When a research colleague from Northern Germany contacted us recently, claiming to have found a document pertaining to Dr. Hurley’s Restorative Baths and Spa in Skibbereen, we were thrilled. Little did we know, however, that this document – a personal letter from one of the doctor’s patients to her sister (back home in Germany) – would provide such insight into daily life at the Restorative Baths.
The letter-writer – one Mrs. Antonia Gallagher – details the complaints that led her to go to the spa for recovery, describes the activities undertaken by the patients in residence there, and hints at the various treatments prescribed by the doctor. It appears that his assertions about tedium were borne out in the everyday operation of the spa as well as in the courses of treatment he espoused.
This document was uncovered by our esteemed German colleague while she was clearing the attic of a distant, recently deceased relative. It appears that this document survived against stacked odds – there is a good deal of water damage to the paper, a number of tears (the corners of the document seem to have been ripped as our colleague extricated it from behind a badly jammed desk drawer), as well as some evidence of a fire. Our colleague only has this one document to share at this time, but intimated that there may be others of a similar nature.
You may inspect the letter in its original form by clicking to expand the images. For those whose German is lacking, we have provided a translation below.
My dear Sister!
You have most likely been asking yourself why I have not written. Be reassured, there is no reason for concern. In fact, I am not spending the Spring in Cork, but have been sent south by Eamonn while he continues to conduct his business. I was, in any instance, terribly bored in Cork! Yes, I became acquainted with several Ladies from the church congregation, but everything is so strange here, both in the city and in the church. There really are only Catholics over here! You could not even begin to imagine!
I meet with them regularly to do needlework—with the Ladies from church, that is—but it is not really something to which I am suited, and I find it difficult to make myself understood. I continue, diligently, to learn English, but only with difficulty have I become used to the queer dialect of the Natives. Of course, I do not regret that I followed Eamonn, my one true love (for such he is!) to his native land, but the strangeness has begun to go to my liver. And all the rain! In Winter, there was hardly a week when the sun shone for more than one day! I could no longer be happy, and grew ever more querulous.
By chance, Eamonn heard of a place that was supposed to breathe a new joie de vivre into life. And now here I am, at Hurley’s Restorative Baths and Spa. Aside from me, there are eleven or twelve other guests, but the majority of them stay only for a few days. I, on the other hand, have been here for seventeen days and am recovering from the trials of city life. The establishment is overseen by one Dr. Hurley. He is indeed a young man, no more than five years older than I, and to all appearances in his mid-twenties, and is best equipped to raise and
reinvigorate the spirits of dispirited Men. Every morning, before breakfast, I walk on the beach and breathe in the fresh air and stretch my body as much as I possibly can. The Doctor says that it is good to expand the lungs in order to be well-armed for the day. And the day is always filled with one thing or another.
The Doctor believes, in fact, that boredom may be the death of modern society, and I am only too grateful that he has made it his goal to combat this. I play guessing games with the other guests, we paint and draw, for the ladies there is a crochet group and for the gentlemen a smoking room, and in any case, everyone here is in the best of moods. Of course, even here I have problems with the language, but everyone is so helpful and patient with me! After our evening meal, Dr. Hurley often holds forth on his newest discoveries, and he even hands out potions, herbal remedies and tinctures that help combat all of the ills that have afflicted the people here during their lives.
Often, of an evening, I have a brew of whiskey and different herbs that the Doctor grows in his garden behind the main building. What exactly is in it, he won’t say, but I tell you, it helps marvelously! Rarely was my mood so good as after partaking of this drink! However, the Doctor warns that you should only enjoy it in moderation, otherwise the potions can have the opposite to the intended effect. I myself take care to avoid drinking more than the prescribed measure. I heard from another guest that she woke up with a terrible headache after having drunk her sister-in-law’s portion (she had had indigestion) the evening before.
I plan to stay here for a few more weeks, and to return to Eamonn in Cork during the Summer. I miss him terribly, but I realise how good Dr. Hurley’s prescribed ministrations have been for me. I am quite
excited to see what will happen after my third week here. I have yet to taste any of the Doctor’s tinctures or herbal remedies, but I will let you know as soon as there is anything new to report!
And—how are things with you? Every evening I imagine how things might be going, and what you might be doing. You must certainly have a lot to do, but I am relieved to hear that Johann came to his senses and that you now have a housekeeper.
My most heartfelt and loving kisses,
Your loving sister Antonia
P.S. I am so looking forward to your next letter! Here is my address:
Mrs. Eamonn C. Gallagher
c/o Hurley’s Restorative Baths and Spa
As always, we would be thrilled to receive any further reports or information pertaining to Dr. Hurley’s beliefs, history, and practices. Please send any pertinent information and/or documents to snakeoilcure [at] gmail [dot] com.