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

Follow Us:

Just published

NHS logo on tiled wall

GP assistants are no solution to the workforce crisis in general practice, warns RCGP

Plans to recruit more than 1,000 GP assistants in practices across England 'must...

Person looking at a smartphone

GP at Hand to pull out of Birmingham next month

Babylon GP at Hand has decided to pull out of Birmingham at the end of next month,...

Dr Ollie Hart and Dr Devina Maru

How shared decision making can help GPs better meet patients' needs

Dr Ollie Hart and Dr Devina Maru are at opposite phases of their career – Dr Hart...

Stethoscope hung up in medical centre

London faces growing GP workforce gap as workload continues to soar

A surge in vacant GP posts over the past year has left half of London's practices...

Health and social care secretary Therese Coffey

Coffey targets rapid GP access over face-to-face appointments

Therese Coffey has said she 'will not be prescriptive' on how GPs see patients -...


Study reveals 'significant rise in anti-GP rhetoric'

Media coverage of general practice last year saw a 'significant rise in anti-GP rhetoric'...