• Stephen Callaghan

Senior Nursing Sister Mary Rigney MBE

Updated: Oct 9, 2020

Mary Rigney was born on 15 August 1888 in 23, Pim Street, Belfast, County Antrim. She was the daughter of Head Constable James Rigney and Mary Rigney (née).

James was born in Ballindrinnan, King’s County in 1848. He joined the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) in 1866 and rose to the rank of Head Constable in 1870. At the time members of the RIC were not posted to their home counties. James’ policing duties took him to Belfast, Dublin, Roscommon and Galway. James married Margaret Conroy on 22 May 1882 in the Roman Catholic church in Ballinslow, County Galway. Margaret was a native of the town, her father Michael was a victualler.

James and Margaret had three sons and four daughters. James retired with a pension from the police in 1893 and moved with his family to his home place of Ballindrinna, King’s County. He died on 21 December 1894 in his home, his brother was present at his death.

The 1901 census records the family still in Ballindrinna, living with James’ brother Michael. Mary is recorded as a scholar. In 1911 she began training in Dr. Steevens Hospital, Dublin to become a nurse. She completed her training in 1916 during the height of the First World War. Nurse Rigney saw service in France with Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Reserve. She served from 2 March 1916 until 22 November 1919. Her service entitled her to a British War medal and Victory medal.


Her commanding officer described her as the following:

“This lady has served under my supervision from 15.9.19 to 11.11.19. Her work during this period has been very satisfactory. Her professional qualifications are very good & she is a capable & conscience nurse. She has had temporary charge of a medical ward, which she managed very well”.


After the war, Nurse Rigney worked for six months with Lady Muriel Paget’s mission in Sevastopol, Crimea, a year of private nursing in Ireland. After this she worked as a nursing sister in Cameroon and Ghana. For her service in Ghana she was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in May 1937.


After finishing her career as a nurse she returned to Ballindrinna where she lived for the rest of her life. She died on 25 October 1958.

Mary's medals including the 1935 Jubilee medal and 1937 Coronation medal.

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