1. The Wheat Fields

The cows chew the pasture grass,
and potatoes grow in infertile soil.
The bags of wheat are taken away.

Dubliners forced to hoe the fields,
to have a place to stay,
so cows can chew the pasture grass.

The potatoes are rotting. Government
silent. Crops fail. Still
bags of wheat are taken away.

Children smile with sore mouths,
bleeding, toothless scurvy red,
but cows can chew the pasture grass.

Cornmeal for the workers,
Emigration for the lucky,
bags of wheat taken away…

A future of the sea, flu –
New World come true,
while the cows chew the pasture grass,
and the bags of wheat are taken away.

2. The Palace

They don’t care much for potatoes,
sitting up in British Parliament.
Care more for bills, tariffs, raising taxes,
and keeping foreign wheat out.
Irish, what Irish? Workhouses
will teach them not to starve.

On the rocking ships, they starve
making a new life away from potatoes.
Won’t keep them from workhouses
or disagreeing with parliament

or a depression they don’t know about,
a waste of life worrying about taxes.

Tony Blair apologizes

for taxes,
the 1840s, those that starved,
‘the richest and most powerful nation,’
and his tongue is heavy with potatoes,
and his tongue is from Parliament,
and his tongue is in a workhouse.

Rows of potatoes sit in Parliament,
putting taxes in, taking taxes out,
forgetting about workhouses

and the people that starve.

* * * * *

Jess Taylor is the founder of The Emerging Writers Reading Series (http://ewreading.wordpress.com). She is also a fiction and non-fiction writer, a poet, an artist, and a musician. After growing up in the remote and often forgotten town of Palgrave, Ontario, she has moved to Toronto, Ontario. She is currently attending the University of Toronto for their English in the Field of Creative Writing MA Program. To read, watch, and see more of Jess Taylor, check out www.jesstaywriter.com.

Her contributions to Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

Impression № 053: Skibbereen

We’ve featured Leslie Hawes’ art before, and are glad to have some more from Dr. Hurley’s home county of Cork. Leslie takes the peculiar “reality” in Google Street View as her source, and converts them into brilliant pencil drawings of far-away places.

Leslie tells us: “While most storefronts ‘modernize’, some remain in character. I found this doorway in Skibbereen, County Cork, Ireland. This could have been Dr. Hurley’s place, but I don’t know. This was done with Derwent Artists colored pencil, and this drawing measures 4″ x 5″ or 10 cm x 15 cm.”

* * * * *

Leslie Hawes is a Tucson, Arizona-based artist who has worked exclusively with colored pencils for over 30 years. She is self taught. She recently published a book of her Street View drawings on Blurb Books. She blogs here and sells her work here.

A first-person account of Dr. Hurley’s Restorative Baths and Spa, continued

We recently received correspondence from our esteemed research colleague Wiebke Henning, who has been looking into the background of Dr. Hurley’s Restorative Baths and Spa. She had previously unearthed a letter (which you can find here) sent from one Antonia Gallagher – a distant relative of Ms. Henning – to her sister in northern Germany, in which some details of Dr. Hurley’s spa came to light. Our editors also discovered a further letter (here) when on a recent trip to Ireland.

Seamus Hurley’s history is slowly becoming clearer, however, thanks to a new letter provided by Ms. Henning. The letter, once again from Antonia Gallagher, documents more of the fledgling doctor’s methods and cure-alls. Reproduced below in the original German, we have taken the liberty of translating the letter for your reading pleasure.

My dear Sister,

I hope this letter finds you and yours in the best of health. We have heard that winter hit you hard this year. Are the potatoes and the cabbage at least serviceable? I do hope that everything will flourish again in spring, and that you can replenish your stores. Here in Ireland both of these vegetables are awfully fashionable. And they grow so well that we could almost certainly live off of them for decades.

I have decided to remain in Dr. Hurley’s spa a little longer. The treatments are helping me terrifically, and Eamonn, too, believes that a longer stay can certainly only do me good. Ten days ago on Friday he came to visit me for a few days. He cannot always extricate himself from his official duties, but Brian, his aide, knows enough about the business by now that he can do without Eamonn for a few days. My beloved husband even let himself be cajoled into trying out a few of the Doctor’s remedies. And what do you know, he was so spry on his feet after taking Hurley’s Footbath Cure! Oh, but I haven’t told you anything about those yet! Alongside the potions and tinctures, Seamus has built a footbath for us! Behind the barns there is now a cabin where large troughs have been set up. They are filled with water, and we must stand in them and wade around for at least half an hour. The water is icy cold, and it is mightily strenuous having to lift your knees as high as the Doctor orders. But given that he tells us it will do no good unless you do as he says, I always try very hard! My absolute favorites are the baths that contain not only water, but also the most wonderful slush. You feel just like a child, with skirts hiked up to your knees and with bare feet walking round in this mud! The mud gets in between each of your toes, and I always stay in there so long that the Doctor himself comes and orders me to get out. Often, I can convince him to let me have a few more minutes with that splendid feeling. And I honestly believe that the Doctor’s presence during any treatment improves its effect. During one of these moments, I asked the Doctor where he acquired all of his medicinal expertise. You wouldn’t believe it, but he actually devised most of his curative treatments himself during long hours of research, and he tested everything on himself until he found the correct recipe and dosage for every potion and tincture! I marvel at this courageous, clever, and selfless man! Even now, he continues work on his most recent cures. And just imagine – he actually asked me to help him with his tests! I am a little worried about how the whole thing works, but of course, I would like to help support Dr. Hurley’s in any way I can. It’s the least I can do to show my gratitude. I will tell you all about it soon!

Yes, I am so thankful to be here. My nerves are so much calmer. Every evening, I partake of at least two potions. Afterwards, I sleep tremendously well, so much so that I don’t even want to go without the potions any more. How I wish I could share this experience with you!

My dearest, I would be awfully happy to hear from you again soon. And I cannot wait to see you again, soon, I hope soon. I am disappointed that my trip was not possible, but I am more than thankful for what I have. But who knows, perhaps times will get better for you again soon. No guest would be as welcome to me than you!

My most heartfelt and loving kisses,

Your Sister

Meine liebe Schwester,

Ich hoffe dieser Brief erreicht dich und die deinen in bester Gesundheit. Wir haben gehört, dass der Winter euch in diesem Jahr hart getroffen hat. Sind denn zumindest die Kartoffeln und der Kohl brauchbar? Ich hoffe sehr, dass im Frühjahr wieder alles gedeiht, damit die Keller voll werden. Hier in Irland sind diese beiden Gemüse schwer in Mode. Aber sie gedeihen so gut, da können wir sicher noch jahrzehntelang drauf vertrauen.

Ich habe mich entschlossen, noch ein wenig in Dr. Hurleys Bad zu bleiben. Die Behandlungen tun mir hervorragend gut, und Eamonn meint auch, dass ein längerer Aufenthalt sicherlich nur von Vorteil sein kann. Freitag vor 10 Tagen kam er mich für einige Tage besuchen. Nicht immer kann er sich aus dem Kontor loseisen, aber Brian, sein Gehilfe, weiß schon so viel über das Geschäft, dass er auch einmal ein paar Tage ohne Eamonn auskommt. Mein geliebter Mann ließ sich überreden, selbst ebenfalls einige Anwendungen des Doktors auszuprobieren. Was meinst du, wie gut zu Fuß er wieder war, nachdem er Hurleys Tretbadkur hinter sich hatte! Ach, von denen habe ich dir noch gar nicht berichtet! Neben den Tränken und Tinkturen hat Seamus ein Tretbad für uns gebaut. Hinter den Ställen steht nun eine Hütte, in der große Tröge aufgestellt sind. Sie sind mit Wasser gefüllt, und man muss mindestens eine halbe Stunde darin stehen und umherwaten. Das Wasser ist eisig kalt und es ist mächtig anstrengend, die Knie immer so hoch zu ziehen, wie der Doktor es vorschreibt. Aber weil er sagt, dass es sonst nichts bringt, gebe ich mir immer viel Mühe!

Am allerliebsten sind mir die Bäder, in denen man nicht nur Wasser tritt sondern die auch noch schönsten Schlamm enthalten. Man fühlt sich wie ein Kind, wenn man mit nacketen Füßen und bis zu den Knien hochgezogenen Röcken im Matsch tritt! Der Schlamm gelingt in jeden Zwischenraum zwischen den Zehen, und ich bleibe immer so lange darin, bis der Doktor selbst kommt und mir vorschreibt auszusteigen. Oft kann ich ihn überreden, mich noch ein paar Minuten länger des herrlichen Gefühls hingeben zu dürfen. Ich glaube zudem, dass die Anwesenheit des Doktors während der Behandlung die Wirkung noch verbessert. Bei einer dieser Gelegenheiten fragte ich den Doktor, wo er all seine medizinischen Weisheiten erlangt hat. Du wirst es nicht glauben, aber er hat doch tatsächlich die meisten der Kuranwendungen selbst in langen Arbeitsstunden erdacht und alles in Selbstversuchen erprobt, bis er für alle Tränke und Tinkturen die richtigen Rezepte und Dosierungen heraus hatte! Ich bewundere diesen tapferen, klugen und selbstlosen Mann! Noch immer arbeitet er weiter an neuesten Kuren. Und stell dir vor, er hat mich doch tatsächlich gefragt, ob ich ihm bei den Tests helfen würde! Ich fürchte mich ein wenig, wie das wohl vor sich geht, aber natürlich möchte ich Dr. Hurleys unterstützen wie ich nur kann. Es ist das Mindeste, das ich tun kann, um ihm meine Dankbarkeit zu zeigen. Ich werde dir bald berichten!

Ja, ich bin wirklich dankbar hier zu sein. Meine Nerven haben sich hervorragend beruhigt. Ich nehme nun jeden Abend mindestens zwei der Tränke zu mir. Danach schlafe ich hervorragend, und ich möchte gar nicht mehr ohne die Tränke sein. Wie gern würde ich dieses Erlebnis mit dir teilen!

Meine Liebste, ich würde mich fürchterlich freuen, bald wieder von dir zu hören. Und ich kann es nicht erwarten, dich hoffenlich bald auch wieder zusehen. Ich bin traurig, dass Reisen in die Heimat mir nicht vergönnt sind, aber ich bin mehr als dankbar über das, was ich habe. Aber wer weiß, vielleicht bessern sich ja auch die Zeiten bei euch bald wieder. Kein Gast wäre mir mehr willkommen als du!

Es grüßt und küsst dich aufs Herzlichste

Deine Schwester

* * * * *

Wiebke Henning is a northern German native who fills her professional life with lots of language(s)  and spends her free time buying flowers, eating Italian food and drinking wine as well as watching soccer and drinking beer. She’s also a great coffee lover and is looking forward to the day when she can afford an apartment that has a kitchen big enough to house a professional espresso machine.

An Incomplete Biography of Dr. Hurley, cont’d: A Medical Man?

During Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure‘s recent research trip to  Ireland, we uncovered some artifacts related to Dr. Seamus Hurley’s past. For our previous entries in the biography of Dr. Hurley, click here and here.

An Sciobairín, Corcaigh1, 5th September, 1855

My dear Dr. Cornish—

Your estimation of this fellow appears to have been sadly confirmed. Though his ministrations have led to success in the past and, I admit, several of his patients have changed sufficiently in hue and temperament during the duration of my stay to prove that his methods are not wholly without merit, I would discourage in the strongest terms his admission into the College2.

After my initial expedition, I made a supplementary call on the clinic in Cill Orglan3 where the ‘good Doctor’—as the skeleton crew at his ‘Baths’4 calls him—obtained his medical training. Although there is a record of one Séamus O’Herlihy5 exiting their program of study (frankly, a program from which the College ought to withdraw support), none of the physicians there was able to provide any further documentary evidence of O’Herlihy’s existence. However, most claimed to have known the man. What contradiction!

As to the fellow himself: the good Dr. Seamus Hurley has no more skill treating dysentery or female hysteria than he does letting blood. He is, my friend, a quacksalver! His skills would harm rather than heal our esteemed organization in the eyes of our countrymen. The College, as we all know, has been through a difficult period, and though we are in dire need of physicians, we must not allow the vagaries of recent years6 to benefit the Hurleys of the world!

Forgive my harshness. I look forward to reconvening in Dublin and to being rid of these potions and notions, these brittle Germans and Englishwomen looking for health and succour in meaningless tinctures and Oriental mumbo-jumbo

Respectfully, your friend and colleague,

Ciaran O’Sullivan, M.D.


  1. Skibbereen, Co. Cork
  2. The Royal College of Physicians of Ireland.
  3. Killorglin, Co. Kerry
  4. Dr. Hurley’s Restorative Baths & Spa, in Co. Cork.
  5. The Irish clan name O’Herlihy was often anglicised as ‘O’Hurley’. Seamus Hurley would likely have been a common name in the West Cork/Kerry area of Ireland at this time.
  6. Unclear.

The Misery of Wisdom Christmas


No, no, happy to, sure. Sit yourself down.

Sure, I knew them well-

Here, you’re not recording this are you? It’s not going to be on the radio is it, no? Going to make a star of me, hah?


Not that I’d mind, but you know, some people round here, talking out of turn. . .

But aye, I knew them. Mother was a Darby from up by Slane way and the father, Patty, worked down with Hollis’ before they moved to Cavan and the brothers took it over. Building supplies, that sort of thing. Then there was the eldest Seanín who has the farm up the reservoir and they had one girl, Sandra, who had a bit of a run in with the Conroy lad.

He was the youngest, was Wisdom. Sure, what was his proper name, now? Jim or John or something like that. Can’t remember. Gone. It’ll come back to me.

But that was a bit of playground cruelty; calling him Wisdom. Not much upstairs, if you know what I mean, couple of nails shy of a coffin, but bless him, sure, as they say, his heart was in the right place. And sure the name-excuse me-the name-Christ-


The name stuck, as those things tend to do.

Ah Jaysus, what was his real name altogether?


.    .    .

He laughed like he was getting sick. Sounded like something catching in a drain, a mound of hair or something soft like that.

When he put one hand on my knee I saw they were tiny, like child’s hands, and the nails painted yellow.

And the gaudy clothes. The pink shirt showed his chest and grey hairs, and the trousers with their red and white stripes and he had a sort of necklace on tight, like a dog’s collar.

He looked like a

I don’t know what he looked like.

I want to use the right words to tell you what happened and why. I want to make you understand.

I’d watched him moving through the bog. Back and forth and round in circles, like he’d lost something. I guessed it was the silver egg I’d found along the path. I held it and waited for him to see me waving.

“Is this yours?” I said and he nodded, took the egg from me in his mouth.

It cracked inside and he swallowed sighing.

He called me a lifesaver, watching, grinning the egg yolk out the corners of his mouth.

For something to say I said to him, “What’re you looking for in the bog?”

He said “Ingredients.”

It started raining.

.    .    .

Harmless, aye harmless.

That’s the word I’d use.

Not a thought in his head, not a bad bone in his body.

But they were fierce cruel to him, the young fellahs down at the building site.


Making of a cod of him, you know, telling him to fetch tartan paint, bubbles for spirit levels, getting him to follow rainbows out into the bog.

That sort of thing.

Aye, cruel.

.    .    .

He took me to the old barn to sit out the worst rain.

He said I’d catch my death and what would he do then?

The barn stank and rain came through holes. He patted a bale and said I looked intelligent. Raindrops stood on his bald head, dripped from ginger curls over his ears.

I said my name’s Kevin but everyone calls me ‘Wisdom’ on account of the joke.

And he said they’re all wrong. He said I was a smart young man who knew bargains when he sees them.

His suitcase had MR OLM written on the lid. He took out a catalogue and handed it to me. SLIDING ROOMS it said.

I got black ink on my fingers from the yellow pages. I couldn’t read the squashed writing but I didn’t want to— strangeness. Fuzzy pictures of models had their heads cut off and holding things—metal and meat and cables and bubbles and tubes, dripping candle wax over fingers and bellies, over the tops of their legs.

Don’t know what to think about that.

He said pick one you want for all your help.

Wanted his hand off my knee.

Wanted him to stop smiling lipless.

I pointed.

It was at my door next morning.

Uk uk, it said.

Uk uk.

.    .    .

I saw him after mass once.

Tom, he says, Tom, should it be speaking all night? Is there something I should be saying back?

I knew there was something strange with Wisdom.

Stranger than usual.

.    .    .

I’ll explain the best I can but I’m not sure if these are proper words— I just don’t know why it was chosen for me or why anyone would want it.

Thick as my wrist and long as my shin, brown and pink with a bulb on the end, like a soft wood onion. Rows of bubbles and blisters popped when pushed.

If you looked you saw it grow with your breathing and if you touched it your fingers got greasy, like liquid soap.

And it spoke out of the hole in the top.

Uk uk all day.

Uk uk all night.

I’d wake and find it in bed. In the bath with me. It’d get in my hands, all hot and smooth.

Wouldn’t stop screaming. Wouldn’t eat anything— tried smoothing butter into its holes, dip it in milk, tried to stroke it calm but skin came off and it screamed louder.

Couldn’t get away.

.    .    .

And we all lost track of Wisdom Christmas.

Saw neither hide nor hair of him; not at mass, at the building site, or at the roundabout where he’d watch the buses come in and out.

Dropped off the face of the earth, you know?

And there was talk: sure, there’s always talk, you know how it is-

But someone said they’d seen him sitting on the edge of the reservoir, watching the water.

Or walking down the dual carriageway divide.

Or in the bog at midnight, moving back and forth, as if he was looking for something he’d lost.

.    .    .

Too big to flush down the toilet, screamed in the u-bend or in the fire. And the squish when I tried to stamp it— Felt like I was killing something living. Felt wrong.

I left it on the road so a car could come and take care of it. But there was a tapping at my bedroom window the next morning. It was there. Saying  Uk uk.

I tried leaving it further and further away, burying it deeper and deeper. I threw it in the reservoir.

It came back.

Always came back.

.    .    .

Aye and I came across him myself as well, two weeks before. . . you know. . .

Sitting on the side of the road, up by the church. Cold night too, and him only in his pyjamas.

One slipper.

So I goes over to him to see if he was alright-and he looks at me and he takes me arm and he says: The world’s too big. The world’s too big and cold and strange and I don’t understand. Help me Tom, I just don’t understand.

I took him home-he kept stopping me-getting me to listen. Do you hear that, Tom? Do you hear that?

Following me, always following-

Mother of Jaysus, he put the heart of Christ across me.

.    .    .

It was supposed to be a gift. Something people wanted.

Was there something I was supposed to know? Something everyone else knew? What was I supposed to do with it?

Sicking wax on my hands and belly.

Flies come eating it.

I couldn’t find that man again.

.    .    .

Before anyone could stop it, it spread from the flats to the bookmakers, and you could see the flames and the smoke from all over the village.

Drew a crowd.

But when they put out the fire and got into his flat there was no trace of him.

But sure we were looking for Wisdom in the wrong place.

.    .    .

That’s why I’ve to do what I’m doing.

Don’t be sad.

I’ll be better off.

Love you Mammy.

But it won’t leave me be.


.    .    .

He was in the reservoir.

Four of us pulled him out.

And we saw the. . . the thing.

Rats had been at it. But there was something tied to his naked chest, held tightly to him.

But that strip of flesh wasn’t his.

We cut it loose.

It made a noise like. . .


Uk uk.


The world’s too big, he’d said to me that night.

Too big. . . and too cold. . .

And he didn’t understand. . .

No, this world can spare no kindness for the likes of Wisdom Christmas. . .


Aye, get us another pint there if you’re buying.

Good man yourself. Good-good man-



Vote for your favorite Irish Balderdash!

Now is the time! Vote for your favorite Irish Balderdash story! You have one week!

Roundup: Irish Balderdash

The Dr. Hurley crew is back from Ireland and is excited to see how much you’ve all enjoyed our most recent 100-word contest!

Tomorrow we’ll be launching a poll for you to vote for your favorite of the Irish Balderdash submissions, but for now here’s a roundup of all the entries for you to review and carefully consider your vote!



Irish Balderdash: Rascalstreet (Co. Cork)


he town of Rascalstreet was founded because of my Grandpa Douglas and his fondness for women and whiskey.

The first in his streak of unforgivable acts was lacing city milk with whiskey. Cats couldn’t catch mice, and teetotalers did cartwheels after breakfast. His influence spread when he invented a swiveled mirror to see under ladies dresses and sold them for tuppenny each.

“This must be stopped!” Declared Edna Pye of the Convention of Concerned Women. The CCW paced with signs and chained themselves to fences, and finally won their petition to found Rascalstreet – a place for the country’s rascals.

by Mary Mann

Irish Balderdash: Nenagh Bridge


nce upon a time, there was a young woman named Nenagh, who wished for romance.  Every night, she left her village, stood by the lake, and wished for adventure, for a new world, for a searing embrace.  One evening, she found a pure white lily floating on the surface, and she reached for it.  A selkie erupted from the water, grabbed Nenagh in his arms, and pulled her beneath the waves to his home.  Where she disappeared, a bridge bloomed from the ground, and so the town was named in honor of her passion, and his magic.

by Emily Markussen Sorsher

Irish Balderdash: Leenaun (Co. Galway)

aeries are not the only fey creatures of Eire; there once lived giants, fluid as the sea and clear as glass. These water giants carved wonders: the angular steps of the Giant’s Causeway, the curious limestone of The Burren.

Glaciers swept the giants clear; most joined the sea. One would not leave the waterfall she had coaxed from rock and river. She laid, an arm stretched to touch Ashleag falls, as the glacier rolled over her, stretching her toward the ocean. She is Ireland’s only fjord, filling twice daily to touch Ashleag. Leenaun, where the tide fills; Leenaun, the sheltered.

by Jessica Brophy