Nurse Catherine McGovern

By Carmel O’Callaghan

Catherine Agnes McGovern was born on 22 February 1890 in Lisnalea, Bailieborough, the first child of Michael and Catherine McGovern née Clarke, who were teachers in St. Anne’s National School in Bailieborough.  Their home now belongs to Lynch’s opposite Doctor Cronin’s surgery.

She trained as a nurse in the Central London Sick Asylum, from 1911 to 1914.  The First World War began on 4 August 1914 and she went to France on 10 October 1914 with fifty nurses from the Red Cross Society.  According to her Red Cross record card she held the rank of Sister and was stationed in three places:
Laversine Park, a chateau owned by the Rothschild family in Northern France, which was used as a hospital.
Hotel Christol, Boulogne, a large hotel, which became known as the Allied Forces Base Hospital while her final posting was at the No. 2 Red Cross Hospital in Rouen. It was also a Base Hospital, from September 1914 until December 1918, holding 250 beds.

For her service during WW1 she was awarded three medals: The 1914 Star (the Mons Star) and clasp, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.  She was also awarded a narrow horizontal bronze clasp which was sewn onto the ribbon, bearing the dates ‘5th AUG. – 22nd NOV. 1914’, this proved that she had actually served under enemy fire.  On 16 February 1920, she was awarded her fourth medal, the Royal Red Cross second class (ARRC).  

When she came back to London she worked in The Royal Chest Hospital.  In January 1941 this hospital was badly bombed.  Even though she was bleeding profusely, injured and unable to walk unassisted, she went through the ruins to each part of the Hospital, supported by a Police Constable, to ensure that there was no possibility of anybody being left behind.  For her bravery she was awarded the George Medal, her fifth award.  Her colleagues Dr. Andre Bathfield and Staff Nurse Patricia Marmion, from Skibbereen were also awarded George Medals. 

Nurse Catherine McGovern

On 2 June 1954, Catherine retired, she was now 64 and the Hospital Management Committee presented Catherine with a certificate, stating that they sincerely appreciated her services at the Royal Chest Hospital from October 1919 to July 1954.

Catherine and her sister Mary Josephine, also a nurse had kept in touch with their hometown and they contributed towards the cathedral styled windows in St Anne’s Church in 1952.  Their donation is acknowledged along with others on a marble plaque in the porch as ‘Nurses McGovern’.  Both sisters died in Dublin, where they had retired to and are buried in St. Anne’s Cemetery.  Catherine Agnes died on 2 August 1984 and Mary Josephine died on 5 April 1985.