Fans of Patrick Taylor's bestselling Irish Country novels know Dr. Fingal Flahertie O'Reilly as the irascible senior partner of a general practice in the colourful Irish village of Ballybucklebo.
But there was a time, shortly after arriving in Ballybucklebo, that Dr. O'Reilly was not widely accepted by the villagers. This touching short story tell of how O'Reilly, with a little help, began to overcome their objections.
Whether you're visiting for the first time, or you're a long-time resident, you'll enjoy this fun glimpse into life Patrick Taylor's village of Ballybucklebo.
At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.
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Home Is the Sailor
An Irish Country Doctor Story
By Patrick Taylor
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2013 Ballybucklebo Stories Corp.
All rights reserved.
First Impressions Are Things You Don't Get a Second Chance to Make
Surgeon-Commander Fingal Flahertie O'Reilly, M.B., B.Ch., B.A.O., R.N.R., D.S.C., gave a third hard shove then kept his thumb firmly on the porcelain push of a bell that was mounted on a brass plate. "Get a move on," he said, and hunched his shoulders. It was nippy out here in the mid-February evening. His ship, HMS Warspite, had been placed in Category C reserve on February 1, 1946, and her remaining crew paid off. As soon as he had completed the formalities of his own demobilisation, O'Reilly had headed for the Liverpool cross-channel ferry to Belfast docks and then the train to Ballybucklebo. From there it had only been a short walk.
An Austin Ruby of early thirties vintage rattled past the Presbyterian church on the other side of Main Street, part of the Bangor to Belfast road.
He heard a distant ringing and a woman's soft Cork brogue calling, "I'm coming, so. Take your hurry in your hand now."
He stepped back and regarded the familiar front of the big, old, three-storey house where he had been an assistant in general practice before the war had called him away on naval service for six long years. A steam engine whistled, coming from where the tracks of the Belfast and County Down Railway ran along the shore of Belfast Lough.
When he looked at the house again he saw ground-floor bow windows flanking a green-painted front door — a now-open green door wherein stood a solid woman in her late thirties. Fire flashed in her agate eyes as she squinted into the low sun. She dusted flour off her hands then stood arms akimbo. "You did make the bell sound like the last trump, bye. There's no need to —" She stepped back, smiling broadly with dimples coming into her cheeks. "Praise all the saints. It's yourself, sir." She stepped aside. "Welcome home at last. Come in, come in, come in, Doctor O'Reilly, sir. Come into the dining room and I'll make you a cup of tea and a plate of hot buttered barmbrack, so, before I see to your dinner. I've made roast rack of spring lamb with herb stuffing and caper sauce."
O'Reilly's tummy rumbled and his grin was vast. "By God that sounds like manna from heaven." After years of eating the efforts of Royal Navy cooks, often little more than corned beef sandwiches and cocoa when the ship was closed up at action stations, one of Mrs. Kinkaid's homemade meals would be bliss. "How are you, anyway, Kinky? I'm sorry I'm a bit late." On Monday, to let her know he'd be arriving Friday, he'd phoned Mrs. Maureen "Kinky" Kincaid, until recently housekeeper to the late Doctor Flanagan, to whom O'Reilly had been an assistant before the war. The estate had provided for her wages to be paid until the house and practice had been sold — to O'Reilly.
"Och, I'm grand, so, and it's better late than never, and I'm all the better for seeing yourself back here, sir." She beamed at him.
"It's good to be home." O'Reilly was very glad that she was now going to assume the same housekeeping role for him. He had, while the ship was still in Portsmouth, through his solicitor brother Lars, completed the purchase of the practice and the house and its contents from Doctor Flanagan's estate. It had taken every penny of O'Reilly's demobilisation gratuity and a sizable loan from the Bank of Ireland. It was, he thought, a blessing that Kinky had agreed to stay. With her knowledge of the locals she'd help him rebuild the practice, the patients of which must now be seeking their medical advice elsewhere. Doctor Flanagan had had no assistant before or after O'Reilly.
And neither would he, not for many years anyway. Apart from the need to pay off the loan, O'Reilly was looking forward to running a busy, single-handed practice and seeing a variety of patients and their ailments. He'd not delivered a baby for years and he'd always enjoyed midwifery. He wondered if he'd forgotten all he'd ever learned about diseases of women. Medicine on a battleship with a crew of more than twelve hundred healthy young men had largely been confined to treating accidental injuries — when in port the results of barroom brawls, hangovers, and venereal disease, and when in action, war wounds. He shuddered. He'd rather not think of those.
He cleared his throat. "It's been quite some time, Kinky," he said.
"A donkey's age, sir, but you do be back so leave your suitcase and overcoat in the hall."
He took off his navy greatcoat, they'd allowed him to keep it, and hung it on the hall coat stand. He felt lucky to have been demobbed at last. British airmen in Ceylon had gone on strike this month to protest against the slow rate of their release from the armed forces.
"It's a grand tweed suit the navy did give you," she said. "Makes a change from a uniform. Now go you into the dining room, sir, and I'll only be a shmall-little minute, so." She left.
O'Reilly looked to what he automatically thought of as the port side of the house, then reminded himself he was on dry land now. This was the front parlour but had served old Doctor Flanagan as his surgery, what North American doctors would call their office. It didn't seem as if much had changed in there. Perhaps not, but he had. Six years of war service would change any man.
He went into the dining room. The furniture had come with the purchase of the house.
Same old high-backed chairs, long bog oak table, cut-glass chandelier, sideboard. Even the decanters were still there. He'd get a bottle of John Jameson's Irish whiskey tomorrow. He'd much prefer that to the navy's traditional tipple of Plymouth gin and Angostura bitters — pink gin.
The front doorbell rang. When he'd been an assistant here, it had been Kinky's job to answer. Business already? He hoped so. He waited, heard voices, one soft, Cork, female, the other male, raised, harsh, Ulster. "I don't give a tinker's toss if he's only arrived five minutes ago and he's getting his afternoon tea. His tea can wait. I want til see a doctor and I want til see him right now. Right now. It was in the County Down Spectator last week that a new quack was taking over here and I need til see him, so I do. Now. I'm a very busy man."
O'Reilly rose. He felt the tip of his boxer's bent nose grow cold, an indication that it was blanching, which was itself a sure sign that his temper was rising. He needed patients but not rude and demanding ones. He peered through the slightly open door.
Kinky, jaw set, arms folded across the top of her pinafore, stood four square in the front doorway. "I've told you, sir, the doctor —"
"I want him and I want him now. Now."
O'Reilly frowned. How dare this rotund little man in a three-piece blue serge suit and bowler hat speak like that to a woman? O'Reilly took a deep breath. Calm down, he told himself. You're dealing with civilians. You need to build up a practice. You can't treat them like naval ratings. And yet echoing in his head was the admonition of Warspite's senior medical officer, Surgeon-Commander Wilcoxson, R.N., to a young Surgeon-Lieutenant O'Reilly, R.N.R., in 1939. Never, never let the patients get the upper hand. He opened the dining room door. "Can I help you, Mister ...?"
The man pushed past Kinky and came into the hall. "I dunno. Can you? Who the hell are you, anyroad?" The man squinted at O'Reilly. "Aren't you the young pup that worked with Flanagan before the war? O'Rourke or O'Rafferty or something like that?"
Struggling to keep his voice level, O'Reilly said, "I'm Doctor O'Reilly. Yes."
"Right. I'm Mister Albert Bishop. I'm a very important man round here, so I am."
"I'm sure you are," O'Reilly said in his most placatory voice while thinking about large fish, ugly ones at that, in small if not puddle-sized ponds. "What can I do for you?"
"I need to talk to you, and in private." He flicked his head dismissively at Kinky, who frowned, sniffed, and turned on her heel.
"Come into the surgery," O'Reilly said, overriding his intense desire to throw the man out. Some philosopher had made a crack about a long journey starting with the first step, and O'Reilly had a practice to build. He led the way. He pushed the door closed behind the man.
A swivel chair stood in front of a flat table that had served Doctor Flanagan as a desk. O'Reilly sat in the swivel, stuck a pair of half-moon spectacles on his nose, and waved at one of two simple, hard wooden chairs. "Have a seat."
Mister Bishop plumped himself down.
"And what seems to be the trouble?"
"I'm not sick nor nothing."
And you insisted on seeing me and you were rude to Kinky? O'Reilly told himself again to calm down. "Then what can I do for you?"
"You mind in 1939 we all had til get National Identity Cards?"
"Well, I've lost mine, and I need one to prove who I am," he shook his head, "as if everyone round here didn't know, so I can complete a big contract with the army at Palace Barracks outside Holywood. The stupid buggers that issue the cards say I've til fill out this here thing." He slammed a government form on the table. "And I need a doctor's signature, so I do. Like on a passport application."
O'Reilly shook his head and said levelly, but with a touch of steel in his tones, "And for that you barged in here, were rude to Mrs. Kincaid ..." Never mind not treating a physician with the courtesy custom demanded.
"I'm in a hurry, so I am." Clearly O'Reilly's attempted admonition had had no effect.
For a moment he ached to be back on Warspite. A naval rating who'd behaved like this man might have been up before the executive officer, before his feet had touched the deck, on a charge of insolence to a superior officer. Might have. O'Reilly prided himself that he'd never had to invoke naval law. A few well-chosen words roared in what O'Reilly thought of as his quarterdeck voice and an icy stare over half-moon spectacles had always quelled the most intransigent rating. But this Bishop was a civilian, and, O'Reilly reminded himself, he needed patients, and lots of them, if he was going to make a success of this practice. He took a deep breath. "Give it to me."
"Sign there." Bishop pointed.
O'Reilly did, recognising that he had lost the "upper hand." One day, Mister Bishop, he thought, either you are going to have to find a new medical advisor or you and I are going to rethink our doctor-patient relationship. "Here." He wondered what the fee was for signing forms. Perhaps Kinky would know. Doctor Flanagan, as far as O'Reilly knew, had handled the practice finances and had paid O'Reilly a salary.
"Right." Bishop rose and headed for the door.
"I beg your pardon," O'Reilly called at the departing back.
Bishop stopped, turned. "I never said nothing."
"Sorry. I thought I distinctly heard you say, 'Thank you, Doctor.' "
There was a small smile on O'Reilly's face as Bishop snorted, let himself out, and slammed the door.
O'Reilly headed back to the dining room to be met by Kinky, who had just delivered a tray of tea and hot buttered barmbrack. The scent of its spices was mouth-watering.
"There you are, sir," she said. "Eat up however little much is in it."
"Thank you, and Kinky?" He went to the tray and lifted a warm triangle of 'brack.
"What do I charge for filling in a form?" He bit into the wedge. Delicious.
"Lord bless you, sir, do not worry your head. Next time you see a patient there's a ledger on the table. Fill in the name and what you did. I send out the accounts every month."
She must have interpreted his relieved surprise as disbelief because she stiffened and said, "I have my School Leavers Certificate, so. I am not an unlettered woman."
O'Reilly swallowed his mouthful. "I never thought for one minute you were, Kinky."
"That's all right then." She smiled. "It's my job to leave you free for the doctoring."
"I appreciate that." Another mouthful. He'd missed Irish cooking.
"And will you be starting on Monday?"
"I will. I'm going up to Charles Hurst in Belfast tomorrow to buy a car, then I'm going down to Portaferry to see my mother and brother."
"Family does be important, so. Most of mine are still in County Cork near Beal na mBláth," she said wistfully.
"And you'll want to see them, I'm sure. I'll be able to give you time off soon, but I'll need you for a week or two first, Kinky. My mother has arranged for bits and pieces she's been storing for me to be brought up here tomorrow. You'll need to let the movers in — I'll tell you where things are to go."
"That will not be any trouble, sir."
"And I'll certainly need you here on Monday on my first day as the principal here."
She smiled. "And I do hope you'll soon be busy for I remember how much you enjoyed your work when you were last here, so."
"I hope so too — and I do have to pay the bank."
"I'll be here to help, and the patients will come back and bring the fees with them, you'll see."
"I just hope they're more pleasant than that Bishop. I don't remember seeing him when I was here before, but he is a thoroughly unpleasant man."
She frowned. "Mister Bertie Bishop is an influential man here and he is a terrible one for bearing a grudge, so."
O'Reilly wondered if his parting shot had been altogether wise, but damn it all he was going to be the local GP and he'd be damned if anybody was going to ride roughshod over Kinky — or him. He'd never tolerated that kind of thing since the day he used his newly discovered wicked right cross to flatten the school persecutor. O'Reilly had spent the last six years fighting one of the biggest bullies the world had ever known, and he'd be damned if he was going to let anyone get away with it here.CHAPTER 2
Home They Brought Her Warrior
O'Reilly drove his black long-bonnetted Rover 16 with all the flair of the pilot of Warspite's Walrus observation seaplane. The car was a secondhand 1945 model he'd bought on the never-never, as hire-purchase was called. He'd been lucky to get it. New cars could take as long as a year to be delivered and even used models were rare, but those in some occupations, including doctors, were given priority. The motor industry was only now switching back to peacetime production. "Poop-poop," he shouted in what he thought might be a fair imitation of Mister Toad from one of O'Reilly's favourite books, The Wind in the Willows. And he drove like Mister Toad. Heavy on the accelerator and brake.
He passed elms and sycamores growing in hedgerows. The great gaunt trees were leafless, reaching with bony fingers for a cold blue sky from which an occasional snowflake drifted. Black-faced ewes heavy with winter fleeces huddled in the corners of little fields bordered in drystone walls or blackthorn hedges while the lambs, seemingly oblivious to the cold, ran and bounced, full of the joys of spring. Lord, even if real spring was still some weeks away it was good to be back home in Ulster. There had been times in the last six years when it had seemed to him that, like the crew of the Flying Dutchman, he and his shipmates were doomed eternally to sail their great gallant ship through endless growling seas. But he was home. At last. He roared out,
And it's home boys home, home I'd like to be
Home for a while in the old counteree
Where the oak and the ash and the bonny rowan tree
Are all growin' greener in the old counteree.
And in all of Ireland, his own old counteree, here on the shores of Strangford Lough, was the place he loved the best.
Overhead a skein of metallically honking Greylag geese drifted down a gentle wind heading for the islands of the lough that lay to his right. The peace washed round him and if he did hear gunfire, it would only be the report of a wildfowler's shotgun. A far cry from the islands of the Mediterranean Sea where he'd spent tumultuous parts of 1940, '41, and '43, or those of Puget Sound in Washington State where his old ship had gone because a German bomb had blown a great hole in her during the Battle of Crete. After being patched up as best the dockyard could in Alexandria Harbour she had passed through the Suez Canal for her long trip for extensive repairs and modifications in Bremerton Navy Yard and replacement of her worn-out main armament.
O'Reilly had mixed memories, some sad, some grateful, of Bremerton and the kindness of the Americans.
He sighed. He'd needed kindness, wounded as he'd been, still was, by the death of his wife, Deirdre, in the Belfast Blitz in April 1941. He must try to put it all behind him. Start a new life back here in Ulster. But it hurt. It hurt sore.
"Damnation." He stamped on the brake pedal. A rusty Massey Ferguson tractor was trundling toward him coming the other way. The horse trailer behind took up more than its share of the road and O'Reilly had to pull onto the verge. As soon as he was past he sank his foot and tore off, hardly noticing the lone cyclist who on the Rover's approach hurled himself and his bike into the ditch.
Excerpted from Home Is the Sailor by Patrick Taylor. Copyright © 2013 Ballybucklebo Stories Corp.. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1: First Impressions Are Things You Don't Get a Second Chance to Make,
2: Home They Brought Her Warrior,
3: Is of His Own Opinion Still,
4: And Everything in Its Place,
5: Have You No Bowel, No Tenderness?,
6: There Are More Things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio,
About the Author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I won't spoil the story, but if you have read any of Patrick Taylor's other stories you'll meet some old friends,discover the back story for several secondary characters and generally have a great time spending an evening in Ballybucklebo. If you've never read any of his stories, it's a delightful little tale to introduce you to his Irish Country series. I think you'll enjoy your time in this small Irish village.
A very good short read. This short eBook fills in the time right after the Irish Country Doctor returns from service in World War II. For fans of this series it is a must read. My wife and I have read the complete series and cannot wait for the next book to appear.
Like a breath of fresh Irish air, Blown in off the wild Atlantic
Love is story but unhappy that I had to get it as a eBook. I love finding my books walking around a bookstore. That is how I found this author.
I can not wait for more ......I love the people and want to know more about the doctor.
Good to be back!
But I don't think you would like it without reading the books in the series. I have so enjoyed them.
great author, all books in series are very interesting -nice to see the human side of medicine
This was a wonderful addition to the timeline!
I love this writer and the reader....have read all of his books and can't wait for the next one.
Sadly, I'll never know about this book by one of my favorite authors. I like having a book in hand, and don't plan to pay for some stupid electronic device just to read a book. Please, please print this one, " Home is the Sailor", Not everyone can afford a Nookbook.