It is strange how one can become distracted when carrying out an internet search and allow oneself to be carried down increasingly minor connections along the information highway. Well maybe not that strange. Most of us are inquisitive and there is a lot of information out there. As a child I dipped into an encyclopaedia ,now I have the seemingly limitless resources of the internet from which to draw down little nuggets of knowledge. Today I happened upon the sixteenth report on the District, Local and Private Lunatic Asylums in Ireland. A somewhat esoteric document I grant you, but it is of modest sociohistorical interest.
The information relates to the year ended 31st December 1866. The Report discloses that a total of 5070 patients were resident in Ireland's eighteen District Asylums and the split was roughly equal as between males and females. Table 9 to the Report gives details of what are described as the forms of disease experienced by the residents. The nomenclature has changed somewhat over the past century and a half and I suspect that many of the then patients would not now be regarded as suitable subjects for a Mental Hospital. They were said to be suffering from mania, melancholia, dementia, monomania, imbecility, idiocy or mental affections complicated with epilepsy. A total of 249 persons were reported as suffering from Imbecility and 122 from idiocy. Cork's District Asylum had thirty six percent of those diagnosed with imbecility. It also topped the national league table with its twenty four percent of those declared to be suffering from Idiocy. None of the 131 patients in the Londonderry Asylum were labelled with either of these now non politic terms.