Michael Hussey

Mick Hussey close-up.jpg


Michael Hussey


Infectious Disease; Tuberculosis


This interview was completed for the Catching Stories of infectious Disease in Ireland project.

Mick spoke of his father having TB and the effect that had on his family life. His father contracted TB when Mick was 8 or 9 (1967-68). Mick mentions the toll it had on his mother, the difficulty of visiting and the stigma that having TB in your house brought. He also mentions the over baring public health measures.
Mick also mentions his uncles contracting Diphtheria before this.
Throughout the interview, Mick brings up how all this fit in Irish society at the time. And how he perceived it then and now versus what he sees as the modern consensus of mid-20th century Ireland


11 August 2022




Ireland; 1920s -2020s


Cork Folklore Project Sound Archive


Cork Folklore Project






1 .wav file




88min 09sec


Youghal, Co. Cork, Ireland

Original Format


Bit Rate/Frequency

24bit / 48kHz

Time Summary

0.00.00 - 0.10.06

Intro - Background.

Schooling, Presentation convent, CBS Primary (Horrendous experience), Secondary school CBS not as tough as primary. Actual education.

Stresses to say he is not anti-church.

Changed to the Vocational school in 3rd year. An absolute eye opener. Group cert then inter cert, stayed on, and petitioned for the school to have leaving cert.

Explains the sadistic behaviour of both the lay and Christian brother teachers and the difference in their physical punishment. Fear of going to the toilet. Fear of principal.

After School very different. Chatting, TV etc. Loved the American TV shows.

Space was big in his early life, first man on the moon, Star Trek etc.

Not brought up with traditional Irish values or the GAA.

Gravitated to the beach side of town. Morning, Noon, and night.


0.10.06- 0.13.20

Childhood Pastimes

Summertime gravitated to the beach side of town. Morning, Noon, and night.

Played rounders and chainey, Glassey Alleys (Marbles) Pickey (like hopscotch) on the street.

Girls would brake glass. Glass was used as currency. Trade broken glass for comics. Coloured glass was worth more.


0.13.20- 0.14.23

Cork Examiner newspaper cut in strips and strung up for toilet paper. Micks’ uncle thought that posh, he just tore as he went.


0.14.23 - 0.19.37

Mick says from a young age took an interest in the past. Mentions his love for the new in terms of culture. Glam rock and Punk. Not Horselips though. Critical of ‘Reeling in the years’ tv program for their use of contemporary music, RTE never played that music at the time. Radio Luxemburg was the station of choice.

Micks’ sister was first in Youghal to wear mini skirt.

Mentions that nobody had a problem with Tom Robinson being gay. Questions the modern viewpoint on these topics.

Father was critical of modern music called them the ESB bands because they needed to be plugged in

0. .19.37 - 0.22.00

Uncle with Diphtheria

James (Jim) Harris. Lived on Windmill Lane. Came from the ‘Bog’ (Ballyvergan marsh). Jim’s brother Ned worked in the background of BBC radio in London, Jim worked Copy on Fleet Street London. Good relationship with Youghal resident and journalist and notorious communist Claude Cockburn.

Jim and Ned’s childhood home had open sewer outside. Jim caught, what Mick thinks was Diphtheria and was brought to the fever hospital on Raheen road Youghal. Other Uncle went to fever hospital in Cork, not as good experience as brother. Horrendous Isolation. Even when he returned to Youghal he wasn’t allowed to hang out with his friends had to live with Grandparents.


0.22.01 - 0.26.30


The house on Sarsfield Road was the place where it all happened.

The generation gap between Mick and siblings made for a great melting pot.

The family home was Micks mothers’ family home.

Mick mentions that everyone had fleas. Everyone when returning to England would check under collar.

Lice were called Boodies. Mentions the treatments. Fine tooth comb and late chemicals.

Remembers seeing ‘local tramp’ as mass and seeing fleas and live all over his head.

Mick brings up the socio-economic element to this.

Mentions the work in the town, fishing so-so, more in the textile factories.


0.26.31 - 0.30.30

No such thing as pocket money. Comics big thing but are looked down on. Comic swapping. Girls and boys. Mentions the un-pc language in the comic strips.

Mick finds it humorous that the younger generation refers to the English as the ‘hun’.

Remembers a knock on the door and young boy was looking to swap girl's comics. Mick says that while this was strange it wasn’t an issue. Say that today there is an obsession with words.

Mortgage was unpronounceable.

Conscious of not lauding poverty.

0.30.31 - 0.34.00

Mick’s Father

When micks father passed away, lots of stories from local farmers.

Mick's father traded cattle. Used his communion money to buy first animal to sell.

He was the go-to to trade livestock. Had money when others didn’t. Mentions always having meat compared to neighbours eating sugary bread. Neighbours would call for vegetables.

Father was only person on street with a Car.

Alcohol major part of his life. The office was the pub.
Wonderful but the cost was high. Not just money but health etc.

0.34.01 - 0.42.20

Fathers TB

Mick’s father was always away working.  Mentions Uncles in London sending money.

Late 1960s Foot and Mouth outbreak. Mick remembers big sponges in St Raphael’s hospital nearby. And cattle grid to stop the cattle from entering. Mick mentions having a great relationship with patients in the hospital.

Father would be away in the cold and wet a lot. Got TB and some stage. Mick not very aware of it.

Father was brought Sarsfield's hospital in Glanmire. Very difficult time for family. 7 kids and half the street living in the house.
Visitations were difficult. Mother couldn’t drive. Public transport terrible. Social welfare was non-existent. Milkman would drive mother to visit. Mick remembers having to stay in the car park and wave at father from there.

Older sister would mind the kids when mother would visit hospital.
Mick remembers Shirley Temple and the Marx brother helping to take attention away but knowing that something was wrong. To this day Shirley Temple triggers memories of his father’s TB.

From his time in hospital micks, father made lots of picture frames and models from lollypop sticks and matchsticks. But they had no sideboard to put them on. No trappings of affluence in house. Warm love. No wallpaper but mother painted the walls artistically.

Mick mentions that when he moved and took over the house that when he was modernising it he stripped back wallpaper that revealed his mother’s paintings.

0.42.21 - 0.44.45

The House

No bathroom in the house.
All impeccably clean though. Everything worked off one cold tap. No central heating.

Bathed in tin bath.

Everything was used. Nothing was disposable. Hand-me-downs.

Element of embarrassment having to share books with siblings.

Mentions alcohol again.

0.44.46 - 0.48.45

Mick always had an interest in people’s lives and history.

Talks about the class element. The 1960s didn’t happen here till the 1970s. Extra money went around.

Music was the big thing. Don’t get that buzz anymore from music as he did. It was part of your upbringing. Crossed barriers. Depending on the genre you lived that way.

Although Mick studied folklore, he still has a strange relationship with Irish. Hangover from schooling.

0.48.46 - 0.59.55

Father's TB cont…

Mick found out later about the stigma associated with a house having TB. And still is to this day. Compares it to the early reactions to COVID in 2020. Say’s it was interesting to watch the attitude of people’s inference that there was something wrong with you if you got COVID.

Mick remembers a social welfare guy called Mulligan calling the house when his father was in hospital. With what looked like 'a priests incense burner’ burning sulphur to kill the TB. Draws comparison to neighbour being brought away to hospital with COVID by the army. Found these public health measures to be intrusive.

Speaks on TB prevention. Careful of overcoats, wrap up well, stay away from damp clothes, and spitting (huge prevalence of spitting, Mentions the spittoon in pubs). A crack in a cup was a no-no. even today he frets over cracks in cups.
Mentions the sharing of the butt of an apple or the lick of an ice cream cone, these could have caused spread.

0.59.56 - 1.03.43

Polio and Vaccines

Talks of speaking to a woman from Cork during COVID who had strong memories of being confined to the garden during the polio outbreak in the 1950s.

Remembers the Cork polio charity that one would donate to. Does remember some people with polio but not anyone close.

Remembers getting the booster. Has a scar from the 6in1 on his arm. And remembers the sugar cube. Talks on modern views on vaccines wouldn’t be anti-vax. Is naturally sceptical in general.


1.03.44- 1.10.05

Mick Talks about how happy his childhood was and life in general, but the hardships crept in.

Talks about an RTE film ‘A week in the life of Martin Cluxton’ having a profound effect on him. Film about the reality of industrial schools.

Talks of politician Brian Linehan visiting a Magdalene laundry his driver said that Linehan said ‘get me the fuck out of here’ complicity of the state and Doctors stranglehold on the wellbeing of certain elements of the country.

Divorce spoken of by his mother.  No mention of abortion.

Mother very liberal but religious. Everyone was religious. Mick's brother became a priest, cannon question his religiousness.


1.10.06 - 1.22.00

Town and Country.

Living in the corporation estate was mixed with time out of the bog in the grandparents’ place. Tilling hay etc. rented piece of land there. Remembers richer farmers calling Christmas week putting the squeeze on. Remembers family telling them to sling their hook.

The bog was where the Army rifle range was. So, shooting practice was happening.

Speaks of the old farmers maintaining the land better than any modern ecologist.

Farming wasn’t enough to live off, so they fished also. The beach was divided into ‘Berths’ and Harris’ Berth by butts of the rifle range, which was prominent and belonged to his family. No town people allowed fish there. House was by the main road. Land closer to beach was prone to flooding. ‘The long acre’, which had an element of shame.

Tells story of a rich farmer's son and a lowly farmer's daughter's love affair and being divided.

‘Sanctuary no shooting’ was for the gun clubs where they raised birds to shoot.

Spring well near cottage ‘above’ the train tracks. Finest fresh water and lots of farmers came for it.

Recalls a man named Cox that dug down and syphoned off the well. Uncle went a sorted it out without the authorities.

1.22.01 - 0.00.00

Speaks of the younger generation does not have awareness of what they have.

Speaks of how the obsession with the overarching church element of society is. Knows it was there but it was not the whole thing.

Speaks of old fellas using cling film as contraception. That it wasn’t black and white. The 1970s brought colour.

There was a church and state but also the local. Class distinction went down to the level of neighbours. Especially pre-1970s.

Mentions uncle becoming ‘Navi’ in England and did not contact the family for 26 years. When he returned could not get his head around the mixing of classes in modern society.

[Interview Ends]



Cork Folklore Project, “Michael Hussey,” accessed May 25, 2024, https://corkfolklore.org/archivecatalolgue/document/508.