When he was 94, Dr Michael Dorman asked his daughter Mary to help him with a follow-up call on one of the most memorable incidents of his working life as a GP. Almost six decades before, a young Leitrim woman unexpectedly went into labour while visiting her sister in Sligo. At short notice Michael Dorman delivered triplets at Sligo's Saint Joseph's Hospital.
Minutes after the babies arrived, he tucked them into three wicker baskets, placed them into the back seat of his car and drove them at speed to Sligo General Hospital where an incubator was available.
Persistence was rewarded when the searchers tracked down the triplets, very much alive and healthy and in their late fifties, near the north Leitrim village of Drumkeeran.
Such engagement with his patients was a feature of Michael Dorman’s 60-plus years as a rural GP.
Born in Coalisland, Co Tyrone, in 1924, and educated at Saint Patrick's College, Armagh, he graduated from UCD School of Medicine in 1951. He worked for a time at the Dungannon-based practice of Dr Con McCloskey, one of the founders of the Civil Rights Movement.
Some of his most formative experiences were as a third- year medical student, during an attachment in obstetrics and gynaecology at Dublin’s Rotunda Hospital and later as the clinical clerk in the Coombe Hospital.
As a student he travelled on a bike, to help deliver babies at the four- and five-storey tenement houses in the orbit of the Rotunda, the Coombe and Holles Street. The bike was never locked or stolen.
He wrote “ I remember the bedrooms . . . we’d usually bring a sheaf of newspapers to protect the mattress . . . you usually brought your own little saucepan and boiled it up if you had to use any instruments but you rarely used them . . . the people were so charitable . . . they had so little and they’d insist of you having tea”.
In relation to those times he also wrote, “One of the big things at the time were fleas. One of the first things you’d do after those district calls was undress, take off your trousers because the fleas would be creeping up the seams. I can remember going back in 1951 and the fleas were gone because DDT was on the market and in use. It was different.”
Romance brought him to Sligo. On a weekend break from a locum in Beleek, Co Fermanagh, he met his wife, Veronica Forde, at the West of Ireland Golf Championship in Rosses Point and they married shortly afterwards.
He set up practice in Sligo in 1956 at a time when they were only five GPs in the town. It was a hectic life, initially on duty seven days a week but it suited him. He had a busy clinic but also did house calls in Sligo and Leitrim; for many years he delivered babies in Saint Joseph’s, known locally as Garden Hill; and he later cared for the elderly community in Sligo’s Saint John’s Hospital.
His family knew him as a man of action and someone who loved gadgets. He would hunt in the winter and sail in the summer. He kept lobster pots at Mullaghmore and rode in point-to-point races. He was an avid reader, with a keen interest in history and current affairs.
He bought a farm on Coney Island to raise cattle and grow crops. His experiments with transport to get him to the island farm included a beach buggy, a sand yacht, an old ambulance with a dodgy floor and, in the early 1970s, a crude version of a hovercraft.
His habit over decades was to end the day by meeting the same group of friends for a chat and pints at Carroll’s pub beside Hyde Bridge in Sligo.
He was known for his empathy and his thoroughness. He was on first-name terms with many of his patients and he became the family doctor of several generations.
He retired at 90 but retained a keen interest in the GP Practice on the Mall, Sligo, now run by his daughter, Jane. Shortly before his passing, he was made patron of the Sligo GP Society by his colleagues.
He was predeceased by his wife Veronica in April 2017.
He died in April this year at his home near Strandhill, between Knocknarea and the Atlantic, with his family members around him and the dawn chorus in full song.
He is survived by his daughters, Mary and Jane and sons, Stephen, John and Mark.