Continuation of Taylor’s popular series about country doctors in the tiny Northern Irish town of Ballybucklebo, circa 1964.
At Number 1, Main Street, Ballybucklebo, Dr. Fingal O’Reilly still grapples with the symptoms of his motley group of patients and with the prickly mien of his imperious housekeeper, “Kinky” Kincaid. Kinky has even more to be testy about these days—she fears that Fingal’s new girlfriend, Kitty, may actually convince the long-widowed doctor to marry again, thus dethroning Kinky as domestic tyrant. O’Reilly’s young assistant Barry Laverty is reeling from a breakup with his lady love Patricia, who’s told him in no uncertain terms that life as a general practitioner’s wife in a backwater town is not for her. But what if Barry were to train in a specialty, say obstetrics/gynecology, for which he’s been told he has a flair? Not only would he no longer have to refer all his interesting diagnoses to Belfast for treatment, he might be able to entice Patricia to the altar if he practiced in the big city. The plot, such as it is (Taylor’s primary obsession appears to be the culture and dialect of Ulster province), revolves around these romantic concerns, as well as Fingal’s well-intentioned attempt to bail out working-class Ballybucklebo-ites. A few of the local pub crawlers have gotten themselves embroiled in the latest scheme of unscrupulous politician and real-estate mogul Bertie Bishop to separate them from their hard-earned shillings. It’s up to Fingal to figure out how the scam—featuring a crooked jockey and depreciating shares in a racehorse—operates before Bertie’s marks lose everything. Interspersed throughout, medical cases, described in suitably gruesome detail (a long-festering liver abscess being only one example), will satisfy the most voyeuristic armchair physician. Fear not—in the cozy world of Ballybucklebo, hearts may be on the line but lives seldom are.
Nostalgia for a simpler time, plus an idyllic depiction of universal health coverage in action, may be the main appeal here.