My dad turned eighty on 23rd October. We had a party for him the night before in Killarney. This is what I said about him.
There were the perks being the son of an obstetrician/gynaecologist.
We used to get fizzy drinks at the Ernville on Christmas day. I must admit that I felt shy about meeting the other doctors’ kids, but it was a found-less fear because we were always first and we were off to church before any of the others arrived.
It was nice having people telling you that your father was a gentleman and people pointing out that your dad delivered them
Then there was blowing your nose in surgical hats. Dad brought them home to use as tissues.
I remember getting my rugby ball repaired with surgical thread.
We rarely went to a doctor because we had one at home. Dad always dismissed our illnesses assuring that we would be alright. At times I longed to prove him wrong by being really ill. Before Spike Milligan did it, I would have had written on my gravestone, ‘I told you I was ill.’
But perhaps the most enjoyable moment related to having dad being an obstetrician was sitting in a Café in Cardiff, on the day of Munster’s Heineken Cup final against Toulouse, in conversation with a guy who happened to be a rugby commentator for Sky Sports, and pointing out that here was the man who delivered Peter Stringer.
Dad is a great story-teller. When we had guests mum would warm them up and then hand over to dad to tell his jokes. I loved watching him in full swing. He could even tell dreadful stories well. For example, I would never tell the one about the man with the pipe who threw the dog out the window of the train. It is not that funny but he could pull it off!
I remember one journey to Dublin when Joy asked mum and dad to tell us their life stories. Dad told us of the three boys digging their trench in a manse garden; of his times as a boarder in Wesley; of rugby in Wesley and Trinity; and of course the most exciting part was Biafra—where he met Jean Kingston and stayed on in the war.
Stories that stand out for me from dad’s life: marking Tony O’Reilly in a Leinster schools’ trial, getting a tooth knocked out by some guy who resented the fact that he played for Trinity rather than Old Wesley, and the following three medical stories.
As a young doctor dad was called out with a colleague to deliver a baby in a rough part of Glasgow. The woman was so grateful that she decided that she wanted to call the child after him. Dad thought of what might lie ahead for this boy if he got the name Edgar. So he kindly suggested that the child be named after his colleague.
As a senior doctor dad took some of the trainee doctors on his rounds. They came to the bed of an elderly woman and dad asked one of the students to comment upon her condition. The young medic didn’t hold back. Assuming that this woman couldn’t hear what he said the student must have described her in a way that had her close to death. When he was finished a voice come from the bed. ‘You’re no spring chicken yourself.’
I am thankful to dad for many things but I am thankful to him for two things more than anything. Firstly, for the marriage he has with mum. The mutual respect and affection the two of them share is an example to each of the next generations. Secondly, and most of all, there is his faith. Dad has showed that the Christian faith is something that both shapes your life and delights the mind.