Physician’s advice came with little bedside manner

Health column gave similar prescriptions for a huge range of very different ailments

Advert for cure for constipation, The Irish Times, May 9th, 1934.

Advert for cure for constipation, The Irish Times, May 9th, 1934.


The Health Talks column, initially bylined By a Physician, first appeared in August, 1927, continuing until 1940, when it had morphed into Talks About Health.

It debuted with The Best Way to Take Care of your Eyes, and went on to cover such diverse topics as monotony, milk, consumption, cartilage, strangulated hernias, adenoids, ventilation, disinfectants, the need for a warm overcoat, and using a thermometer.

This physician had a number of pet peeves: rotten teeth, damp feet, constipation, badly fitting footwear, excessive smoking and drinking, over-eating, mouth-breathers, germs, and neglectful parents. His prescriptions usually involved fresh air, exercise, drinking water, and a dab of antiseptic on every cut or scratch.

Cocktails – 1928

“Note to Clara, Emily, Ernestine, Phoebe, Alice, Margaret: You are all drinking too many cocktails. I cannot understand why you silly girls started this absurd habit; just because you have won the vote and can go about on motor-bikes with your young men friends, and have latch-keys and despise your mothers for old fogeys with no sense – that is no reason why you should damage your health with cocktails.”

Need for Commonsense and Courage

None of us like pain; I do not mind sticking needles into other people, but stick one into me and I should yell . . . But I understand from years of experience that pain is sometimes necessary in carrying out some remedial measure. And I am sorry to say that some of you are awful cowards, even worse than I am. To get a stiff joint back to free movements, the joint must be exercised and, note this, that the movements that are necessary are just the movements that are painful.”

Change is Good for Us All – 1928

“If you are really disgruntled and dissatisfied, try a complete change. Try sharing a room with a bright young girl nearer your own age. Live in the country in the summer . . . or if you hate the journey you now have, find a room nearer your work. But make a change of some sort; do not carry on in the same dismal routine. Save up for your summer holiday and when the time comes do something desperate. Take a plunge and see the snow-clad mountains of Switzerland; that will give you something to talk about for the rest of the year.”

A Letter to a Lady – 1929

“I want you to get up just a leetle bit earlier, so that you can have more time for breakfast; you ought to chew your breakfast, not ‘slosh it down anyhow’ . . . Then you ought to obey the calls of nature at the same time every day; constipation is such a curse, and such a serious source of ill-health that you ought to be prepared to take of lot of trouble to cultivate regular habits . . .

“You drink too much tea in the course of the day . . . tea is like the lash on a tired horse’s back . . . it must be weak, and you must add plenty of milk and sugar, because these ingredients are nourishing . . .

Sun Bathing – 1930

“My only grumble is that the obese and the ugly seem to claim the right to parade on the sun-beach as the young and beautiful . . . It would, I think, be as well to remember that what a gazelle may do with impunity cannot necessarily be suitable for a hippopotamus . . . the hippopotami should be quietly but firmly removed . . .

The Irish Times, May 15th, 1933.
The Irish Times, May 15th, 1933.

“I refuse to believe that morality is a matter of clothes. If a man declares that he was a perfect gentleman until he went to watch the sun-bathing, when he found himself converted into a satyr, he must be a weak-minded creature . . . I suppose we shall always have a certain number of cads amongst us . . . but such men are not going to have their degree of caddishness reduced by the wearing of heavy gowns by the bathers . . ”

The Irish Times, Monday, June 4th, 1928.
The Irish Times, Monday, June 4th, 1928.

Breathe Through the Nose – 1930

“Keep your mouth tight shut and breathe through your nose. There you are, I knew you couldn’t do it; you had to open your mouth to let the air in . . . Your mouth was given you to eat with and to talk with, but not to breathe with.”

Martyrs for the Press – 1931

“I have grave doubts about the wisdom of elderly men bathing in the open air all through the winter; it might be fun to have their photographs in the newspapers, which I suppose is their main object, but the practice of plunging into the very cold water cannot be good for their health. Very often the photograph shows only one old man bathing in the wintry sea; his colleagues are dead, but no photograph of their tombstone is published.”

The Irish Times, Monday, June 11th, 1931.
The Irish Times, Monday, June 11th, 1931.

Gargle Every Day – 1931

“A gargle a day keeps the doctor away – or it helps anyway.

Far too few people realise the good that a daily gargle can do. It is the enemy of coughs, the common cold, the dreaded influenza, and even diphtheria.

“In one big public school, as well as in many girls’ schools, routine gargling has become as much a daily practice as prayers or breakfast. Each morning the boys are lined up and they gargle in chorus.”

Home Spa Treatment – 1932

“You say doctors do not give good advice. It is truer to say that patients do not follow the advice. You feel liverish. Try the home spa treatment: drink water; go for smart walks; eat less; bathe more. How easy, how cheap, and how effective.”

Diseases of the Mind – 1933

“There are diseases of the mind as well as of the body, but it is a hard task to get the public to see the analogy between the two . . .

“The public have formed quaint ideas of their own . . . Disease of the liver is respectable; bishops have livers, aldermen have livers.

“As a matter of fact, disease of the liver is only too often the most shameful of all the seven deadly sins – gluttony. But the man with the liver escapes without censure. It is exceedingly heartless and cruel to fix on a man a stigma because he happens to suffer from a disease of the brain or mind.”

Attention to the Maintenance of Health – 1938

The Irish Times, June 5th, 1934.
The Irish Times, June 5th, 1934.

“You are not ill now, but you soon will be if you eat too fast, eat too much, have foul gums and dirty teeth, fill your lungs with bad air, get constipated, flood your body with drugs, go to bed too late, smoke too much and drink too much and, in general terms, neglect all the rules of hygiene.”

- This is part of a series looking at the archives of The Irish Times concerning health.

1) Sleeping secrets: undress in the dark
2) Cooking for invalids: wine and champagne
3) Eat fat, no milk: 19 rules of long living
4) Bloody cures for women’s periods
5) Electrical cures to revive sluggish functions
6) Your ‘flatulence’ explain your ‘noises’
7) Curing psoriasis with nude sunbathing
8) Weight-loss: Obesity soap and fat massage
9) Institution Dubliners hoped they'd never enter
10) Cocaine Tooth Powder
11) ‘Sun-ray’ therapy
12) Men’s hair products
13) A history of Irish lunacy
14) Prescribing clothes for women
15) Dublin in 1886
16) Poultices
17) Parsing ‘painless dentistry’
18) Naughty children
19) Exam pressure
20) How Irish teenagers were viewed

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