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.

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