David McNally

Person

Surgeon David McNally

Born in Co Down in 1765, David McNally studied medicine in Edinburgh University and after practising for some years in Markethill, Co Armagh he was selected as surgeon for the Armagh Militia in 1793, with a commission as Lieutenant. After joining the Militia, Surgeon McNally went with them on their various musters and manoeuvres in places such as Doneraile, Dublin, Ardfinnan Camp, and Drogheda. In the summer of 1798 the Armagh Militia had their headquarters at Naas and from there took part in the Ballinamuck campaign against the 1798 rebels and the invading French forces.

At that time medicine in the army was fairly basic. Chloroform and antiseptics were unknown, and the tourniquet, boiling oil and pitch were the only means of stopping bleeding after amputation. The life and work of the militia surgeon was hard and very active as the regiment moved frequently and was never quartered in one place but spread round neighbouring towns in small detachments.

The surgeon was allowed 1 shilling 9 and one 1/2 pence a day for keeping a horse to use on duty. He also had to attend military punishments and by feeling the soldier’s pulse decide how long the lashing could go on without killing the victim. Considering that in 1807 the punishment for being drunk in the army was between 200 and 600 lashes, this must have been an ordeal for both victim and surgeon.

David McNally retired from the Militia in 1815 and, ironically, died as a result of a Typhus epidemic in 1818.

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