Barry Laverty has just graduated from Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Now a medical doctor, he hopes to be hired as assistant to an older country doctor. We meet him searching for the tiny town of Ballybucklebo. A bicyclist appears and clues him in. He should watch for a red barn and a black and white cow. The next thing will be the house he is seeking, the home of Doctor Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly.
After an explosive encounter, in which Fingal opens the door and ejects a patient bodily from his office, Barry is welcomed by the doctor, a large man who smokes and appears to have quite a temper. Fingal seems glad to see him. He soon sees the disorganized doctor’s office, the waiting room “wallpapered with god-awful roses,” the surgery and the exit door. He realizes that Fingal is intelligent but opinionated, and has his own way of practicing medicine. He is also witty and well-read, dropping quotes from literature which Barry is able to finish or identify. A photo on the wall of HMS Warspite assures Barry’s future, as it turns out Barry’s father served on this ship with Fingal during World War II.
The two doctors make a good pair, as Fingal offers tradition and experience, coupled with cutting corners, while Barry contributes careful by-the-book practices. The patients turn out to be colorful and exasperating, but Mrs. Kincaid, Fingal’s housekeeper and secretary, is a wonderful cook and she welcomes Barry like a son. The household is rounded out by Arthur Guinness, an affectionate gundog whose favorite activities are jumping up and putting his muddy paws on Barry’s shirt, and peeing on his pants and shoes, and by Lady Macbeth, a crazed cat who might attack and claw you when you least expect it.
The Irish lilt, tippling, music, hopes, and dreams keep this story moving along in slapstick fashion. And yes, Barry meets a girl. There are recipes, and there are other books in this series