Liam Farrell: My good fortune to have a wonderful mentor

'Ah, the fall of the leaf,' said my senior colleague happily, as we drove slowly down the boreen. 'There is still magic in the world.'

He had been retired for many years, but enjoyed accompanying me on house calls. He’d looked after our patients for over fifty years, battling ceaselessly through the dark times of the Troubles, bearing unfailing witness to the joys and sorrows that are baked into the clay of which the world is made, and I always felt very fortunate to be accompanied by his wisdom and knowledge.

He was a great big laughing man, always in good form, vital and vigorous, and his patients would say they felt better just looking at him; coming in to see him, they weren’t just coming to see any doctor, but someone who knew their seed, breed and generation. The comfort of being listened to and understood, the warmth of a smile, these things can’t be seen or touched or counted or measured, but they are very, very real. A lot of important things are like that.

I reflected on my good fortune; too many of our older generation are allowed to dream away their valuable experience while nodding by the fireside.

I’d never had a mentor, perhaps because I was too obnoxious; but also I never thought I needed one, and it was an epiphany, after all the years of medical school and hospital and GP rotations, to encounter someone I could really admire and really want to emulate.

Without his guidance and example I would have missed many things; how good it is to be needed, that it was better to like my patients than have them liking me, and most of all, the importance of being kind.

In his eighties, made weak by time and fate, we took a day-trip to Cheltenham National Hunt Festival. We left at the crack of dawn, took an early flight, had a wonderful day, walking the course beforehand, meeting the legends of the turf, relishing the gladiatorial atmosphere.

Exhausted, I dropped him back to his front door just before midnight, and then he turned to me, as if to strive, to seek, and not to yield, and said: 'That was great, young fella. Next year we’ll go for the whole three days.'

Dedicated to Dr Jack Crummie

Liam and Dr Jack Crummie at Cheltenham Racecourse

  • Dr Farrell is a GP from County Armagh. Follow him on Twitter @drlfarrell

Read more from Liam Farrell

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins


Already registered?

Sign in

Just published

Consultants in London on strike earlier this year

Consultants to vote on new pay deal to end strikes

Consultants will vote on a government pay offer that would increase salaries by up...

BMA England GP committee chair Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer (Photo: Sarah Turton/BMA)

GPs' willingness to take collective action will underpin contract talks

GPs' willingness to take part in 'once in a generation' collective action will underpin...

GP consultation

GPs out of work 'because practices can’t afford to hire them', warns GP leader

Growing numbers of GPs are struggling to find work - with some considering moving...

computer and stethoscope

Petition demanding SCA exam refund collects almost 2,000 signatures

Almost 2,000 people have signed a petition demanding refunds for doctors whose GP...

Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer, chair of the BMA's GP committee in England

Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer: 'The GMS contract is not broken - it has been broken'

BMA England GP committee chair Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer received a standing ovation...

LMC conference sign

LMCs demand formal ballot on outcome of GP contract talks

LMCs have demanded a formal ballot on the outcome of talks over next year's GP contract,...