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“I looked upon hers as one of the most valuable lives in England.” ~ Florence Nightingale talking about Agnes Jones, the first public health nurse

On Sunday 23 February 2020, a parish in Fahan Co. Donegal celebrated the life and work of world-renowned nurse, Agnes Jones and the 45th Anniversary of the foundation of the School of Nursing at Ulster University’s Magee Campus.

Students and staff from the Ulster University School of Nursing were among the participants in a service featuring St Mura’s Choir directed by local historian, Anne Moore. Rev Judi McGaffin, who led the service said of Agnes Jones: “She left us a wonderful legacy of healing and of education”.

An oration to Agnes Jones which was written in 1868 by Dean Alexander Bishop of Derry and Primate of all Ireland was read by Pat Deeny, Senior Lecturer in Nursing at Ulster University, Magee.

Dr. Malachy Ó Néill, Provost of Ulster University’s Magee Campus said:

“Agnes Jones left a tremendous legacy, one that inspires us at Ulster University’s School of Nursing every day. We enjoy close ties to the St Mura’s Community in nearby Fahan on the Inishowen Peninsula in Co. Donegal. We are grateful to the St Mura’s Community for awarding the annual Agnes Jones Gift of Nursing Award to our students as part of their study. In this, the 45th year of Nursing at Ulster University and the WHO Year of the Nurse and Midwife, we invite anyone with an interest in Agnes Jones to contact Pat Deeny, Senior Lecturer in Nursing at the Magee Campus to learn more about her purposeful life and legacy for modern day Nursing”.

Agnes Elizabeth Jones (1832 – 1868) of Fahan, County Donegal, Ireland is recognised as the founder of Public Health Nursing. She is acknowledged for her work with those who suffered during the famine in Dublin, Derry and Donegal. In 1862 she later joined Florence Nightingale’s School of Nursing in St Thomas’s London and eventually became the Matron at the Brownlow Hill Infirmary in Liverpool. At the time, Liverpool was inundated with refugees from the Irish famine and dealing with a major outbreak of typhoid, dysentery and other communicable diseases. Sadly, Agnes herself died aged 35 years from typhus in 1868.

Agnes was one of the first pupils to attend the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and was recognised by Nightingale as her ‘star pupil’. Florence Nightingale actually once said of Agnes Elizabeth Jones, “She overworked as others underwork. I looked upon hers as one of the most valuable lives in England.”

The graveyard in Fahan, County Donegal is one of three sites dedicated to the memory of Agnes Jones, CBE. She is also memorialised at The Oratory, St James Cemetery, Liverpool and at the Lady Chapel at Liverpool Cathedral in a beautiful stained-glass window.

Existing and potential students of nursing will no doubt be inspired by this local heroine. At Ulster University, we have delivered nursing programmes for over 30 years, and our courses provide excellence in teaching and research with innovative approaches to learning.