A Grave Illness, A Simple Remedy

“Paddy Corcoran’s wife was for several years afflicted with a kind of complaint which nobody could properly understand,” writes William Carleton in his story, aptly titled “Paddy Corcoran’s Wife,” in W.B. Yeats Fairy and Folk Tales of Ireland.

“She was sick and she was not sick; she was well and she was not well; she was as ladies wish to be when they love their lords, and she was not as such ladies wish to be. [I have no idea what this means.] In fact nobody could tell what the matter with her was.”

But clearly it’s no joke. The poor woman is bedridden for seven years, and clearly it’s no pleasure or comfort to her being sick and bedridden.

At last a “little weeshy (fairy) woman, dressed in a neat red cloak” comes in and sits down and says, “Well, Kitty Corcoran, you’ve had a long lair of it there on the broad o’ yer back for seven years, and you’re jist as far from bein’ cured as ever.”

“Do you think it’s a comfort or a pleasure to me to be sick and bedridden?” Kitty asks in reply.

“No, I do not,” says the weeshy woman, “but I’ll tell you the truth: for the last seven years you have been annoying us. I am one o’ the good people; an as I have a regard for you, I’m come to let you know the raison why you’ve been sick so long as you are.

“For all the time you’ve been ill, your childhre threwn out yer dirty wather after dusk an’ before sunrise at the very time we’re passin’ yer door, which we pass twice a day. Now if you avoid this, if you throw it out in a different place, an’ at a different time, the complaint you have will lave you an’ you’ll be as well as ever you wor.

“If you don’t follow this advice, why, remain as you are, an’ all the art o’ man won’t cure you.” Then she disappears.

Kitty Corcoran and her kids take a little more care with the dishwater and she is restored to perfect health.