Play recording: Cures

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  • Teideal (Title): Cures.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 840111.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): Joe Heaney Collection, University of Washington, Seattle.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): lore.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): unavailable.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 15/11/1983.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): evening class.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Joe recounts cures used to treat such ailments as:

  • Whooping-cough.
  • Cléithín. A disease where the ribs collapse on top of the stomach, which afflicts people who are run-down. Ó Dónaill’s dictionary translates cléithín as ‘ensiform cartilage,’ which medical dictionaries prefer to call ‘xiphoid process,’ a form of cartilage at the lower end of the sternum. On the other hand, Prof. Tomás Ó Máille’s compendium of terminology from Conamara, An Béal Beo, describes cléithín as a ‘tinneas bréige’ – a phony disease. ‘Bhíodh ceann na heasna iompaithe isteach, má b’fhíor. Bhíodh daoine ann leis an gcléithín ‘a thógáil’. ‘The end of the rib was turned inwards, if it’s true. There were people who could ‘lift’ the cléithín’1.
  • Difficulties during childbirth.
  • Burns.

Joe also refers to the family of expert bonesetters; see also How the Mahons Became Expert Bonesetters. Finally, Joe discusses the construction and use of sweat-houses, a kind of Conamara sauna – reckoned to be ‘the best cure in the world for arthritis’.


1. Joe himself endured the removal of his collarbone in June of 1946, according to a diary entry kept by Séamas Ennis in the course of his collecting work in the Carna district at that time. In this connection, Fr. Eddie Bheairtle Ó Conghaile told Liam Mac Con Iomaire, Joe Heaney’s biographer, that Joe had been sent home from Galway hospital some years before, and that the doctors had given up trying to cure him, ‘ach gur thóg Micilín an Bhriartaigh as Leitir Calaidh cleithín aige agus gur tháinig biseach air.’ This seems to suggest that a local expert, Micilín an Bhriartaigh, was able to ‘lift’ the cléithín, causing Joe to get better (Mac Con Iomaire, Seosamh Ó hÉanaí: Nár fhágha mé bás choíche, 117.)

This song was recorded while Joe was Artist in Residence at University of Washington.