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The Luther Legacy – Homeopathy in Ireland in the Nineteenth Century

Last modified on September 8th, 2012

Since it was introduced into Ireland in 1838, homeopathy has maintained a steady, uninterrupted progress in public opinion. A detailed history of those involved in bringing homeopathy to Ireland and maintaining it there.

The Kirk Family

Julian Winston’s article in the Homeopathic Times of Summer 2004 ‘Capital Gains’ told us about Dublin’s connections with the early history of homeopathy, and in particular, about the arrival of Samuel Hahnemann’s only son, Friedrich, to Dublin in the early 1820s. In the article, Julian mentioned the homeopathic treatment by Friedrich Hahnemann of the young son of Thomas Kirk, the sculptor, who subsequently modeled a bust of the doctor. ‘Maybe someone in Dublin would like to take up the trail [of this bust]’ he wrote.

This article is dedicated to the memory of Julian Winston 1941-2005

Thomas Kirk was born in Cork in 1781, and in adulthood worked with the stonecutter, Henry Darley, for whom he did carvings of chimney pieces. He quickly gained recognition as a sculptor, moved to Dublin and opened a studio at 21 Jervis St. His reputation was established when he was chosen to execute the colossal figure of Nelson for the memorial column in Sackville Street (now O’Connell St) in 1808. This survived as a landmark until it was blown up in 1966, and the head is preserved in the Dublin Civic Museum.

All over Dublin, the work of Thomas Kirk is to be found: in the Council Room of the Royal Irish Academy in Dawson Street a bust of Thomas Moore completed in 1838 sits on the mantelpiece; there are several of his funerary memorials in the church of St Ann’s in Dawson Street, and a number of his busts are in the collection of the Royal College of Surgeons. The figure of a sailor – the ‘Metalman’ in Tramore, Co Waterford – is also his work, and he was one of the founding members of the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1823.

Thomas Kirk had seven children surviving into adulthood, of whom three were boys: Joseph Robinson Kirk (1821 – 1894), the Rev William Boyton Kirk (1824 – 1900) and Francis Johnston Kirk (1826-1911). Two of his sons and one of his daughters (Eliza), showed considerable talent in sculpture, and followed their father’s footsteps, showing regularly at art exhibitions. Joseph Robinson, with the money he earned from the sale of his sculpture ‘Andromeda’, was enabled to spend a year studying in Rome in 1843. While there, he made the acquaintance of Dr William B. B. Scriven, who settled in Dublin in 1850 and subsequently worked in the Homeopathic Dispensary in South Anne Street (see below). Among the works of Joseph Kirk are those of the four figures on the Campanile in Trinity College Dublin (Divinity, Law, Physic and Science), and the Sir Philip Crampton memorial fountain – described as ‘resembling an overgrown lettuce’. This Sir Philip Crampton was an eminent Dublin surgeon, and lived at 16 Merrion Square. (See Dr Arthur Guinness below.) The drinking fountain that commemorated him was at the junction of College Street and present day Pearse St (then Great Brunswick Street) but was removed in 1959 and gets a mention in Joyce’s Ulysses. Joseph Robinson Kirk also executed the memorial over his father’s tomb in Mount Jerome Cemetery.

William Boyton Kirk was also a sculptor of some repute and designed for Worcester China and later, for Belleek china. His one wish was to become a clergyman which he did in the 1860s. It was he who spoke to Dr Tuthill Massy about Dr Friedrich Hahnemann who ‘attended his brother for fits in the year 1823’; this is mentioned in one of the letters published in The (London) Homeopathic Times (August – September 1852) concerning the visit of Friedrich Hahnemann to Dublin in the 1820s.

The young patient seemed to have had a history of fits; it is called a ‘distressing malady’ in subsequent correspondence, and the letter of Dr Charles W Luther (see Dr Carl Wilhelm Luther below) mentions that Friedrich Hahnemann came to Dublin ‘with the vowed and exclusive purpose of curing epilepsy’. The only brother of William Boyton born at the time Friedrich was in Dublin was Joseph Robinson Kirk, so it is almost certainly he who was Friedrich’s young patient. We should note that at that time, epilepsy was considered quite incurable and in the Census reports of Sir William Wilde, epileptics were grouped together with ‘idiots and lunatics’, so it is not surprising that Joseph Robinson Kirk did not claim to be the one treated by Friedrich.

Joseph Robinson Kirk provided the model for the statuettes of Samuel Hahnemann which were produced in Parian china by Messrs. Kerr of the Royal Porcelain Works in Worcester. Kerrs had a large china establishment in Capel Street in Dublin, not far from the Jervis Street studio of Joseph Kirk (his studio was at no 22, next door to that of his father’s). Parian, a type of porcelain that could be cast in a mould, was a new invention and was in big demand by the Victorians. The statuettes, 12″ high, based on the Leipsic statue of Hahnemann, were offered at three guineas (sixty three shillings) each in 1861 ‘sold only by Henry Turner, homeopathic chemist, Manchester’. A recent auction in the U.S. [June 2009] saw a group of Parian statuettes among which was one of Hahnemann, fetch $474.

Joseph Kirk was one of the members of the Committee of the Dublin Photographic Society in 1854 and his photograph reproduced here by permission of the publishers, appears in Photography in Ireland – The Nineteenth Century by Edward Chandler. Isn’t it extraordinary that a photograph exists of one of Friedrich’s Irish patients!

Friedrich Hahnemann’s name appears in a list of Physicians in the Pigot & Co’s Provincial Directory of Ireland for 1824 with an address at 20 Anne-street, South, not far from where a Homeopathic Dispensary would later be established. It would have been around this time, 1823, that Thomas Kirk took his bust which he subsequently exhibited at the RHA exhibition in 1827. Joseph Kirk had the bust in his studio at 22 Jervis St in 1852, and had presumed that it was that of Samuel Hahnemann – it is inscribed ‘Dr Hahnemann’- until Dr W.B.B. Scriven corrected him (in the correspondence in The (London) Homeopathic Times). I have not been able to find any other references to this sculpture: it could be a garden adornment anywhere in the world or lay hidden in an attic, unrecognised. Without Friedrich Hahnemann’s treatment however, the works of Joseph Kirk would most probably not have been produced and the world would have been the poorer for their loss.

Dr. Carl Wilhelm Luther

Family Background

What we know about Dr Carl Wilhelm Luther (sometimes spelled Karl, even Karrol, or Charles William) can be gleaned from various sources. He was born in Raguhn, a small town on the river Mulde, about 12k from the city of Dessau which was the capital of the duchy of Anhalt-Dessau. His father, Johann Carl Wilhelm Luther (11/9/1779- 28/1/1860), was a doctor and a correspondant with, if not an acquaintance of, Samuel Hahnemann. Hahnemann’s first wife, Johanna Henriette, was the stepdaughter of a Dessau apothecary, and it was in that city that they married in November 1782. Johann C. W. Luther began his practice in Raguhn in 1806, three years after qualifying as a medical doctor. He parted from allopathy in 1833 during the time he was Burgermeister in Raguhn (1830-1848), having been in correspondence with Hahnemann during 1830.

An obituary for the young doctor, John Christian Luther tells us that he was the third son of Dr J C W Luther. This Dr J C W Luther is described as ‘a well known medical practitioner in Germany and one of Hahnemann’s earliest friends and followers’. John Christian was born ‘near Dessau’ in 1816. It is known that John Christian ‘ proceeded to Ireland in 1844, came to England in 1845, settled in Bath as a homoeopathic physician in 1846, took his MD in St Andrew’s in 1846, and, sadly, during an outbreak of typhoid caught it and died in 1849, aged only 33 years.’ This John Christian (1816 – 1849) was a brother of Carl Wilhelm, Gustavus Adolphus and Heinrich Waldemar Luther (see below).

Nice and Paris

Hahenemann confided in a letter in 1831 to his friend, Dr Stapf, that he was being requested ‘by several Prussian cities’ to supply capable homeopathic physicians. ‘I shall do that very willingly … but they must choose a fearless and reliable man with whom I could exchange letters on the subject.’ His correspondence also mentions a young doctor appointed as homeopathic family physician to an English family resident in Nice. This part of the Mediterranean was a favourite haunt of the English and the main walk by the sea in Nice is called la Promenade des Anglais (the promenade of the English).

According to the Lexikon Deutshcsprachiger Homoopathen, Karl Wilhelm Luther, was appointed to such a post in 1833, shortly after graduating, and became the house doctor to the family of Lord Campbell in Nice. This Lord Campbell was later Lord Chancellor of Ireland for a very short spell during 1841, at a time when Carl Luther had set up his practice in Dublin.

Being house doctor to an aristocratic family seems to have had the advantage of having an income/retainer while also being free to pursue one’s private practice. His time in Nice was not without drama apparently, as he had so many cures that the Medical College of the University of Nice unanimously prohibited his practice. He left Nice in the winter of 1835 and moved to Paris.

By 1835 Samuel Hahnemann and his wife, Melanie, had also moved to Paris and set up both home and practice there. His arrival there was greeted with great acclaim and a special medal was struck in his honour [one of these sold in a lot of three medals at auction in 2009, for $90.] In 1836 the young Dr. Carl Luther published a book on homoepathy there – Allopathy and Homoeopathy or the usual medicine and the Hahnemannian doctrine. He was called a friend of Hahnemann in his very short Obituary – see below. Many doctors came to learn homeopathy directly from Hahnemann wherever he lived, and many of the early English homeopaths studied with him in Paris. Rosa Hobhouse talks of an ‘informal gathering of lay homoeopaths and homoeopathic physicians passing through Paris held at his house each Monday for discussions’.

Carl Wilhelm may have spent some time in England, as a pamphlet of his was published in London, in 1840, Homeopathy Explained and Objections Answered.

He mentions in correspondence that he spoke to Hahnemann in 1843 about a proposed trip to America, and of his intention of returning via the West Indies. This was where there had been a reported sighting of Hahnemann’s son, Friedrich, and Carl seems to have promised to make inquiries there about him. His plans changed however, and he returned by a different route from America. Carl also knew that the elderly Hahnemann had annotated the fifth edition of the Organon and had this sixth edition ready for the printers shortly before his death, as he cautioned the Irish Homeopathic Society about translating the fifth edition. By this time, the Stratton Dublin-published Organon was out of print (and not a very good translation, in Dr. Luther’s opinion.)

Spreading the Word

His book for the general public, Allopathy and Homoeopathy, mentioned above, although published in Paris in 1836, was, curiously, in English. This was at a time when many English doctors were becoming acquainted with the new system of medicine, and efforts were being made to bring it to America. The book travelled extensively too, as it is mentioned in a wonderful letter from Harriet Chepmell in 1850, writing from St Sampson’s Rectory, Guernsey. She explains that she had been suffering from the effects of debilitating causes, and had been twenty years previously treated with Calomel and steel. Having given birth to fourteen children, she ‘had constant lassitude and pains all over’ and her hands ‘were unable to hold a needle’. Her brother visited her, saw her plight and subsequently sent her a copy of Luther’s book from London, 1836. She self-diagnosed her need for China and Pulsatilla, and her recovery ’caused a sensation on the island’. She continues, ‘Hundreds enquired what had produced such effects and the foundation of Homeopathy was firmly laid in Guernsey’ – all thanks to Carl Wilhelm’s book.

Carl Luther in Ireland

In 1838 Dr Carl Wilhelm Luther brought homoeopathy to Ireland. The introductory remarks of his book for the Irish Homoeopathic Society A Concise View of the System of Homeopathy published in 1845 start off ‘When about seven years ago Homoeopathy became practically known in this country…’ and he gives the precise year in the ‘Address of the Irish Homoeopathic Society’ – ‘Homoeopathy, since its first introduction into Ireland in 1838, has maintained a steady, uninterrupted progress in public opinion.’ Writing for the 1848 edition of the same book, he states quite categorically:Homoeopathy was first introduced into this country by the writer of these pages’.

At least one brother seems to have accompanied him to Dublin. Both Gustav Luther (Gustavus Adolphus, sometimes called Augustus) and Carl Luther ‘of Dublin’ are mentioned in the list of those who contributed to Hahnemann’s statue fund for Magdeburg (BJH 1845), and their names appear in Thom’s Street Directory for 1844, having an address then at 130 Lower Baggot street (‘Augustus and Karrol Luther’). There is a Christian Luther MD mentioned at 5 Merrion Row which may have been John Christian’s residence before heading to Bath in England. Both Carl and Gustav were among the 41 original members of the Irish Homeopathic Society and were two of the three homeopathic medical attendants to its Dispensary, the third being Dr Arthur Guinness (see below).

Carl Luther seems to have been a real mover and shaker. He was only 28 years old when he began practising in Ireland, and he seems to have built up a vibrant practice once his reputation spread. I suspect that he instigated the setting up of the Society in 1845, as it was he who penned the Address of the Society setting out its aims etc. In A Concise View of the system of medicine appeared in Dublin in 1845. Writing in 1868, Dr W B B Scriven tells us that Dr Luther’s book ‘met with extensive circulation in Great Britain and America and has been translated into French and German.’ Dr Joseph Kidd (who did amazing work in Bantry during the Great Famine ) mentions in correspondence to the The (London) Homeopathic Times August 1849 that there were advanced plans to establish a homeopathic hospital in Baggot Street, Dublin, and that premises were being fitted out for that purpose. Dr Luther had persuaded the Mercy sisters to come on board with him, after he had cured the relative of one of the sisters, and having got approval from the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin. A considerable amount of money had been collected for this purpose…I wonder what happened to these plans?

By 1853 Carl has moved on again, and is mentioned in the London list of homeopaths at ‘1 Southwick Crescent, Oxford Square’. He is one of the four Medical Officers in attendance daily at ’18 Orchard Street’ working towards the establishment of the Metropolitan Homoeopathic Hospital for the Diseases of Children. They had a proposed site on, appropriately enough, ‘New Road’ but it is not known what became of those plans either. He contributed many letters, cases and therapeutic hints to various journals during his lifetime and was accorded considerable deference as a ‘pupil of Hahnemann’. He was involved in the establishment of the British Institute of Homoeopathy in December 1853, and there is lengthy correspondence from him in The (London) Homeopathic Times prior to the setting up of the BIH concerning the alternations of medicines and the importance of following the principles of Hahnemann. Charles W Luther was the first chairman of the Committee of the British Institute of Homoeopathy.

His professional life was not without difficulties, not least being the publication in Dublin, in 1846, by an anonymous author, of The Confessions of an Homeopathist. This story of a German imposter who comes to Great Britain following a life of duplicity, lies, schemes, and procurement of monies under false pretences, and who becomes a homeopath following the discovery of a book (the Organon) being used by a coachman to light his pipe, must have wounded him. The character’s original name is Carl Gruber (Grube meaning pit/hollow/grave, with possible connotations of money grabbing), with William and Dr. Lutter being used as some of his false names; he owns a schloss or castle in Germany; he is acquainted with a Burgermeister; he has a brother called Heinrich; he sells his practice to someone he passes off as his brother…

His sensitivity to the above publication at a time when he enjoyed a large practice in Dublin may have caused him to ‘rush into print’ some years later, the reviewer of another of his pamphlets suggests. When an amusing homeopath appears as a character in My Novel, a book by Sir E B Lytton, a then popular author, Carl Luther wrote and published a pamphlet about it – Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton and Homoeopathy – a Letter – in 1853 but the reviewer wishes he hadn’t bothered.

Nudersdorf Manor

In September 1849, Gustav and Carl Wilhelm Luther inherited the estate and manorhouse of Nudersdorf near Wittenberg, to which they added a bathhouse – the first Roman-Irish bath in Germany, presumably with the intention of attracting wealthy patrons to its spa waters. When his older brother, Gustav, died in 1856, Carl became the sole owner of the property. Part of the land and buildings were sold to local residents but the entire property was sold in March 1872 to the Belgian consul. Another source says that he had sold it by 1860 and returned to England. Some interesting information is given in the British Journal of Homoeopathy in 1856: ‘Dr Luther has for the present retired from practice and is in Germany. He is now planting trees, having performed the two other duties of man, as laid down by Confucius: Plant trees, write books and get children’!

Carl Wilhelm Luther returned to England at some later date as he died in Southwick, near Brighton on October 5th, 1876. His short obituary in the London Homeopathic World explains that ‘the relatives of the late Dr C W Luther were averse to any life narrative being published’ although this had been written by Dr Tuthill Massey who had also moved (from Ireland) to Brighton. He is called ‘the first pioneer of homeopathy in Ireland and a pupil of Hahnemann’.

Dr. Heinrich Woldemar Luther

Heinrich Waldemar Luther appears as the medical attendant for Bath Homeopathic Dispensary in 1850 (where his brother, John Christian Luther, had been working from 1846 until his early death from typhoid in 1849). His address in Bath is at 28 Rivers-street, which is the address of Carl Wilhelm Luther the following year, at a time when Heinrich Waldemar has moved to Dublin! He was associated with the South Anne St Dispensary until at least 1859. He gets an honourable mention in an article on ‘The Turkish Bath’ by Dr W B B Scriven who was also a homeopathic physician of the South Anne street dispensary. Waldemar seems to have taken up where Carl Luther left off, replacing him in South Anne St dispensary, and he may well have benefited from being known as Dr Luther, as Carl seems to have had a very successful practice and was highly regarded. Heinrich Waldemar had Dublin addresses at 40 Stephen’s Green, (the address also of Carl Wilhelm Luther) (1850), 111 Stephen’s Green (1854), 33 Dawson St (1856), 29 Nassau St (1859) and 76 Harcourt St (1860).

Waldemar Luther’s Hydropathic Establishment at Johnville, near Tallaght, is mentioned in Dr Scriven’s article above and in Joyce’s The Neighbourhood of Dublin : ‘About 1854, a Dr Luther, hydropathist and homoeopathist, took the house and fitted it up as a hydropathic establishment expending a large sum in erecting Turkish, douche, and vapour baths, while outside in the grounds were mud and plunge baths, formed by damming the little stream that flows down from the mountain. The place was however only indifferently patronised, probably owing to the difficulty of reaching it, and after struggling for a few years, it was abandoned…’ An ad for the auction of the contents of the property and notice about the “charming Dwelling house, with a Turkish Bath, and most commodious out-offices, and upwards of Sixty Irish Acres of the best Land” appears in The Freeman’s Journal in June 1861. He is called Dr William Luther in the ad which mentions that ‘he is removed to Wales’.

Heinrich Waldemar is the physician for the Cardiff Dispensary which was opened in September, 1861, and he is listed in its First Annual Report. An 1863 Medical Directory lists Dr Waldemar Luther at Cadiz House, Newport rd, Cardiff and there is mention of a Dr Luther in Cardiff in 1866 (but no initials are given). Some years later he has an address in Cork at 19 Grand Parade. He is listed as ‘professor of homoeopathy’ there and is involved with the running of the new Turkish baths in Maylor street which seems to have had a homeopathic dispensary attached. These baths were specifically established for the poor unlike many of the others of the time.

The death of his wife, Isabella Maria, in Notting Hill, at the age of 56 is mentioned in The Medical Times in 1877, and he is mentioned in journals of the Belfast Naturalists’ Field Club in the 1880s. His address was Chlorine House, Malone Road by 1895, where previously in the 1880s, a J W Crawford, chemical and starch manufacturer’ had lived. Heinrich Waldemar Luther died in Belfast on 22nd February 1896, and his will is listed in the Public Record Office for Northern Ireland.

Dr Arthur Guinness

An article in The Monthly Homeopathic Review, vol X1, 1867, entitled ‘My Conversion to Homoeopathy’ by Dr Arthur Guinness, which was the substance of a paper read at the Cheltenham Hahnemann Club, (and printed also as a pamphlet) gives us valuable information on the professional life of this doctor. Having graduated as a FRCSI in 1835, and as a physician in 1836 (MD Glasgow 1836), he tells us that he was appointed as ‘medical officer to a large Dispensary near Dublin’. This was the Raheny and Clontarf Dispensary. His days were surely busy: ‘The annual number of patients attended by me in this institution averaged between 2000 and 3000, and the private practice connected therewith was considerable.’

Like many of his peers he didn’t think much initially, of the new system of medicine, when Dr Carl Luther appeared in Dublin ‘a few years after my appointment’ and ‘startled us all with his homeopathic doctrines, and what was more, with his many wonderful cures.’ He recalls separate conversations he had with two very respected medical men of his day – Sir Philip Crampton and Sir William Wylde (sic) – where he spoke his mind: ‘How provoking it is that this quack Luther is getting such a name and such a practice here?’ Both eminent men were at that time more open to homeopathy than he was, to his surprise, and he mentions that Sir Wilde subsequently wrote very positively about the Homeopathic Hospital in Vienna. Dr Guinness graduated from the College of Surgeons in 1835, two years before Dr William Wilde.

However, a female relative of Dr Guinness was cured by Dr Carl Luther, having been previously attended by two allopaths (Sir Philip Crampton being one of them), and he was urged to give the system a fair trial in his Dispensary by another (male) relative. He studied homeopathy under Dr Curie and began to use the ‘infinitesimals’ in the Dispensary. He called a meeting of the Governors of the Dispensary to inform them of his change of heart regarding the practice of medicine. He offered his resignation but he was unanimously re-elected after a trial period of six months. He mentions that one of those who voted for him was a son of the (late) Sir Philip Crampton. ‘I believe I am the first physician who, after an avowed change of views respecting the practice of medicine, has been re-appointed to a public institution.’ He possibly deserves a place in the Guinness Book of Records for this! An English doctor, Mr George Newman had been dismissed in 1843 from office of surgeon to the Glastonbury district of the Wells Poor Law Union for practising homeopathy.

Dr Guinness’ report of the Raheny Dispensary for the year ended March 1846 gives 2965 cases attended; of these 797 were visited in their own homes, and there were 12 deaths. ‘The bad potatoes’ he reports, ‘must account for the great number of the affections of the stomach, liver, and bowels, which have occurred, and also of gastric fever.’ This dispensary was a charitable institution for the relief of the poor.

When he decided to move to Exeter from his home in Castle Avenue, Clontarf in 1848, a meeting of upwards of 300 people of the inhabitants took place, at which an address was prepared, expressing their regret at his departure. By 1860 he had moved to the Berkshire and Reading Dispensary, and the Caledonian Insurance Company lists him as one of the medical referees for Cheltenham in an 1866 ad. He is still listed in 1868 and again in 1869 as medical attendant to the Cheltenham Homeopathic Dispensary along with a Dr Gwillim, and his pamphlet Observations on Diseases Peculiar to Women appears in the publications list. He is listed in 1873 as Medical Officer for the Oxford Homoeopathic Dispensary, and still had an address there in 1884. One of the listings mentions that he proved the remedy Diosma Crenata (abbreviated Baros – barosma crenulatum).

Family Background/Pedigree

Dr. Arthur Guinness was a grandson of Arthur Guinness ‘1st‘ the founder of the famous Dublin brewery. Arthur 1st had twenty-one children, ten of whom survived into adulthood. There are two dozen or so Arthur Guinnesses in the family pedigree in the Guinness Brewery Archive, but it wasn’t until I discovered his middle name – Grattan – in Thom’s Street Directory 1843, that I could trace him properly. His father was John Grattan Guinness, the youngest son of Arthur 1st. His paternal grandmother, Olivia Whitmore, was a cousin of Henry Grattan and because of Arthur’s great regard for Henry, Grattan became one of the family names associated with the Guinnesses.

Along with two of his cousins, Benjamin Lee Guinness and the Rev William Smyth Guinness (rector in Rathdrom, Co Wicklow), they formed three of the 41 original members of the Irish Homeopathic Society, Dr Arthur being one of the first medical attendants along with the two Luther brothers, Gustav and Carl. Benjamin Lee Guinness expanded and improved the Brewery and some years later was elected Lord Mayor of Dublin, and later again MP for Dublin. It is interesting to note that Guinness stout could be had in Trinidad, Sierra Leone, Barbados and New York by 1840, when we consider the travels undertaken by some of the early homeopaths bringing homeopathy around the world and seeking out new remedies.

Dr Arthur Guinness’s mother, Susana Hutton, died in 1826 when he was a teenager (he was born 12 January 1813), and his father, John Grattan, remarried, this time to a Jane Mary Lucretia D’Esterre. This lady, a mother to two small children, had been widowed at 18yrs, when her husband, Captain John Norcott D’Esterre, died following a duel in 1815. Daniel O’Connell had insulted the members of Dublin Corporation and refused to withdraw his remark. Captain D’Esterre, a member of the Corporation, took umbrage and challenged him to a duel. D’Esterre was mortally wounded by O’Connell and died some days later; his young widow refused a pension from O’Connell but he later made arrangements for an annuity for her infant daughter, Amelia Henrietta. This then, was the young widow John Grattan Guinness married in 1829, and, in an astonishing turn of events, his son Arthur Grattan Guinness – our doctor – married her daughter, Amelia, in December 1835.

The Journal of the British Homeopathic Society notes his death: ‘a member since 1876, but who had retired from active practice’, he died on 20th March 1897. The Guinness Pedigree in the National Library of Ireland records them as having eight children, one of whom was the artist, Elizabeth Smyth Guinness, RA, who died in 1927, but she is not listed in the archives of the Royal Academy of Art. Baptisms for their first five children (including two sets of twins) are recorded for the Church of Ireland, Clontarf. When we lift our glasses ‘to Arthur’ let us remember Dr Arthur Grattan Guinness and his considerable contribution to homeopathy in both Ireland and England.

The Dublin Homeopathic Dispensaries

In the 19th Century, Ireland was divided into Poor Law Unions, which were administrative areas responsible for the poor in their midst. A system of dispensaries had been set up which was a type of charity where wealthy patrons funded the caretaking of the sick. The first homeopathic dispensary – The Dublin Homoeopathic Institution and Dispensary – was the one opened at 122 Abbey Street Upper (now part of Marks and Spencers delivery yard) by a Dr James Goodshaw in 1844. He was a wealthy landowner as well as a medical practitioner, whose practice was at 16 Fitzwilliam Square and he funded this dispensary himself. He died in 1851, after which the young Dr John Blyth who had been his assistant since 1848, took over both his private practice and the running of the dispensary which existed from 1844 until the 1870s at this address. Valuations for the building went from £35 in 1868, down to £20 in 1870, and by 1873 there were tenements listed here, although it is still the same address given in 1874 in the alphabetical listing of Thom’s Street Directory for the Homeopathic Institution. In the 1876 listings, these premises seem to have been totally refurbished being now valued at £40, and there is a printer firmly established there. After 1876 there is no mention of this Dispensary.

Curiously, neither Dr Goodshaw nor Dr Blyth are listed as members of the Irish Homoeopathic Society.

Shortly after Dr James Goodshaw opened his dispensary for the poor, another one opened in Dublin. This was at 4 Swift’s Row, the street on which the main entrance to the Morrison Hotel is – the venue for our 2010 AGM! The Dublin Medical Press commented as follows on the establishment of the Dispensary under the title ‘Amateur Homoeopaths’:

‘This world of ours has evidently become a paradise for simpletons. A great Lord and sundry fine gentlemen, it seems, have taken it into their heads to turn huma-paddy doctors, and have actually opened shop in the fashionable locality of Swift’s-row.’ The article continues with the substance of the advertisement for the new dispensary:

Dublin Homoeopathic Dispensary

Under the patronage of the Earl of Erne.

The friends of homoeopathy in Dublin, feeling anxious to adopt means for extending the knowledge and practice of that system of medicine, which they have tried and found so peculiarly efficacious and beneficial in its results, and desirous also of bringing the blessings it is so eminently instrumental in conferring, within the reach of those who, while anxiously desiring to avail themselvesof those benefits, must otherwise remain

without particulars in them,

have opened a dispensary at 4 Swift’s-row,

in this city, to be supported by voluntary contributions, where patients are attended and medeicine gratuitously supplied, on every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, from nine til ten o’clock in the morning.

The following gentlemen, members of the Committee, will receive subscriptions and donations: –

. Luke Norman, Esq., 29 North Frederick-street (Treasurer)

Terence T. Dolan, Esq., Mountpleasant-square and 47 Dame-street (Secretary)


The Irish Homeopathic Society was established some months later on the occasion of Samuel Hahnemann’s birthday, the 10th April, 1845 when forty one individuals came together under the patronage of the Earl of Erne. The forty one members of the Committee – mostly wealthy landowners or Protestant clergymen – are listed alphabetically following the five of high rank, headed by the Earl of Erne, in Carl Luther’s book A Concise View of the System of Homoeopathy. The society was composed chiefly of non-medical persons and was funded by them; these subscribers were then entitled to send patients to the Dispensary to be treated for free or at reduced rates. For each pound sterling of a subscription, they could send four patients. There were a number of categories: advice and medicine gratis on production of a subscriber’s ticket; medicine gratis but pay 2 shillings 6 pence for the consultation; or pay the full fee of 5sh. (The wages of an agricultural labourer or a lowly kitchen maid would have been around 10 shillings a week at this time). The monies collected went towards the expenses of the Dispensary and towards the establishment of a Hospital fund.

About the author

Rhoda Ui Chonaire

Rhoda Ui­ Chonaire is a graduate of NUI Dublin, NUI Maynooth and of the Irish School of Homeopathy. She is Editor of the twentieth anniversary edition of the Homeopathic Times, and has been a member of the Committee of the Irish Society of Homeopaths since 2009.

3 Comments

  • Most interesting article. About 20 years ago, I obtained a copy of Confessions of an Homeopathist. Sheridan Le Fanu’s authorship was suspected, but I don’t think that hunch is justified. However, in my biography of Le Fanu, you will find details of domestic arguments about the validity of homeopathy in the novelist’s family.

    Please let me know of anything you have found about Le Fanu’s interest in homeopathy. I think in part it stems from his reading of Van Helmont as evidenced in his novel of 1863, The House by the Churchyard.

    Best wishes,

    Bill Mc C

  • Interesting article. I have a very vague connection to Waldemar Luther as I am a distant cousin of his wife Isabella Maria Hippisley, daughter of Henry Hippisley and Anne Rollinson.

  • Interesting article – FWIW I believe, but cannot be sure, that John Goodworth was a distant relative of mine whose family originated in the Hatfield/Thorne area of Yorkshire in England. His father ran a chemist’s shop in Thorne. But what happened to him or his business after 1875 (he would have been around 37 in 1875) I do not know.

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