The Incomplete Biography of Dr. Hurley: Chapter One

ou will be wondering
whence the name of this collection of jottings, suggestions, and thoughts. Dr. Hurley was by no means the only purveyor of Snake-Oils in his time, nor was he the most famous. Despite his relative obscurity, Dr. Hurley is a fascinating study. In the coming years, we will attempt to discover his character and piece together his history, recounting tales from his life and death, examining his wise counsel, and testing his theories and tonics for the rejuvenation of mind and spirit.

“The greatest ill of humankind,” the eminent Doctor is known to have said, “is tedium. Nothing is more tiresome, nor more likely to advance the march of time and its cruel mistress, age, or to cause stomach upset, a bout of the vapours, or an ache about the temples. It is the duty of those who answer the call of medicine and those who plumb the depths of philosophy to attack tedium in all its forms, to root out its deteriorating influences, and prescribe our patients a course of healing that will lead them back to vitality, interest, health, and youth.”

The Chapel at St. Finn Barre's School for Boys, near Clonakilty, Co. Cork, Ireland.

What we know thus far about Dr. Hurley is very limited indeed, though clearly he was not a terse man. We do not know where or when he acquired his honorific, nor under which precise circumstances he made the long journey from his native Ireland to the bustling young U.S. of A. We do not know whether he married nor whether he had children, nor how he developed the recipe for his famous Snake-Oil Cure. It will be necessary for us to start with the few bare facts we have traced thus far.

r. Seamus Hurley, it can be surmised, was born in the early Nineteenth Century in County Cork, Ireland. Though the Doctor’s birth certificate is lost, from his school records (a school report from St. Finn Barre’s School for Boys shows that he was a good, but not excellent student, and that he was in the fourth year in 1832, though a school portrait shows him looking a good deal younger than his classmates) we can infer that his family resided in the Clonakilty area, situated in the west of this verdant, wind-swept county.

From said document emerges a picture of a young Irishman who was adept at the sciences, uninterested in theology, though curious and amicable all the same. After his schooling, he mysteriously came into fortune and founded Hurley’s Restorative Baths and Spa in the seaside town of Skibbereen, where he ministered to the wealthy landowner and the lucky housewife alike.

The site of Hurley's Restorative Baths and Spa, Skibbereen, Co. Cork, Ireland.

It was here, no doubt, that the seeds of Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure were sown, though there is no record of this elixir of interest having been sold in his native Ireland. Only upon his arrival in the USA do records of Seamus Hurley begin to paint a more complete picture of the man Hurley became.

*        *        *

Although we have assembled the beginnings of an archive documenting Dr. Seamus Hurley’s life and career, we are in desperate need of more information. Please send any first-person accounts, biographical notes, documentation, images, or correspondence pertaining to Dr. Hurley or his Snake-Oil Cure to the editors of this work.  Electronic correspondence may be addressed to snakeoilcure (at) gmail (dot) com.

Leave a comment


  1. A first-person account of Dr. Hurley’s Restorative Baths & Spa « Dr. Hurley's Snake-Oil Cure
  2. Dr. Hurley’s Digest Volume I: Miscellany « Dr. Hurley's Snake-Oil Cure
  3. Dr. Hurley’s Summer Contest Series № 1: Hurley Pulp « Dr. Hurley's Snake-Oil Cure

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: