Dr Paddy Halligan retired earlier this month.

Hanging up the stethoscope after 35 years

Thirty five years of medical service to Bailieborough came to an end this month with the retirement of Dr Paddy Halligan.

The Castlepollard native set up The Cottage Practice in the town in 1986 and has worked there since.

“It was possibly the worst year in Bailieborough’s history. The Co-op had just folded and there were loads of people who had been let go. It was just a very, very difficult time for everybody at the time and I arrived in trying to set up a business,” he recalls.

“I remember I was charging a £5 consultation fee at the time and so many people said ‘look I can’t afford it’ and I said ‘sure that’s grand, sure lookit we’ll see how it goes’. We were doing that with a lot of people but everyone was in the same boat.”

A 39 year career as a GP almost never came about and could have been trumped by work as a PE teacher if fate had not intervened.

“I went to work on a building site in England. At the time you had to do a physical test to get into Limerick [National College of Physical Education]. You had to run, swim, climb, all these sorts of things. The letter came inviting me to do this and I never got it because I was in London and nobody opened my mail at home so I lost out on that!” he laughs.

Two years of veterinary medicine followed, before a move to Canada to work on a pipeline. This in turn was followed by the final decision to enter medicine.

“I literally just wrote to the Dean in medicine and said, ‘Is there any chance of getting into medicine?’ Because at the time the points system had all changed and it was four years since I had done the leaving.”


The parallels between the situation today’s new GPs find themselves in and those in 1982 are striking. While today we’re told poor pay and conditions are driving doctors and nurses abroad, it was a lack of opportunities in the 1980s.

Dr Halligan considered a move to the Middle East or even further afield, before deciding to remain in Ireland.

“I was all set to go away. I had applied to the Middle East and at the time there were jobs for Irish doctors in Baghdad and different places. There were Irish companies recruiting at the time.”

Now, however, medics are vocal of the pressures placed on people working in the health sector and that’s being blamed for the outflow of health care staff from the country.

“I think I’d be pushed very strongly to go,” Dr Halligan says if he was a graduating doctor today. “Things have changed a lot really.

“I’d like to think things are going to change for the better but I think they’ve been stagnant for the last while. Like the new consultant contract is drifting along and it’s not ideal. A lot of consultants aren’t buying into it. The GP contract has been done in bits and pieces. Thirty-five, nearly 40 years ago was the last revision, the last serious revision, and a lot of GPs are frustrated about that,” he warns.

Casualty in the community

So what of the work of a GP? How much change has there been in the work over the last four decades?

“Oh chalk and cheese. It’s like two different jobs,” he laughs. “When I started I only saw six people. In the '80s and '90s nobody came in for a check-up, that was unheard of. Nobody!”

Injuries, sore throats and other ailments were the order of the day. Dr Halligan describes it as “working in casualty but in the community”. Changes in the meantime have meant an increase in the more ‘routine’ issues being dealt with.

“It was all ‘I have an injury', 'I had a car accident the other day and I’ve a sore leg', 'fell off a bus’. It was all acute medicine when I started and now it’s gone 180 degrees,” he observes.

Helping to manage chronic conditions for patients now forms the majority of a GP's work.

GPs are still seen as part of the centre of a community by many people and that’s no different in Bailieborough. Dr Halligan moved to the town and along with his wife Mary, they reared his four children there.

“It was a lovely community to work in and people were very welcoming, I must say. We were embraced by the local community which was fantastic.”


Thirty five years running your own business can often make it difficult to settle into retirement but Dr Halligan isn’t short of ideas for what to do next.

“I’m going to do a bit of travel and literally chill and figure out what I want to do,” he says.

Following on from a successful book of poetry published in 2012, 'Waitress and other poems', there could be more in the works.

“I do a good bit of writing and I’m getting back into writing. There’s plenty of things to be done nowadays.”

The Cottage Surgery, which now employs 12 people, has moved on to become part of the Centric Health group.

A larger healthcare group, it employs over 500 people across the country with a number of GP practices and private clinics across the country. Dr Gavin Maguire has now taken over the management of The Cottage Surgery.