcony was added in 1928 because Lucinda and Louise had been interested in looking at heliotherapy in Switzerland and felt fresh air was beneficial. Documentation at the time noted that children with tuberculosis were cured after being treated in the Home, being referred from many hospitals.
Louise Brady died in 1928 aged 98.
The name was changed to Sunbeam House to reflect the interest in light and the outdoors and fresh air as treatment.
Glenmalure House on a lovely site on the Vevay Road was purchased and everyone moved in. There were many parties on the lawns, animals and pets and an annual fete day.
The focus of the children referred to the Home changed due to the eradication or reduction of certain childhood illnesses and diseases. Children who hadn’t families or who presented with intellectual impairment came to live in the Home from all over Ireland.
The Home had a school room in it for some years but some prefabs were positoned outside in the grounds and a separate school began with a principal and teachers.
The Trustees were aware of the need for post school training for some of the children aged 18. A separate entity was created called Sunbeam House Industrial Training Centre and opened in the courtyard beside the Home with a starting group of 8 – made up of some residents who had finished schooling and others who were referred from other schools.
Subjects such as woodwork, metalwork, activities of daily living such as literacy and numeracy were taught, and this expanded to include weaving, horticulture, cookery, life skills and many others.
The numbers of students grew as did the staff. A separate centre in Arklow on the Ballyraine campus was opened. Clients of differing abilities were referred from special schools or who had never attended anywhere, so services had to alter, expand and diversify to meet their needs. Soon the services were for clients ranging from people who needed 24/7 care to people who completed 2 years training and went to work at one of the workshops or gained employment within the community.
Many other services were added, including residential houses all over Wicklow and there are now 50 locations where 100’s of clients’ needs are served as well as admin HQ in Bray.
The book Equal Citizens sets out to tell the story of how the services grew from Lucinda’s vision, skill, hard work and commitment, along with her sister Louise, from small beginnings to the large multilayered complex social care organisation it is now.
Lucinda Sullivan 1831-1881