A vintage St John Ambulance on display at the dlr LexIcon

Thursday, September 6, 2018
Dun Laoghaire
Intro Text 

An exhibition titled “World War 1 Ireland’s Humanitarian Effort” has been officially launched by Josepha Madigan TD, Minister for Culture Heritage and the Gaeltacht at the dlr Lexicon in Dún Laoghaire. The exhibition sets out to recall some of those stories during the final centenary year of World War 1 recognising and remembering the citizen’s contribution to the war effort. The 60 facets exhibition was curated by Pádraig Allen and is the largest exhibition ever created on this subject.

A largely forgotten story from the Great War is the voluntary work of ordinary Irish citizens who devoted much of their time to assist the humanitarian effort in World War 1. These non-combatants came from all sections of Irish society. In the words of the St John Ambulance Brigade and British Red Cross Society report 1914-1918

The tragedy of the First World War brought out the best in many Irish people. Thousands gave freely of their time. The volunteer work of citizens during the period of the war was extraordinary, they responded to the humanitarian call out during a time when no national health service existed. The number of volunteers, the range of activities, funds raised, and sacrifices made, including the ultimate sacrifice, is largely unrecognised and unremembered.

The contributions represent all social grades of the people, and all religious denominations, Catholic and Protestant, nationalist and unionist, rich and poor.


Taken from St John Ambulance Ireland’s archive, the exhibition interweaves the personal stories of those who worked quietly and tirelessly in the background to alleviate pain, suffering and depravation of both combatants and non-combatants alike.

Only recently unearthed by St John Ambulance volunteer Pàdraig Allen, the archive is a substantial collection of over 3000 photographs and records dating back to the start of the organisation’s work in Ireland from 1880 onwards. Many of the photographs and records have not been publically displayed before, with Pádraig founding the archive he has aimed to shed light on the collection throughout the decade of centenaries and has aired on RTÉ and radio highlighting the collection.

In addition to the main exhibition there is also a vintage St John Ambulance vehicle, a 1915 Ford Model T, which gives a vivid impression of the austerity of the time.