With the current pandemic keeping us apart from those we love, I am finding it important to connect in other ways. My reading choices of late seek comfort and escape and this has led me back to old friends, Doctor Fingal Flaherty O’Reilly and Dr. Barry Laverty, GPs of the Irish village of Ballybucklebo. Irish-born Canadian author, Patrick Taylor, brings the village to life in his Irish Country Series that is set in the 1960’s, a time of some incredible medical breakthroughs and some political upheaval.
My current read in the series is An Irish Country Family which, although set in 1969, contains the perfect story line for today’s times. This chapter in the lives of the Ballybucklebo residents shows how a small village takes care of its own at a time when Northern Ireland is being torn apart by the tumultuous riots that began the 30 year “troubles.”
While Taylor weaves in the violence, it is always just on the periphery and our little village demonstrates how the conflict does not affect how they live their daily lives. The village comes together to rebuild a family home that was destroyed by fire, to raise funds for children to attend a new camp, and to help each other in times of illness, with Protestants and Catholics, Loyalists and Republicans each working side by side to shore up the village family.
This volume (#14) is particularly poignant as it travels back in time to Dr. Barry Laverty’s medical student days. He is beginning to practice at the Royal Hospital, where he rotates through different wards to help him decide where he wants to focus his medicine. In his work, Laverty meets many patients and fellow physicians who become friends and help steer him towards his preferred specialty. Barry dislikes the practice of referring to patients by their affliction, rather than their name. Barry believes that each patient deserves to be treated with care and compassion, a feeling that leads him to join the general practice in Ballybucklebo.
The bonds of family, friends and general human kindness resonate through Ballybucklebo, and give the series the warm fuzzies we are looking for in this time of separation. It reminds us that collectively we are stronger and shows us the importance of neighbourly love and support in times of strife.
Helen Varga is a Library Technician at the Steveston Branch of Richmond Public Library.