By Charlie Keegan
THE death has recently occurred of Kate Duggan O’Neill, better known locally as Kathleen Duggan. Born in 1938 at the Market Cross, Carlow to her parents Pat and Kathleen Duggan, she attended Presentation National School and St Leo’s College.
As a champion swimmer in her teenage years, she won medals in galas throughout Leinster.
After completing her training as a nurse at the Mater Hospital, Dublin, she worked for a time at St Dympna’s Hospital, Carlow. She went on to train as a midwife and later completed advanced training in occupational health nursing, practising at a number of hospitals in London and Dublin and in occupational health with Medication Administration Record (MAR).
In 1969, Kate’s career took a different direction when she took up an appointment as nursing sister with P&O Line, in the days when cruising meant small ships and silver service. Over 13 years she cruised the world while undertaking the challenge of attending to medical and surgically-ill patients and the handling of death at sea.
Her last assignment with P&O was in 1982, when she volunteered as nursing sister on the ***SS Uganda***, which had been taken over as a naval hospital ship and posted to the Falklands/Malvinas War. Stationed in close proximity to the conflict, she and her colleagues worked under extremely dangerous conditions for the four months of the war, while attending to wounded British and Argentinian service personnel. At times, even the Red Cross on the side of the ship did not minimise the potential dangers involved. She was subsequently awarded a Service Medal by the British government in recognition of her contribution.
Soon after the war ended, Kate married Captain Richard O’Neill, himself a merchant sea officer. They settled in Tasmania, where she continued her nursing career and they later ran a guest house together.
After her husband’s death in 2008, Kate made the brave decision to return to Ireland, leaving behind many good friends and a life she very much enjoyed. At first she settled in Kilkenny, where she became centrally involved in Active Retired. In recent years she returned to live in Carlow, where she continued to pursue her passion for painting and other interests. She delighted in renewing old acquaintances and particularly enjoyed the Carlow Archaeological and Historical Society (CHAS).
Her sudden death came as a shock to her family and friends. She is predeceased by her sister Sr Maura OP and her brothers Noel, Fr Peter and Paddy.