Cummins, Iris Ashley (1894–1968), engineer and hockey player, was born 6 June 1894 in Woodville, Glanmire, Co. Cork, daughter of William Edward Ashley Cummins, professor of medicine at UCC, and Jane Cummins (née Hall) of Cork. Of her five sisters and six brothers, Geraldine (qv) was a renowned psychic and author, Jane Grace served as a squadron officer with the WAAF during the second world war, and her brother Marshall initiated the Cork blood-transfusion service. Iris entered UCC in 1912, when only 78 of the 420 students were women. She was very active in college life: in 1914 she read a paper entitled ‘Women in the learned professions’, expressing clearly her vision of a future of equal opportunity. Also that year, she received her first ‘cap’ for hockey; the engineering school was then in possession of the only three caps in UCC, and she finished the year by leading the college hockey team to victory in the Munster cup. In 1925 she captained the Irish hockey team on its tour of the USA. During her college years she edited the Journal of the Engineering Society. She graduated with an engineering degree in 1915.
She began her career at the munitions factory in the royal arsenal at Woolwich, London; from there she moved to the Vickers factory at nearby Erith, and in 1917 she returned to Cork. The period 1918–24 was difficult in Ireland and she failed to secure employment, throwing herself instead into running the family farm, gardening, and golf. In 1924 she began private practice in Cork, continuing until 1927, when she was appointed to the land commission in Dublin; in the same year she became the first woman admitted to the Institution of Civil Engineers of Ireland. She retired from the land commission in 1954, but remained in Dublin, making occasional visits to Cork. She died 30 April 1968 in Dublin.