Emma Duffin

Emma Duffin was born in Belfast in 1883, the middle child of nine to a family of substantial wealth. Her mother Maria and sisters Molly and Ruth also feature in this timeline.

Her progressive parents provided an extensive education by governess and in England. She became a talented illustrator and committed social activist.

The role for which she is most renowned is as a Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) nurse in WWI and WWII as detailed in her prolific diary keeping.

In recognition of her hard work and selflessness, she received an honorary MA from Queen’s University Belfast in 1954.

She died in 1979 aged 96. Having never married, she was buried with several family members in Newcastle, Co. Down.

Researcher: Pauline Connolly

PRONI Reference for Diary: D2109/18 (Thanks to Mr. Michael Duffin)

Bio & Researcher's Notes

Emma Duffin Diary Entries

11th September, 1915
Finding was keeping…
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22nd September, 1915
How funny it was that I was really in Egypt...
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1st October, 1915
To my unaccustomed eyes all the patients seemed dying...
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16th November, 1915
I have never seen a wound...
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20th December, 1915
Mamma had raised a fund at home for my patients...
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10th January, 1916
Small street Arabs stopped to stare at us...
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No Date, February, 1916
I felt very indignant and depressed...
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22nd May, 1916
I once more started a VAD course, this time for France...
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No Date, June, 1916
I told her I hated responsibility…
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No Date, June, 1916
I fell asleep pondering over the consequences...
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No Date, July, 1916
The mud from the trenches sticking to their clothes...
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No Date, August, 1917
The words seemed like a knell to me...
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No Date, April, 1918
I had been gassed from the men’s clothes....
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No Date, May, 1918
Their [American] ways were not ours...
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No Date, March, 1967
Then ‘Home’ to a completely different way of life....
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No Date, December, 1967
I was their ‘sister’ in both senses...
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