Saturday, May 7, 2016

Doctor McGarr I Presume?


Bridget McGarr

     A few years ago I wrote a blog about my great-great-grandmother Maria McGarr's family from County Kildare who were purported to be folk doctors or healers back in Ireland.  This story has been handed down through the generations-- that the family possessed a skin cancer cure and Bridget, sister of Maria and the youngest daughter to immigrate, had the formula in America.

     As is so often the case these days, new information has come online since that first blog was posted, this time in the form of newspapers added to the site Old Fulton Postcards.  I've found two news items from different newspapers, published years apart, which tend to confirm that there is some truth to the folk doctor story.

     The first is an advertisement from 1889, apparently placed by Bridget McGarr Kinsella herself in her local newspaper, The Shortsville NY Enterprise, stating she was able to cure cancers and tumors, the treatment being free if the patient was unable to pay.  That's quite a bold statement!  My eyes widened a bit when I read that. The second piece was Bridget's obituary in the Clifton Springs NY Press, written fourteen years after the ad appeared in the Enterprise.  This brief obituary ends with the phrase, "she was quite well known as a cancer doctor."

     The story has also come down that area doctors were not thrilled with Bridget's medical activities and threatened her with legal action if she didn't desist, which she did.  It just goes to show that some of these old stories do have at least a grain of truth in them, and that it pays to -- every once in awhile -- recheck older websites.  Content may have been added since your last visit that could be useful to your research.


  1. This is very interesting and it makes me curious as to what her cure was. I love it when there is evidence to back up the family stories and I sure do love newspapers.

  2. I've read that the ingredient in the old skin cancer cures was arsenic made into a plaster applied in a base of lard or butter and it hurt like the devil but did destroy any growth it came in contact with. Obviously it didn't cure cancer however.