The town of Hospital today is a thriving centre with amenities that include shops, restaurant, petrol stations and a tennis club. It is located on the Limerick road and a central location in Ballyhoura Country.
Hospital has a long and interesting history as seen below
HOSPITAL – Medieval Origins
Oispideal Gleann Áine “The Hospital of Áine”
THE HOSPITAL OF ÁINE
The Knights of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem were a military religious order founded after the capture of Jerusalem from the Turks in the Crusade of 1099. In the Holy Land, they built and garrisoned castles against the Turks. In many of their preceptories they provided accommodation for the sick, the poor and pilgrims. Here in Hospital, the Hospital of Áine, a preceptory of Saint John the Baptist was founded by Geoffrey de Marisco, before 1215AD. It was one of over 20 such preceptories in Ireland and second only in importance to the Knights Hospitallers preceptory at Kilmainham, near Dublin. It received royal privileges in 1215, by which time Geoffrey had become Justiciar (governor) of Ireland on behalf of King John of England. His governorship during a period of relative peace in Ireland, was marred by corruption, which led to his dismissal. Nonetheless, under Geoffrey, Hospital increased its wealth through grants of land, hospitals, farms, castles, mills, fisheries and villages.
A remarkable document from 1349, tells us about a man named Meyler who, in return for donations to the preceptory in Hospital, was permitted to live there for the remainder of his life. He was allowed entertainment for himself during his life, and for a chamberlain, a servant, and two horses, in this house; and if he should be confined to his chamber, then he should have the daily allowance of three white loaves and one of the coarser kind, three flagons of the best ale and one of the second kind, with sufficiency from the kitchen.
The Reformation brought about the demise of this preceptory in 1541, by which time it had a watermill, twelve cottages, 17 rectories, a priory and other religious buildings. Only the ruins of the abbey have survived. Inside, there is a 14th century weather-worn effigy which is thought to be that of Geoffrey de Marisco holding his shield and sword, and another, of a lady, which is thought to be his wife.
In 1604, Thomas Browne received a grant of the entire manor, lordship and preceptory of Hospital. One of his descendants, also Thomas, was rewarded by the Government for his support of the Act of Union which united the Irish parliament under the parliament in London. He was elevated to the title of Earl of Kenmare. This title was one of many created to bribe Irish MP’s and peers to vote in favour of the Union.
Surprisingly, throughout this time, the Browne’s remained Catholic and were one of the very few members of the peerage to retain the old faith. This was partly because, at key moments, they chose to be on the right side of history.
Members of the family are commemorated on a stained glass window over the entrance to the parish church of St. John the Baptist, built in 1852. The window was erected by the tenants of the Kenmare estate, in 1872, in memory of their beloved father, Thomas, third Earl of Kenmare. The central light of the window depicts a Knight Hospitaller holding a scroll. To his left is Saint Thomas the Apostle (in reference to the earl) who according to tradition was martyred in India where he had gone to spread the gospel. To the right is Saint Catherine of Alexandria (in reference to Catherine, wife of the third earl). Saint Catherine is usually shown wearing a crown of martyrdom or nobility, and beside a spiked wheel, in allusion to how she was martyred.
Above the window is a magnificent image of the Kenmare coat of arms. Only a few Catholic churches in Ireland depict aristocratic coats of arms.
Dating to the early 1800’s, Kilfrush House, on the road to Mitchelstown, was the ancestral home of Gubbins family, who were prominently involved in Limerick politics and in horse breeding. US President Richard Nixon stayed at Kilfrush during a private visit to Ireland in October 1970, by which time the house was owned by the Mulcahy family. President Gerald Ford also stayed there.
FIRST FARMERS CREAMERY
Had the third Earl of Kenmare died just five or six years later than 1872, then there was little likelihood that his tenants would have been so generous towards his memory. By 1879, the Land War, led by men such as Michael Davitt, Charles Stewart Parnell and William O’Brien, had set tenant farmers on a road of civil disobedience against their landlords. With the cry of The Land of Ireland for the People of Ireland, Michael Davitt helped unite Irish tenant farmers in a campaign that smashed landlordism and gained ownership of the land for small farmers.
Early signs of this independence came in Hospital in 1884, when the first farmer-built creamery in the British Isles and Ireland was opened. Representing farmers from different religious and political backgrounds, the Munster Dairy Company aimed to provide local farmers with better prices for their milk and other produce. It was established in the centre of Hospital, where a plaque has been erected to celebrate its achievements.