Emily Weddall

Edenderry Co Offaly
Sir Patrick's Dun's Hospital Engraving from National Library of Medicine
Scoil Acla logo
St. Thomas's Church Dugort Achill 2018 by Mick Reynolds
Emily Weddall's Grave stone at Republican Plot Glasnevin Cemetery Dublin
Dooagh Achill Island

Emily Weddell was one of the Founders of Scoil Acla.  This lady was the first to lay a wreath at the Fenian Leader O ‘Donovan Rossa’s grave in Glasnevin Cemetery Dublin.


Emily Burke was born in Edenderry Co. Offaly to William John Burke, who had previously married a widow Catherine Kennedy whilst still a Priest during 1867.  When he was ex – communicated both her parents converted to Protestantism then became an Evangelical Minister.  Following the demise of his wife he married Emily Mc Arthur from a wealthy Printing family in Dublin.  They moved to Edenderry then to Ballinasloe in Galway.  Her siblings were Miriam, Richard & John Jasper.  They spent some time at the Achill Mission run by Rev Edward Nangle on the Island.  Aged sixteen Emily’s parents passed away (her father aged seventy – eight, her mother fifty – seven ) several months apart.  (Anton Mc Nulty )  [i]

Emily Arabella Maynard Burke was born on 18 September 1867 to  Rev William John Burke and his second wife Emily nee McArthur.  Emily was the third child born to the Reverend & (second ) Mrs. Burke.  She was born at Windsor Terrace in Edenderry Co. Offaly.  This site had newspaper Birth notice plus image of the house.  (18th September 2015 Maria Gillen ) [ii]

Education / Training

Emily received her education at a ‘top class’ school in Dublin due to her father’s profession.  Under the supervision of Margaret Huxley (who introduced structured scientific nursing training to Ireland) she trained as a nurse at St. Patrick Dun’s Hospital.  (Anton Mc Nulty )  [iii]

In 1893 at the age of twenty – five years she began her training in Sir Patrick Dunn’s Hospital in Dublin as a nurse according to this site: http://emilymweddall.com/author/emilyburke/


Emily Weddal was a member of the Gaelic League from 1893.  She was involved with the Celtic Cultural Revival at that same period.  (Anton Mc Nulty ) [iv]


Emily was employed as a private nurse outside the hospital system: where she had the opportunity to travel within Europe & Russia.  She provided first aid classes to Cumman na mBan Volunteers countrywide.  She later sold her Rockfield House to the Archbishop of Tuam, then moved to Dublin for work in the Mater Hospital during the Spanish Flu.  (Anton Mc Nulty ) [v]


She amassed her wealth while in that country when she invested in stocks or shares in a Russian industry.  During the Russian Revolution of 1917 she unfortunately lost her investments.  (Anton Mc Nulty )  [vi]


During 1905 she married Edward Wendall an English Sea Captain in London.  She purchased Rockfield House (a former schoolhouse of Nangle’s Mission ) in Achill during 1906.  Her husband’ s demise occurred when she was aged forty years following a stroke.  She commissioned William Pearse to erect a Celtic Cross headstone on his grave at St. Thomas’s Graveyard in Dugort.  (Anton Mc Nulty )  [vii]


Emily Wedall co – founded the Gráinne Mhaol Lower Achill Branch of the Gaelic League.  She immersed herself in cultural & revival on the island.  She contributed to an interest in the Irish Language.  During 1910 she assisted in the formation of Scoil Acla.  She purchased land, financed the construction of a Hall in Dooagh for the study of Irish Culture, dance & drama classes also céilíes.  She returned from Dublin to Achill during the 1930’s to live at The Sandy Banks.  She purchased a stained – glass window of St. Brendan, the Navigator at an art fair in London by artist Wilhelmina Geddes for Our Lady Queen of the Universe Church at Currane.  A decade later her health deteriorated with the necessity of a return to Dublin’s St. Mary’s Nursing Home at Ballsbridge.  (Anton Mc Nulty ) [viii]

Cumman na mBan

During 1914 Emily joined Cumann na mBan in Achill.  She travelled to Dublin when she heard of the Easter Rising but was arrested under the Defence of the Realm Act then spent the week inside Tullamore Jail.  During the War of Independence, she was imprisoned for her sale of flags for the Gaelic League.  She assisted people’s safety in her Achill home the War of Independence & the Civil War years.  (Anton Mc Nulty ) [ix]


Emily Burke Weddall’s demise occurred on the 24th of November 1952.  She was interred in the Republican Plot at Glasnevin Cemetery.  The Committee of Scoil Acla commissioned a Headstone on her grave to mark the centenary of its foundation.  (Anton Mc Nulty )

In an article of ‘The Mayo News’  for his column ‘Unsung Heroes’ Anton Mc Nulty featured ‘The Life of a Rebel Nurse’  Emily Waddel on pages 24 / 25.[x]


Maria Gillan has written an autobiography on Emily Weddal.  She lays flowers on her grave annually.  This site has a video re Emily Weddall plus interview also an image of her grave in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin: http://emilymweddall.com/

This publication includes mention of Emily Waddell: ‘Achill’s Eva O’Flaherty: Forgotten Island Heroine (1874-1963 )’  at this link: https://tl.vshishkin.ru/82?utm_source=www.google.com

Maria Gillan presented a Lecture on the life of Emily Weddall at the Pearse Museum in Dublin on the 1st November 2016 according to this link: https://tintean.org.au/2016/11/01/pearse-museum-events/

According to this link the first reference to bagpipes on Achill Island was during 1910 with the establishment of ‘Scoil Acla’ by Mrs. Emily Waddell where bagpipes formed part of the curriculum:  https://www.achillproperty.ie/achill-pipe-bands

Emily A. Weddail is mentioned in this publication ‘Select Bibliography of Writings on Irish Economic and Social History’ published in ‘The Irish Economic & Social History’  1996 X111 pages 130 – 161 at this link: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/033248939602300115?journalCode=iesa

The artist Paul Henry stated in his Biography the importance to Achill himself & Emily Weddall were to the island!  (Anton Mc Nulty ) [xi]


[i] The Mayo News 4th May 2021 [assessed 6th May 2021]

[ii] Emily’s Birthday (https://emilymweddall.com/emilys-birthday/) [assessed 8th May 2021]

[iii] Mayo News 4th May 2021 [assessed 6th May 2021]

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] Ibid.

[viii] Ibid.

[ix] Ibid.

[x] Ibid.

[xi] Ibid.


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