Liam Farrell: Amongst the substantial literary figures, sit I

During the summer I visited WB Yeats' grave in Sligo and, in a gesture of respect from one literary giant to another, sat awhile in thought; no pomp, no ceremony, I observed (he would have been out of place at those big GP academic processions, all the gowns and stuff), no towers of adamant nor rings of steel, just a simple stone monument with the words, 'Cast a cold eye/On life, on death/Horseman pass by'.

A few hours later and a few miles south, I was in a bar on the Atlantic coast, drinking a pint of the blackest porter, eating crab claws fresh from the sea and soaking in garlic butter. Pausing to check that the kids were still alive (exposure to bitter north-west gales and 12-foot waves being an essential ingredient of the magic of childhood) I fell into conversation with a local, who, on the ubiquitous subject of famous literary graves, told me proudly that Dr Oliver St John Gogarty was buried nearby.

Oliver St John Gogarty was unflatteringly immortalised as Buck Mulligan in James Joyce's Ulysses, but he was a substantial literary figure in his own right, and like most of us substantial literary figures he needed the day job to make a buck; further evidence of how the vocations of medicine and literature constitute a fecund union. It was he who performed the autopsy on Michael Collins, Ireland's lost leader, assassinated at Beal na Blath in 1922 (assassination being quite de rigueur in those days). Gogarty died in America, and his body was flown home in a lead-lined coffin.

He was buried with all honours in a graveyard overlooking the ocean, and a few weeks later the natives, in an unabashed display of reverence for our literary giants, dug him up and stole the lead.

All of which gave me an intimation of my own mortality.

I'd like a simple headstone, one which can't be easily defaced with insulting graffiti, so that grieving friends and relatives (of whom there will undoubtedly be multitudes) won't be offended.

We are not universally loved, as it is a GP's duty to make the hard calls, and pass on the bad news; the buck stops with us and when shit happens we are a convenient scapegoat and an easy target.

Especially when we're six feet under.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins


Already registered?

Sign in

Follow Us:

Just published

Vaccination tracker

UK COVID-19 vaccination programme tracker

GPs across the UK have led the largest-ever NHS vaccination programme in response...

RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall

Hand PCNs control of primary care infrastructure funding, says RCGP

CCG funding for primary care infrastructure should be handed to PCNs when the bodies...

Professor Martin Marshall and Talking General Practice logo

Podcast: RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall

Talking General Practice speaks to RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul

In-house review not enough to stop 'unjust' GMC referrals, warns BMA

Doctors' leaders have repeated calls for a full independent review of the GMC referral...


How widespread is long COVID in the UK?

Millions of people in the UK are living with long COVID. GPonline looks at the data...

COVID-19 vaccination sign

GP contract for autumn COVID-19 booster campaign due shortly

GP practices in England will be invited shortly to sign up for the COVID-19 autumn...