Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition
The Natural History of Ireland (Author: Gerard Boate)

chapter 23

Of the Healthfulness of Ireland, and what Sicknesses it is free from, and subject unto

Many old and healthful People in Ireland.

ALTHO' Ireland is obnoxious to excessive wetness, nevertheless it is very wholsome for the habitation of men, as clearly doth appear by that there are as few sickly persons, and as many people live to a great age, as in any of the neighbouring countries for both men and women, setting those aside who through idleness and intemperance do shorten their days, attain here for the most part to a fair age, very many living to be very old, and so pass not only the age of fourscore, but of fourscore and ten; and several there are found at all times, who do very near reach an hundred years, some out-living and passing them. And the most part of those aged persons are in very good disposition, enjoying not only their health, but also the use of their limbs, senses, and understanding, even to their utmost years. Among the women there are several found, who do retain not only their customary purgations, but even their fruitfulness, above the age of fifty years, and some until that of sixty. My brother hath known some, who being above threescore years old, have not only conceived, and brought forth children, but nursed them, and brought them up with their own milk, being wonderful rare and almost unheard of in other countries.

Ireland free from several Diseases.

IRELAND's healthfulness doth further appear by this particular, that several diseases, very common in other countries, are here very rare, and partly altogether unknown. For the scurvy, an evil so general in all other northerly countries confining upon the sea, is until this day utterly unknown in Ireland. So is the quartan ague, the which is ordinary in England, and in several parts of it doth very much reign at all times.

As for the tertian ague, it was heretofore as little known in Ireland as the quartan: but some years since, I know not through what secret change, it hath


found access into this island, so that at this time some are taken with it, but nothing near so ordinarily as in other countries.

The plague, which so often and so cruelly infecteth England, to say nothing of remoter countries, is wonderfully rare in Ireland, and hardly seen once in an age.

The Immunity from certain Diseases consisteth in the Air, not in the Bodies of the People

IT is observable concerning the forementioned particular, that this privilege, of being free from several diseases, doth not consist in any peculiar quality of the bodies of men, but proceedeth from some hidden property of the land and the air it self. This is made manifest two manner of ways, first, in that strangers coming into Ireland do partake of this same exemption, and as long as they continue there, are as free of those evils, from which that climate is exempt, as the Irish themselves. Secondly, in that the natives, born and brought up in Ireland, coming into other countries, are found to be subject unto those diseases as well as other people, and I have known several of them, who being come hither into England, have fallen into the quartan ague, and have as long and as badly been troubled with it, as ordinarily any Englishman useth to be.

And credible persons have affirmed unto me the same of Scotland, namely that the quartan ague never having been seen there, the Scotsmen nevertheless in other countries are as obnoxious to it, as people of any other nation.

The most part of all kind of Diseases are found in Ireland as in other Countries.

TRUE it is, notwithstanding that privilege of being exempt from certain evils, that the most part of diseases and infirmities, whereunto man's body is subject in other countries, are also found in Ireland, as well outward as inward; and in the number of the inward not only the suddain ones, and those that in a few days or weeks come to an end, being called Morbi acuti by the physicians, as namely feavers, casting of blood, apoplexies, and others of that nature; but also those of long continuance, as the falling-sickness, the palsy, all sorts of gout, coughs, the consumption of the lungs, the stone of the kidnies and of the bladder, the cholick, the jaundice, the dropsy, the grief of the spleen, and several sorts of loosenesses, with all which evils it is here as in other countries, some of them being very common here, and others happening but seldom, and in few persons: the more particular relation whereof we will leave for the books of physick, and for those observations, which perhaps my brother some time or other will publish, of what he hath found concerning these matters, in an ample and flourishing practice of eight years, which he hath lived in Dublin.