Cronin on My Scottish Bookshelf

A certain doctor of Tannochbrae used to be the mainstay of my television childhood, so it was with some very clear monochrome images in my head, that I picked up the recent Birlinn edition of A.J. Cronin’s Dr. Finlay’s Casebook.

Doctor Finlay

It is easy to see why the situation, setting, and characters worked so well in episode form on television and radio. Dr Finlay is the junior partner in a surgery sometime in the 1920s or 30s, coping with his senior, pompous Dr. Cameron, and their formidable housekeeper, Janet. The setting seems to be the Highlands, though at some point it seems to move closer to the Clyde. There are plenty of stricken children, thrawn characters, serious illnesses, returning prodigal sons and daughters with a tale to tell, and a sprinkling of sad-eyed beautiful women to beguile Dr Finlay.

Some of the tales are emotional, sentimental perhaps, but there is also a lot of humour, wry observation, and the guid Scots tongue. As befits a doctor’s life they are also on occasion frank and even a wee bit racy. All in all it is a casebook well worth reopening, a great reminder of one of our expert storytellers.

Cronin was a formidably successful writer in the 1930s and 1940s. Born in 1896 in Dumbarton and trained as a doctor, he found fame as the author of a series of blockbuster novels – the famous names, all filmed, include Hatter’s Castle, The Stars Look Down, The Citadel and The Keys of the Kingdom. He died in 1981. (Image from Birlinn )