Valentine Greatrakes

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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Greatrakes, Valentine, the "Touch Doctor," was born at Affane, County of Waterford, 14th February 1628. In 1649 he held a commission in Lord Broghill's regiment, and at the Restoration he was made Clerk of the Peace for the County of Cork. At thirty-four he began to develop those powers of curing scrofula and other diseases for which he was afterwards famous. His stables, barns, and outhouses were at times full of invalids whom his powers attracted, not only from distant parts of Ireland, but from England. At one time an effort was made in the bishop's court of Lismore to interdict these practices as savouring of necromancy.

At the desire of Charles II. he was invited to London, where he became a wonder to many and a subject of ridicule to others. Some of his notable cures were certified by the Royal Society, and he was lionized and entertained in many parts of England. A writer describes him as a man of good life and benevolent principles, "seeming by his faith and by his charitableness to include some grains of the golden age, and to be a relic of those times when piety and miracles were sincere... All he did was only to stroke the patients with his hands, by which all old pains, gout, rheumatism, and convulsions, were removed from part to part to the extremities of the body, after which they entirely ceased, which caused him to be called the stroker — of which he had the testimonials of the most curious men in the nation, both physicians and divines." Eventually his powers fell into disrepute. He was living in 1681; the date of his death is not mentioned. Some of his descendants were stated to be still living in the County of Waterford in 1833, Sources of further information concerning Greatrakes are indicated in Notes and Queries, 2nd and 3rd Series.

Sources

114. Dublin Penny Journal. 4 vols. Dublin, 1832-'6.

115. Dublin Quarterly Journal of Medical Science. Dublin, 1846-'77.

254. Notes and Queries. London, 1850-'78.
O'Callaghan, John C., see No. 186.

339. Ware, Sir James, Works: Walter Harris. 2 vols. Dublin, 1764.

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