Long before Dr. Fingal Flahertie O'Reilly made most readers' acquaintance in Patrick Taylor's bestselling novel An Irish Country Doctor, he appeared in a series of humorous columns originally published in Stitches: The Journal of Medical Humour.
These warm and wryly amusing vignettes provide an early glimpse at the redoubtable Dr. O'Reilly as he tends to the colourful and eccentric residents of Ballybucklebo, a cozy Ulster village nestled in the bygone years of the early sixties.
Those seminal columns have been collected in The Wily O'Reilly: Irish Country Stories. In this convenient volume, Patrick Taylor's legions of devoted fans can savor the enchanting origins of the Irish Country series . . . and newcomers to Ballybucklebo can meet O'Reilly for the very first time.
An ex-Navy boxing champion, classical scholar, crypto-philanthropist, widower, and hard-working general practitioner, Fingal Flahertie O'Reilly is crafty and cantankerous in these charming slices of rural Irish life. Whether he's educating a naive man of the cloth in the facts of life, dealing with chronic hypochondriacs and malingerers, clashing with pigheaded colleagues, or raising a pint in the neighborhood pub, the wily O'Reilly knows a doctor's work is never done, even if some of his "cures" can't be found in any medical text!
About the Author
Patrick Taylor, M.D., is the author of the Irish Country books, including An Irish Country Doctor, An Irish Country Village, An Irish Country Christmas, An Irish Country Girl, and An Irish Country Courtship. Taylor was born and raised in Bangor, County Down, in Northern Ireland. After qualifying as a specialist in 1969, he worked in Canada for thirty-one years. He now lives on Saltspring Island, British Columbia.
Read an Excerpt
The Lazarus Manoeuvre
How the young Doctor O’Reilly earned the respect of his community
We were sitting in the upstairs lounge of Doctor O’Reilly’s house at the end of the day. Himself was tucking contentedly into his second large whiskey. “So,” he demanded, “how do you like it?”
Being a little uncertain whether he was asking about the spectacular view through the bay window to Belfast Lough, the small sherry I was sipping, or the general status of the universe, I countered with an erudite, “What?”
He fished in the external auditory canal of one thickened, pugilist’s ear with the tip of his right little finger and echoed my sentiments: “What?”
I thought this conversation could become mildly repetitive and decided to broaden the horizons. “How do I like what, Doctor O’Reilly?”
He extracted his digit and examined the end with all the concentration and knitting of brows of a gorilla evaluating a choice morsel. “Practice here, you idiot. How do you like it?”
My lights went on. “Fine,” I said, as convincingly as possible. “Just fine.”
My reply seemed to satisfy him. He grinned, grunted, hauled his twenty stone erect, wandered over to the sideboard, and returned carrying the sherry decanter. He topped up my glass. “A bird can’t fly on one wing,” he remarked.
I refrained from observing that if he kept putting away the whiskey at his usual rate he’d soon be giving a pretty fair imitation of a mono-winged albatross in a high gale, accepted my fresh drink, and waited.
He returned the decanter, ambled to the window, and took in the scenery with one all-encompassing wave of his arm. “I’d not want to live anywhere else,” he said. “Mind you, it was touch and go at the start.”
He was losing me again. “What was, Doctor O’Reilly?”
“Fingal, my boy. Fingal. For Oscar.” He gave me one of his most avuncular smiles.
I couldn’t for the life of me see him having been named for a small, gilded statuette given annually to movie stars. “Oscar, er, Fingal?” I asked.
He shook his head. “No. Not Oscar Fingal. Wilde.”
He did this to me. Every time I thought I was following him he’d change tack, leaving me in a state of confusion bordering on that usually felt by people recovering from an overdose of chloroform. “Oscar Fingal Wilde, Fingal?”
I should have stuck with “Doctor O’Reilly.” I could tell by the way the tip of his bent nose was beginning to whiten that he was becoming exasperated. He shook his head. “Oscar … Fingal … O’Flahertie … Wills … Wilde.”
I stifled the urge to remark that if you put an air to it you could sing it.
He must have seen my look of bewilderment. The ischaemia left his nose. “I was named for him. For Oscar Wilde.”
The scales fell from my eyes. “I see.”
“Good. Now where was I?”
“You said, ‘It was touch and go at the start.’”
“Oh yes. Getting the practice going. Touch and go.” He sat again in the big comfortable armchair, picked up his glass of whiskey, and looked at me over the brim. “Did I ever tell you how I got started?”
“No,” I said, settling back in my own chair, preparing myself for another of his reminiscences, for another meander down the byways of O’Reilly’s life.
“I came here in the early ’40s. Took over from Doctor Finnegan.”
I hoped fervently that we weren’t about to embark on the genealogy of James Joyce, and was relieved to hear O’Reilly continue, “He was a funny old bird.”
Never, I thought, but kept the thought to myself.
O’Reilly was warming up now. “Just before he left, Finnegan warned me about a local condition of cold groin abscesses. He didn’t understand them.” O’Reilly took a mouthful of Irish, savoured it, and swallowed. “He explained to me that when he lanced them he either got wind or shit, but the patient invariably died.” O’Reilly chuckled.
I was horrified. My mentor’s predecessor had been incising inguinal hernias.
“That’s why it was touch and go,” said O’Reilly. “My first patient had the biggest hernia I’ve ever seen. When I refused to lance it, like good old Doctor Finnegan, the patient spread the word that I didn’t know my business.” He sat back and crossed one leg over the other. “Did you ever hear of Lazarus?”
“Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Lazarus?” I asked.
“Don’t be impertinent.” He grabbed my by-now-empty glass and headed back to the sideboard. The delivery of a fresh libation, and one for himself, signalled that he hadn’t been offended. “No, the biblical fellow that Jesus raised from the dead.” He sat.
“That’s how I got my start.”
Was it the sherry or was I really losing my mind? Whatever his skills, I doubted that Doctor O’Reilly had actually effected a resurrection. “Go on,” I asked for it.
“I was in church one Sunday, hoping that if the citizens saw that I was a good Christian they might look upon me more favourably.”
The thought of a pious O’Reilly seemed a trifle incongruous.
“There I was when a farmer in the front pew let out a yell like a banshee, grabbed his chest, and keeled over.” To add drama to his words O’Reilly stood, arms wide. “I took out of my pew like a whippet. Examined him. Mutton. Dead as mutton.”
I knew that CPR hadn’t been invented in the ’40s. “What did you do?”
O’Reilly lowered his arms and winked. “I got my bag, told everyone to stand back, and gave the poor corpse an injection of whatever came handy. I listened to his heart. ‘He’s back,’ says I. You should have heard the gasp from the congregation.”
He sat down. “I listened again. ‘God,’ says I, ‘he’s going again,’ and gave the poor bugger another shot.” O’Reilly sipped his drink. “I brought him back three times before I finally confessed defeat.”
Innocence is a remarkable thing. “Did you really get his heart started?”
O’Reilly guffawed. “Not at all, but the poor benighted audience didn’t know that. Do you know I actually heard one woman say to her neighbour, ‘The Lord only brought Lazarus back once and the new doctor did it three times.’” He headed for the sideboard again. “I told you it was touch and go at the start, but the customers started rolling in after that—will you have another?”
Copyright © 2014 by Ballybucklebo Stories Corp
Table of Contents
Author's Note 11
Introducing O'Reilly 21
The Lazarus Manoeuvre 27
Galvin's Ducks 33
Troubles at the Table 43
Anatomy Lesson 48
Sunny Disposition 53
Well Said, Sir 60
A Pregnant Silence 65
Working as Equals 71
Murphy's Law 76
The Law of Holes 82
Men of the Cloth (1) 88
Men of the Cloth (2) 95
O'Reilly Finds His Way 101
Powers of Observation 109
Stress of the Moment 116
O'Reilly's Surprise 120
Shock Therapy 126
Happy as a Pig in 131
Barometer Falling 137
The Flying Doctor 142
Forty Shades of Green 147
A G(h)astly Mistake 152
Blessed Are the Meek 158
A Matter of Tact 163
The Cat's Meow 168
O'Reilly at the Helm 173
O'Reilly Strikes Back 178
A Word to the Wise 184
Dog Days of Winter 189
In a Pig's Ear 195
Arthur and the General 200
Something Happened 205
Hell on Wheels 211
What's in a Name? 216
Fill 'er Up 221
A Curious Affair 227
Curiouser and Curiouser 232
A Matter of Time 238
The Last Laugh 245
Easy Come, Easy Go 251
Lateral Thinking 259
Flight of Fancy 265
Fuel for Thought 271
Times Are a-Changing 277
The Sting 283
Pipes of Wrath 290
Sam Slither 297
A Matchless Experience 304
A Humble Apology 311
The Patient Who Broke the Rules 318
Going to the Dogs 325
A Meeting of the Minds 333
It's in the Can 339
A Very Pheasant Evening 346
'Tis the Season to Be Jolly 354
Just a Wee Deoch an' Dorris 362
What's in a Name? 369
What's in a Name? (Part 2) 375
Whiskey in a Jar 380
O'Reilly Puts His Foot in It 388
O'Reilly's Cat 394
O'Reilly's Dog 403
O'Reilly's Rival 413
The Smoking Gun 422
Ring Around the Rosies 432
Jingle Bells 441
Home Is the Sailor 449
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I have read every one of Patrick Taylor's books and loved them. However, since I've read them all this was a review of his previous books. For newcomers this would be a great book to read first. For those of us who have read them all - not so good.
Patrick Taylor wins again with this one. A very different book but a must for all Ballybuckleboo fans and those just starting. These short,humorous stories will give you so much insight into what made Dr O'Reilly the warm ,lovable character that he is. Unlike the Country series where it is impossible to put the book down before it is finished this is easy to dip in and out and pick up to read when time is short.
Anyone who works in the medical field, particularly surgical services, will at least enjoy part of this short story collection. Anyone who has Irish roots can relate, and anyone who has a sense of humor will appreciate it.
This is a collection of articles (just a few pages each) written before the Irish County Books. This is not the O'Reilly we have come to know and love, and "Pat" the narrator comes off like a dolt. The stories are humorous anecdotes at best and hard to get invested in because they are so short. A lot of the stories show up in the books later as well. I can also say that Patrick Taylor's writing has come a long way since these were written! I'm kind of sorry i even bought this book, but I am still looking forward to a new chapter of the Irish Country books I love so well.
I have read other Patrick Taylor's work and loved it. I didn't care much for this.
The stories are very short per life as a newspaper column, occasionally repetitive of things in the books, but overall very satisfactory. It can be nicely used as short quick individual reads when one only has a snippet of time but wants to read something enjoyable for a few minutes.
This book includes parts of all the books I’ve read written about Dr O’Reilly and his adventures.
Shows another side of the good doctor
A series of quick stories. Fun and thoughtful.