Yellowstone: A Brief History of Belfast City Hospital

Yellowstone: A Brief History of Belfast City Hospital

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Belfast City Hospital





26min 29sec







Éanna Mac Cana

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Éanna Mac Cana

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Film directed and narrated by by Éanna Mac Cana, telling the history of Belfast City Hospital, from the Victorian era to the present day. 

The story of the hospital begins in 1838, when the Irish Poor Law was introduced. This law provided a workhouse for South Belfast, between what is now the Donegall Road and the Lisburn Road, then Blackstaff Loaning and New Lisburn Turnpike Road. 

It opened in May 1841, with little provision for sick inmates. Fever hospital built for the workhouse in 1947, for people with contagious diseases.

A Statue of Ella Pirrie stands outside the hospital, she helped grow the number of nurses working in the workhouse, and helped it to modernise.

The National Health Service was introduced in 1948. The hospital was redeveloped through the 60s and 70s, distancing themselves from the associations with the workhouse, with the hospital tower being opened in 1986.

The film speaks about the experiences of staff during the Troubles, and the impacts that it has left on the population of Northern Ireland.

The film brings us close to the present days, discussing the Nightingale hospital set up at the City Hospital to help to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.


Synopsis by the filmmaker: 

Yellowstone is a moving account on the life cycle of a place, its reason for being; the changing facade of a landmark building in the City of Belfast – a hospital that evolved from a humble 6 bed unit for the sick of the city’s workhouse to a 900 bed university teaching hospital. For the director this is a labour of love and he beautifully interweaves his own personal history into this story, recounting the birth and death of his infant sibling who came before him in the hospital’s Jubilee Maternity Unit. This building would be demolished and replaced by the Cancer Centre - a place with which the filmmaker would become familiar during his time spent as an in-patient during the summer of 2017.

Revealing both communal and personal history and insight, Yellowstone harbours a deep awarenessfor the future with an urgent statement for our time; a recognition that many chronic issues the hospital has suffered from over time, find relevance today. Yellowstone is a work interwoven with themes of beginnings, endings, life and death and ultimately of hope. 


Yellowstone: A Brief History of the Belfast City Hospital

Directed by Éanna Mac Cana

Narrated by Éanna Mac Cana

Selected Text & Images courtesy of ‘Belfast City Hospital: A Photographic History’ by John F. O’Sullivan

With scenes from ‘Too Late for Names’ (1998) by Doubleband Films

Poem ‘Casualty Standby’ by Sister Linda Mellon

‘Casualty Standby’ voiced by Frances Morgan

Music composed by Moon Paw Print

Images courtesy of: John F O’Sullivan, Sharon Kelly, Sam Christy, Doubleband Films, UTV, PRONI, Digital Film Archive, Atomic Archive, Google Earth, Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, Wellcome Collection, Wikimedia Commons, Ulster Museum, Belfast Telegraph

Special thanks: John & Anne O’Sullivan, Sam Christy, Dermot & Daniel Lavery, Brian & Michael McCloskey, Laurena Kane, Jon O’Rourke, Laura Scougall, Francis Jones, Ulster Medical Society, Linen Hall Library, Department of Health, Paul Edmonson, Greg Darby

Edited by Éanna Mac Cana

On Behalf of Northern Ireland Screen:

Christine Morrow – New and Emerging Talent Executive

Nico McClean – Acting Funding Executive

Kari-Anne Proctor – Funding Assistant


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