Documentary about Offaly faith healer screened in New York
A short documentary film about two Irish faith healers including Joe Gallagher from Pullough was screened in New York on Tuesday, November 14.
'My Cure & Me' was filmed mostly in rural Cavan and was selected to be screened at DOC NYC, the largest documentary film festival in America. Director Alan Bradley said that it was “really exciting” that a film focusing on old Irish traditions was viewed by such a large international audience in New York.
The heart-warming nostalgic documentary captures a vanishing Ireland, exploring the experiences of two elderly, rural Irish faith healers with ‘the cure’, examining a practice steeped in faith and rich in history and folklore.
Proprietor of The Pull Inn in Offaly Joe Gallagher is a seventh son and has been curing people of various ailments since his childhood.
Joe explained: “It's something I've been doing since I was a baby. My parents used to take my hand and do it when I didn't know I was doing it."
At around six or seven years of age, Joe knew how to make the sign of the cross and to say a prayer on the affected area of the person's body but said he didn't like curing people then as he didn't understand it.
“I would be called in when I would be out playing. That time ringworm was the big thing. As I got older I realised what it was all about.”
Joe holds a cure session in a private room off The Pull Inn every Sunday and can meet between 15-25 people per session. He said that people come with every sort of ailment but that eczema and psoriasis are the most common nowadays. “They come from every part of the country, Cork, Kerry, Belfast, Dublin.”
“You don't know what people are going to turn up with. I just do what I do and see how it goes.”
The Leitrim native doesn't charge clients for his services as he explained: “If I got a gift from God I didn't pay for it so I don't think it'd be right to charge for it so I hope my reward will be in the next world.”
Joe also has very strong faith and was a Franciscan monk in his youth up until the age of 25, based at monasteries in Clara and Galway from 1960 to 1971 when he left the Brothers and opened the pub in Pullough. He said that he “enjoyed every day” with the Brothers and that they were “lovely people.” Joe also performed cures for people while in the monastery.
Joe moved to Pullough in 1971 and people started calling to his home for cures. He stated: “It just got bigger and bigger because people found out with word of mouth. There was no advertising whatsoever.”
Joe was also filmed for a new untitled documentary produced by the New York Times which has yet to be released. He said: “ They spent six months with me coming and going. They used to come of a Sunday morning here while I was doing the cures and they'd talk to the clients that were coming in.”
Joe feels that Americans are “very interested” in cures as they haven't heard as much about the practice. “I had people from America here for cures,” said Joe. “I had a surgeon here from Texas a couple of years ago. She was in Ireland on holidays.”
The local man said that he “'didn't mind” being featured in the documentaries but that the filmmakers had to ask the person who received the cures for their permission to be filmed.
Joe said that he went to Cavan recently to view a clip from 'My Cure and Me' and that about 200 people were in attendance at the event in Cavan County Museum in Ballyjamesduff. The 13-minute short film was funded by Creative Ireland through the museum.
“I went to see it. It was nice. There was questions and answers afterwards,” said Joe.
“I met a lot of people afterwards. I done a cure for a lady while I was there and I'm sure I could have done more if I stayed longer.”
Joe highlighted that faith healers are a “dying breed” as people with his gift cannot pass it on. “When I pass away that's it, it dies with me,” explained Joe.
“There's not seven in a family never mind seven sons (nowadays.) There's only two or three in most families now but in my time they were all big families where I came from in north Leitrim.”
Joe has eight children and previously owned the Manor pub in Tullamore, the Ennell pub in Mullingar, two hostelries named the Cloghan Inn in both Cloghan and Mullingar, the Bodhran pub in Kilbeggan, the Phoenix Arms in Tullamore, The Keg pub in Athlone and Joe's Bar in Irishtown, Athlone.
'My Cure and Me' was also screened at the prestigious Galway Film Fleadh last July and at Docs Ireland in Belfast. It was funded by Creative Ireland and Cavan County Museum.