For 800 years the Order of Malta has been providing a voluntary first aid service to communities and public events across Ireland.

The Order of Malta is a charity which helps people who are sick, in need, or disadvantaged.  Their origins in Ireland are connected with the Knights Templar, a Christian military order who specialised in looking after sick and wounded people, and who came to Ireland with the Norman armies in the Middle Ages.  

Tom Hartigan the officer in charge of the Wexford brigade of the Order of Malta describes the county's link with the organisation. 

There is a legend that this was a leper graveyard, and it dates back to about the 12th century. Now at that stage the Knights Templars were operating here, and in later years, then when the Templars and the Knights Hospitallers of Saint John joined forces, eventually becoming the Knights of Malta, and this is where the connection with the local unit would exist.

Most people are familiar with the first aid work that the Order of Malta Ambulance Corps carry out, as they are a familiar sight at concerts, race meetings and public events all around the country.  

At  Wexford racecourse jockey Frank Berry describes how much they depend on the Order, 

It’s most important, if the ambulance is not here, we don’t go out to ride, and they do a great job, and it’s very very important.  Anyone gets a bad fall, they look after us very well, they’re there to pick us up.

All members of the Order receive intense instruction in first aid, and as Frank Hearns explains, 

The cadets are trained first of all in basic first aid, and then we also have a proficiency scheme, which encourages these young people to develop themselves, and they are awarded the proficiency badges for qualifying in various aspects of this work.

What’s the main sort of work that the cadets can do?  Rosalind is a member of the Waterford branch,

We can do basic injuries like, and we can do competition work, and we can go and do duties for Tramore and that, the races are on, and anything like that.

Community work is also part of the cadets’ duties, as they help out at parties for older people, as well as visiting them in their homes.

Back to the Wexford racecourse, where the Ambulance Corps is on standby.  

Two Order of Malta members talk to Aonghus about how their section organises themselves, ensuring that they don’t fall prey to boredom, or the cold!  For them, a good race meeting is one where

We don’t have any injuries no horses down and no fallers. There’s excitement I suppose in watching the horses go over the jump, but we don’t just stay here all day, we change with the ambulance men and so on.

This episode of ‘Evening Extra’ was broadcast on 14 March 1988.  The reporter is Aonghus McAnally.  

'Evening Extra' was a nightly magazine programme which ran from Monday to Friday at 7 pm dealing with current issues and people in the news.  The first episode was aired on Monday 13 October 1986 and it ran for 278 shows over 2 years until the final show on 29 April 1988. The programme had numerous presenters and reporters including Siobhan Cleary, Richard Crowley, Bibi Baskin, Aonghus McAnally and Shay Healy.