When, at the beginning of 1863, the Board of Guardians of the Fermoy Union
Workhouse were considering whether to instal a Turkish bath for their
charges, the Master and the Medical Officer paid a visit to the workhouse
at Lismore in the next county. There they saw a simple Turkish bath
that had been built for under fifty pounds and, in a report
dated 2 March, noted how it had been considered successful by their
opposite numbers at Lismore.
The Fermoy Guardians decided to follow suit and by
mid-June their own Turkish bath had been installed and was in use. Nothing
is yet known about the layout of the bath, but it seems most likely to
have been more or less a copy of the one that had been built at Lismore: a
cool room slightly above the temperature of the outside air, and a hot
room heated to somewhere around 120ºF.
The Medical Officer's report, minuted at the Board's
meeting on 1 July 1863, records that,
The Turkish bath has been in almost
daily use for the last fortnight, and I am happy to state that its use has
been attended with marked benefit in several cases of chronic rheumatism
and skin diseases; a great many of the able-bodied of both sexes have also
availed themselves of it.
Three weeks later, the minutes of the meeting held on 22 July show that
progress was being maintained. Like the bath at Lismore, the Fermoy
facility was used both as a cleansing facility and as a therapeutic agent
for a wide variety of complaints, the Medical Officer reporting that, 'the
beneficial results attending its use have in several instances exceeded my
most sanguine expectations.' The note in his report that it was most
obviously successful with cases of rheumatism and problems relating to the
skin tallies with the type of results experienced in most places where the
Turkish bath was used to alleviate health problems at this time.
The Medical Officer continued:
A more extensive trial will, I am confident, confirm my opinion of its
utility in many more diseases in which I have not as yet had the
opportunity to judge of its effects. I may safely assert, from my present
experience, that its introduction will be found economical as well as
useful, from the circumstance that its employment has in numerous
instances greatly shortened the duration of disease requiring hospital
treatment. I can speak highly of it as conducing to the general health of
the inmates, all of whom, with the exception of the very old and infirm,
At present it is not known how long the bath remained in use at Fermoy.
It was certainly later than 1870 because the minutes of the Fermoy Union
recorded the receipt of a letter dated 2 April from the Poor Law
This was a request 'to be furnished in pursuance of an
Order of the House of Commons, with copies of any reports made by the
Medical Officer with reference to the benefit or otherwise from the use
of the Turkish baths in the workhouse.' Unfortunately, no copy of the
Union's reply has so far been found.