History / History of the House / 1930 to 1945 - Sir John Lumsden

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See also: The Lumsden years | Timeline related to the Lumsden years | Wedding of daughter Margery 1933 | Grand-daughter Margery Stratton - 1935-6

Earlscliffe Residents 1930 to 1945

Sir John Lumsden

Sir John Lumsden. Picture courtesy of Michael Radcliffe, 3rd son of Margery née Lumsden

John Lumsden was born in Drogheda in 1869 and was educated in Dublin and Taunton. He received his M.B. in 1894 and his M.D. degree in 1895. On the 17th March 1896 he was married to Caroline Frances Kingscote, a daughter of Major Fitzhardinge Kingscote, of Galway. [1] [16]

Dr. Lumsden was a senior visiting physician on the staff of Mercer's Hospital in Dublin and in 1902 was the Principal Medical Officer to the Commissioners of Irish Lights. [1] [2] However, it was his role as Medical Officer (later Chief Medical Officer) at the Guinness Brewery that proved a turning point for Dr. Lumsden. 

Medical Officer at Guinness

The Guinness family had a tradition of noblesse oblige and philanthropy and therefore Dr. Lumsden's work for Guinness focussed on the well-being of the employees, many of whom lived in appalling conditions in the slums and tenements of inner city Dublin.[3] After the Great Irish Famine, many people moved from rural areas of Ireland into cities such as Dublin looking for food and work. This resulted in overcrowding with 33.9 percent of all families in Dublin each living in a single room.[4] Poverty and cramped conditions led to problems of disease and by 1881 Dublin had the highest death rate in Europe. [5]

Dr. Lumsden saw a high rate of tuberculosis amongst Guinness employees and knew that overcrowding was probably a factor. In 1900 he got the approval of the Guinness board to spend two months inspecting the homes of each Guinness employee in order to ensure that they lived in proper housing and to look for ways to prevent or treat the disease. He also studied the diets of the employees and established cookery classes for the wives of Guinness employees. Finally, he helped to set up the first Guinness sports club.[3]

St. John Ambulance Brigade

In his post as Medical Officer Dr. Lumsden was asked to provide first-aid classes for employees at the Guinness Brewery at St. James's Gate. The classes became so popular that they later became the first registered division of the St. John Ambulance Brigade of Ireland, which Dr. Lumsden founded in 1903 and became the first Commissioner. He remained Commissioner until his death.[5]

The Brigade was involved with many major events in Irish history, including treating casualties from the clashes during the General Strike of 1913 (sometimes referred to as the Dublin Lockout). However, the Brigade became prominent in Dublin during the Easter Rising of 1916. [6] [1]

Easter Rising

Dr John Lumsden in hs St. John Ambulance uniform
Dr John Lumsden in his St. John Ambulance uniform

The Brigade earned the respect of all sides of the community during the Easter Rising of 1916 as they treated casualties on both sides and fed and cared for evacuees. During the fighting in the streets of Dublin Dr. Lumsden became a familiar figure as he dashed out carrying a white flag and his medical kit to tend to the wounded on both sides.[6] [1] On the Wednesday of that week around the City of Dublin Hospital, Baggot Street, bitter fighting broke out between British and Republican troops. The situation was so bad that ambulance men were told not to go into the area. However, Dr. Lumsden could not let the wounded be left unattended. Instead he went into the danger zone alone and spent several hours tending to their injuries. [1]

Working with Dr. Lumsden during the Easter Rising was Dr. Ella Webb who had become a member of the St. John Ambulance Brigade of Ireland in 1914. She helped to set up an emergency hospital at the Brigade’s headquarters at 14 Merrion Square during the Rising and “cycled daily through the firing line to visit the hospital”  [7] (See also Dr. Ella Webbs's 1916 diary).

First World War

During the first world war, hundreds of wounded were shipped over to Ireland. Within two days of the outbreak of hostilities, Dr. Lumsden had 70 of the men who had trained in the St. John Ambulance brigade reporting to the Royal Naval Sick Berth at Chatham. Three months into the war, he also got the brigade to set up three auxiliary hospitals (at Temple Hill Blackrock, Monkstown and Mountjoy Square) to cope with the wounded that came in on hospital ships at Dun Laoghaire and Cork. [1]

In 1917 and 1918 Dr. Lumsden was a Major in the Royal Army Medical Corps.[1]

For these acts and his formation of the St. John Ambulance Brigade of Ireland Dr. John Lumsden was knighted for each by King George V and became Sir John Lumsden KBE. [3] At the same time Dr. Ella Webb was awarded an MBE. [8]

Blood donors

Sir John Lumsden also encouraged Brigade members to be blood donors and advertised in the Irish national papers [9] for people to register in order to set up an 'on call' blood donor panel to serve hospitals in the Dublin area. The Dublin Blood Transfusion Service later became the National Blood Transfusion Association in 1948 but owes its origin to the Brigade and more especially to Sir John Lumsden.[10] [11]

In 1923, after the establishment of the Irish Free State, Sir John along with Dr. Ella Webb wrote to the President of the Council of the Irish Free State to start the process of breaking away from the control of the British Red Cross Society and the Order of the St John of Jerusalem. [12] This led to the Brigade becoming an Associated Body and completely independent from the English based St. John Ambulance [13] and further led to the formation of the Irish Red Cross Society in 1939. [14] Sir John was one of the first members of the Irish Red Cross Society.

Move to Earlscliffe

Earlscliffe House around 1930, surrounded by fields
Earlscliffe House around 1930, surrounded by fields

In 1930, at the age of 61, Sir John bought Earlscliffe from the sister of his good friend and colleague Dr. Ella Webb. At that period, the house was mostly surrounded by fields. See "Earlscliffe in the time of Sir John Lumsden" for further information about life at Earlscliffe in the 1930s, with some great early photographs of the garden and some wonderful living memories from one of Sir John Lumsden's grand daughters, Margery Stratton.

The Lumsden's had five daughters and a son. In 1933, his daughter, Margery was married in Howth and had her reception at Earlscliffe. See the wedding photos here.

The picture of Sir John Lumsden above is courtesy of Michael Radcliffe, 3rd son of Margery née Lumsden, whose wedding photos are linked above. In the photograph Sir John is wearing a rose bud in his lapel. Michael informed us that Sir John adored roses and never went to work in the morning without first walking around the Earlscliffe garden to select a rose bud to put in his lapel. Michael also recalled that the late Dr. David Robinson explained to him some years ago that roses were the first plants that David took out when he moved into Earlscliffe in 1969 as, according to David,  they were too prone to disease and required too much maintenance! However, the current owners can confirm that this was only partially true. David Robinson was looking to manage the garden in "his spare time" so roses would have required more of his precious time that could have been better spent tending other plants. However, David did leave many roses in the garden. In fact, there are some that grow against the sea facing side of Earlscliffe that the current owners reckon were possibly around from Sir John's time!

Sir John lived for many years at Earlscliffe, refusing to retire and still commuting into Dublin to work. However, sadly on the 3rd September 1944 Sir John passed away. His funeral was attended by over a thousand people. [15]

His wife Lady Caroline Frances Lumsden eventually moved to a house near Sutton Dart Station, selling Earlscliffe to William Martin Murphy and his wife Norah on the 25th September 1945. [16] Lady Caroline died five years later in 1950 [17]

Scrollable timeline and other related events

The first link below displays a scrollable timeline related to Sir John Lumsden, showing births, marriages, deaths and major events in their lives and in their home and working environments.

The other links are to related information.

• The Lumsden years •
• Timeline related to the Lumsden years •
• Wedding of daughter Margery 1933 •
• Grand-daughter Margery Stratton - 1935-6 • 

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List of Earlscliffe Residents

1844 to 1896 - Bunbury McClintock et al
1896 to 1901 - John Randal Plunkett
1901 to 1922 - John Pentland Mahaffy
1922 to 1930 - CT Ovenden to Dr Webb
1930 to 1945 - Sir John Lumsden
1945 to 1949 - William Martin Murphy
1949 to 1950 - Lily Margaret Graham Gough
1950 to 1969 - Stanley-Clarke to Knowles
1969 to today - David & Muriel Robinson & Foley family
Timeline of Residents in History 

Disclaimer. Parts of the data found in these history pages has been derived from sources currently available on the internet. In researching the previous owners of Earlscliffe, certain assumptions have been made as to the validity of this internet data. If you believe that some of this data is inaccurate, please contact  .


This page was last updated on 06-Dec-2020 .