24 December 2013

Doctoring in Horse-and-Trap Days
by Harry Roberts (appeared in The Countryman magazine in 1946)

My first medical practice was in the little village-town of Hayle in Cornwall, where I lived for nearly ten years at the end of the last century.  I paid three hundred pounds for it, without seeing it; indeed I bought it by wire.  Then I got myself a smallish cob, sound and well-broken in, together with a dog-cart and harness.

... Except on Sunday morning, one rarely saw a Cornishman walking any distance.  Anything more than a mile was covered by bicycle or donkey-cart; and every married man expected his wife to bring to his place of work, at midday, a hot Cornish pasty wrapped in a clean white cloth.  In money matters they were very honest and self-respecting .  They paid - in relation to their financial status - high fees, and they never grudged paying bills of many pounds for treatment for a sick child, but they liked to get the skill and attention they paid for.

... An old doctor, my nearest fellow practitioner, when called at night to a confinement at some distance, would, if he found that things were not moving very quickly, have his horse taken out and stabled, and would himself remove his boots and coat and get into bed beside the patient.  
Here, after telling the nurse in charge to wake him when there was anything doing, he would finish his night's sleep in peace.

from 'Words from the Countryman' edited by Valerie Porter

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