In Ireland building developers and suspected corruption go hand in hand back through history. However if every developer left the legacy that Dr. Bartholomew Mosse did then the country would be far better for it.
Mosse was born in Annefield House, Portlaoise in 1712. The fifth of seven children he decided to become a surgeon and, at the age of 17, became an apprentice to Dr. John Stone. In 1734 he married Mary Mallory but she died three years later giving birth to a baby boy. Shortly afterwards Mosse left Dublin for Minorca as a surgeon assigned to the troops station there. After leaving his commission he traveled Europe visiting hospitals. One of the hospitals probably visited was the Hôtel-Dieu de Paris. This hospital, the oldest in Paris, included a revolutionary maternity ward called “La Charite”.
Returning to Dublin Mosse set about raising the money to build the first maternity hospital in the British Isles. His fundraising allowed him in 1744 to purchase “The New Booth” theatre in Georges Lane. This was converted to the Dublin Lying-In Hospital and it delivered it’s first baby, a boy, to Judith Rochford on the 20th March 1745. Being a good Catholic country the demand for the hospital soon outstripped it’s capacity and Mosse set about raising funds to build the first purpose built maternity hospital. To get the funding Mosse organized plays, oratorios by Handle, concerts and lotteries. It was the lotteries however that got Mosse into trouble and he was arrested in Wales on charges of fraud. Luckily for everybody he escaped and, now back in Dublin, was able to exonerate himself.
James Maltons “Lying-in Hospital. December 1795”
Richard Cassell, architect of Leinster House, was commissioned to design the new hospital. Cassell and Mosse became good friends and, as noted by J.T. Gilbert, Cassel ‘when in Dublin, passed his evenings with Dr. Mosse of the Hospital, and a few more, at a tavern, which they seldom left before three or four in the morning’. Cassel died in 1751, not helped by these late nights I’m sure, and the work on the hospital was completed by Cassel’s assistant John Esnor. With both the funds raised and his own money as well as loans Mosse leased four acres of land which was laid out as a pleasure garden with an area in the south end for the new hospital. Construction began in 1751 and the hospital, now called the New Lying-in Hospital, opened in 1757. Exhausted from the work Mosse died penniless two years later.
In 1995 the Rotunda Hospital celebrated it’s 250th anniversary, dating itself from the Georges Lane era, and it remains one of the leading maternity hospitals in the world. A testament to Dr. Bartholomew Mosse’s work, and the work of the Doctors and nurses in the Rotunda and similar hospitals in Ireland, is that Ireland is ranked sixth safest place to give birth in the world by a 2009 UNICEF study. To put that in context, Germany was 13th, the United Kingdom was 23rd, France 31st and the United States 39th.