It is intended to give the Bath at a very
low charge, and a considerable reduction will be made to employers and
others on taking books of Tickets for distribution. Books of Tickets
will be also issued at a further reduction to Members of the Medical
Profession, for issuing to their poor patients.
The advertisement also indicated that the bath was
to be managed by a committee of local women. As in his advertisement for
the Grenville Place establishment, which appeared on the next page of
the directory, Barter chose to use illustrations of the baths at St
The building and furnishing of the baths cost
£500. The successful task of raising this sum, over the preceding two
years, was said to be 'due to the energy and enterprise of Mrs C G
Donovan', who was widely thought to be the author of a memoir of Dr
Barter published after his death. Contributions included £50 from the
local MP, Mr J F Maguire, and £100 from the
Corporation of Cork.
The baths opened on 3 February 1863. The
facilities were described in a local newspaper.
The entrance is tastefully built, a neat
stained glass window, on which is inscribed 'Turkish Baths for the Poor'
surmounting the door. Immediately inside is the ticket issuer's box,
where for a penny and two-pence can be obtained the card entitling to a
bath. To the left is the entrance to the cooling and dressing room,
which is divided into the compartments usual in such a room,—in this
case eight in number. In a small chamber off this room is the boiler and
heating apparatus. Beyond the cooling-room, separated by a small
passage, is the first of the hot rooms, that in which the lowest
temperature exists, and inside it is the hotter room, off which lies the
But the newspaper's praise for the intention of
the baths and for the execution of its construction was accompanied, as
then were so many philanthropic endeavours, by reassurance to its
readers that the poor were not being spoilt or mollycoddled.
Throughout all these compartments the
evidence of great good sense in the designer is evident. The bath, while
comfortable in every department, is devoid of the unnecessary
refinements which prevail in those for another class of the population,
but which would be useless and out of place in an establishment designed
especially for 'the people'. No element, however, which will make the
bath practically useful is wanting ; and for all cleansing and sanitary
purposes we venture to say, as good a bath can be had in this
establishment as in the most refined and luxurious building of the kind
in the country. It is besides, commodious, and in regard to
accommodation, will be fully equal to all demands that will be made on
The report concluded by thanking Dr Barter and his
management committee, which by now included men as well as women.
The citizens of Cork, who of course,
must, both pecuniarily, and otherwise, take an interest in the poor of
their city, and especially with regard to their sanitary condition owe
sincere thanks to the ladies and gentlemen who have brought this
admirable project to a successful finish.
But the ladies and gentlemen of the management
committee had by no means considered their project 'finished'; nor did
they see their remit as being limited to the actual running of the
baths. Some of them, at least, went further by speaking and publishing
tracts in support of the use of Turkish baths and other hydropathic
remedies. The indefatigable Mrs Donovan was one of them.
It is difficult to know how many pamphlets she
wrote, or over what period they were published, as all were written
under pseudonyms. One such pamphlet on hydropathy and the use of the
Turkish bath, published in 1875, was called Chat upon health: Pat
Dennehy visits Mrs Magrath, 'by the author of Illness: its cause
and cure, etc'.
On each of two visits, Mrs Magrath has a
comic-strip type of conversation to describe the use of the cold
compress bandage and hot bran poultice. Pat tells her he won't be able
to remember all her instructions.
Mrs M—If you can't, the best thing you can do is to buy the bandage
ready-made at the People's Bath, Maylor Street. You will buy it there
cheaper than you can make it, and will besides get all the directions
you require from the Bath attendants.
Pat is then reminded of the 'beautiful Hot-Air
Mrs M—Remember we have hot as well as cold
treatments. And you are to understand that all whom I advise, take the
bath regularly, and oftener on illness than in health.
Pat—I'm afraid few will take up with your cure.
People are afraid the Bath will kill them.
At a second visit Mrs Magrath describes a sitz
bath but Pat is dubious.
Pat—I suppose that as you are so
particular about clean air, you are not satisfied without clean skins.
Do you take an all-over wash every morning?
Mrs M—Yes, but our morning wash is soon
over, for it is not on that we depend for cleanliness. For a real wash
we go to the Turkish bath.
Pat—So you take the Turkish bath! People
tell me I would be roasted there. What is the use of all this heat?
Mrs M—What is the use of the sun? One of
the plainest marks of good health is a feeling of comfortable warmth, as
cold is always characteristic of death. Ask the poor rheumatic cripple
what good heat does him? Or the man who was comforted in the Bath in the
first chill of illness. If the poor creatures we see on a winter's day
shuddering with cold, at the doors of our Dispensaries, were put into
the Bath, they would think themselves transported into Heaven.
Pat—If the Bath be so good, why isn't it
in all the hospitals?
Mrs M—I leave that to others to answer.
All I can tell you, Pat, is that there is no Institution in the City so
valuable to you and me as the Bath. It not only washes the skin, but it
also washes the blood. It fortifies against cold. It brings the blood to
the surface of the whole body, as the hot stupe [poultice] does to a
particular part. Its general use would change the whole condition of
society, lessen the Poor Rate, and prevent cholera, small-pox, and
similar evils, which all spring from dirt....
Pat—Nelly [his wife] says that women are
afraid to take the Bath when they are nursing, or when they are in the
Mrs M—They never made a greater mistake.
Not only would it serve the future mother, but the unborn child; and
common sense will show that whatever purifies and benefits the nurse
will also be useful to the child, who depends on her for nourishment. I
often saw babies in the mother's arms in the Bath, or sleeping quietly
in a cool corner, and you can't think how bright and lovely little
children can look when they come out...
Finally, the pamphlet ends with a straightforward
advertisement for the baths.
N.B.—At the People's Bath, 26 Maylor
Street, Cork, a Turkish Bath may be had gratis, or for a nominal charge.
Advice given, and cold-water bandages and various hydropathic appliances
may be purchased.
It is difficult to assess what effect, if any,
such pamphlets had in an age when the ability to read was not universal
and those presumed to be most in need were least likely to be able to
take notice of their content.
Nevertheless, in spite of the Maylor Street
Turkish baths having such low charges for admission, not to mention the
policy of free admission for the poor, the figures for the year 13
November 1871 to 2 November 1872 showed that 14,567 Turkish baths were
taken. This brought in an income of £193 16 11 which, after
expenditure of £175 13 3, left them with a profit of £ 18 3
8—no mean feat considering that the price of coal had risen considerably
since the baths opened in 1863.
At some stage the admission charges must have
risen above those in effect when the baths opened, because by 1879 the
standard charge had been reduced to 3d. for men and women, and 2d. for
In spite of the success of these baths, there was
no rush to adopt such ideas elsewhere. In 1873, three years after
Barter's death, an article in the Dublin University Magazine,
later reprinted as Public bathing: the hot-air bath by Dunlop
Durham, argued cogently for Barter's example to be copied.
In Ireland, the Baths and Wash-houses Act
has remained almost a dead letter, yet there is no part of the empire in
which equal facilities exist for salubrious bathing. This is owing to
the enlightened policy followed by the late Dr Barter, the reviver of
the hot-air bath in western Europe, whose career as a public benefactor
has yet to be appreciated. The baths he was instrumental in establishing
in Ireland have been of great public advantage, yet the good they have
done only serves to show how much yet remains to be accomplished. We
want cheap baths for the people.