Monday, January 7, 2008
An exclusive interview with the author of AN IRISH COUNTRY DOCTOR
On page 574 of the latest volume of Select Editions Irish-born Canadian author Patrick Taylor, M.D., talks about his early career as a young physician in Northern Ireland and the inspiration for the whimsical village of Ballybucklebo. Here is more of the original interview with Dr. Taylor.
Select Editions: Are many of the characters in your novel, AN IRISH COUNTRY DOCTOR, based on people you knew in Northern Ireland?
Patrick Taylor: Based on fact and then embellished. All of my characters are like Mrs Kincaid’s recipes: a pinch of this, a teaspoonful of that, stir, and with a bit of luck you’ve got an interesting person derived from bits of many.
SE: Dr Fingal O’Reilly’s mantra is: ‘Never let the patient get the upper hand.’ Did that ever happen to you?
PT: Very recently a patient thrust an internet printout of a research paper at me and asked whether I was familiar with the particular study and, if not, why not? I asked her to look closely at the author’s name. My own.
SE: What was it like living in Northern Ireland during the Troubles?
PT: Bloody. Imagine being a gynaecologist, having a weekend off and returning to find not one woman on your 30-bed ward. The patients were all victims of a bomb blast.
SE: Is that why you left for Canada in 1970?
PT: Yes, we had a young daughter and didn’t want her to grow up in the Troubles, which looked as if they could go on for ever. She was two when we left and thirty when they called a cease-fire.
SE: The scenery of Ulster comes across as idyllic in the book—and the food sounds delicious. Do you miss those things?
PT: I do miss the scenery, particularly of a place called Strangford Lough, where as a boy I used to shoot ducks and go for peace and solace when life was too intrusive. But the scenery here in British Columbia is pretty impressive. I don’t miss the delicious food because my wife, who’s also from Ulster, is a superb cook.
SE: And your favorite dish is . . .?
PT: Basically, I’m a grand man for the pan. I like a full cooked breakfast with bacon, sausages, eggs, black pudding, mushrooms, barmbrack …
RD: You love sailing too. What kind do you enjoy most?
PT: Intermediate distance and offshore racing were the biggest thrill—Victoria to Maui, for example. My job was navigator, as I’m a little on the short side for deck work. My best friend, who owned the 50-foot boat had to sell her, unfortunately. But now I enjoy inshore cruising on our 26-footer and there are some wonderful waters here for that.