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Behind the Scenes: Heritage and Education – The Richmond District Lunatic Asylum School

Throughout Heritage Week we have been highlighting aspects from our collections relating to this year’s theme of ‘Heritage and Education: Learning from our Heritage’.  We have looked at music education, the rebel teacher, apprenticeships, school architecture, National School teachers, and the call for vocational and agricultural education. Not forgetting our current Document of the Month which focuses on the provision of evening school for working adults.

Here we have an 1870s timetable for the male school of the Richmond Lunatic Asylum from the annual report . During the tenure of Dr. Joseph Lalor as resident medical superintendent of the Richmond District Lunatic Asylum between 1857 – 1886, the hospital became recognised internationally for the important role that education played in the treatment of patients.  Lalor was from Kilkenny and started his career in psychiatry as the first resident physician of the Kilkenny District Lunatic Asylum from 1852- 57.  He believed that education and training were vital elements in the treatment process of patients confined to the asylum and at one point more than half the residents in the hospital were engaged in study. Other countries, particularly the United States,  had initiated earlier schemes  of education in asylums but  Dr Lalor’s  initiative in Dublin was regarded as the most effective and made him the most highly respected Irish psychiatrist of his time.

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