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The Historic Cadian Sweat House and Its Traditional Use

The sweat–house at Cadian is one of the best-preserved examples of its type in the country. Its construction period is unknown, but local folklore, going back hundreds of years, tells us how people coped with many ailments of the day. Willaim. Thomas Latimer, minister of Eglish Presbyterian Congregation to 1919, often visited the site and about 100 years ago found what he described as ‘an exceedingly well-preserved Irish sweat-house about a mile from Eglish and five from Dungannon, on the farm of a man named McMullin and continued that.

It is situated in the corner of a small field where a stream of water and a high ditch meet to form an acute angle. The sweat-house is close to and partly within the ditch, from which, at first, it can hardly be distinguished, as both are covered with grass and brambles. The building is circular, but while the diameter from the door to the opposite wall is 4 feet 6 inches, another diameter, drawn at right angles to the first, is 5 feet 1 inch. The walls, 5 feet high, are built of dry stones. They are perpendicular to the last course, which is projected inwards about 3 inches. The roof is formed by placing three long flag-shaped stones from wall to wall at right angles to the greater diameter, each about 9 inches from the other. The intervening spaces are filled up with smaller stones, except that, in one place, there is a triangular opening, 13 inches by 9 inches, for a flue. At this place, the roof is 5 feet 5 inches high. The doorway is formed by one horizontal and two upright stones splayed a little towards the outside. The inside and narrower dimensions of the opening are Width at the top, 1 foot 7 inches; at the bottom, 1 foot 8½ inches; height, 2 feet 2 inches. The width outside is 4 inches more than inside. Some parts of the roof inside are still covered with soot.

I have been informed by parties who saw the bath used that the sweat-house is first thoroughly heated by a turf fire. The fire is then removed, and a large sod or “scratch” is placed on the floor so that the patient may not run the risk of burning his feet. He then undresses and creeps in on all fours, and the attendant holds a cloth before the entrance to prevent the ingress of cold air. After the patient has been thoroughly sweated, he jumps into a pool of water formed by damming up the neighboring stream. Then he is rubbed with a coarse cloth and dressed as rapidly as possible to prevent him from catching a cold. Generally, more than one used the house simultaneously, as there was a superstitious feeling against getting sweated alone. This Irish bath is supposed to be an effective cure for rheumatic pains.

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