NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 1995The 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.
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!