Saturday, December 9, 2023

Book Your Stocking 2023 with Peter McClean

Welcome to December and this year's version of Book Your Stocking, a holiday series in which avid readers recommend books for your stocking. This year, readers will be sharing children's books they remember reading as children. Perhaps you'll stumble upon readers who read the same books as you, or will start remembering books that were important to your own childhood. And if one of those books should find its way into a stocking near you, then all the better.

Please welcome our first contributor, Peter McClean from Dublin, Ireland:


Shipwrecked in Hospital 

by Peter McClean 

Published in 1857, 100 years before I was born The Coral Island by R.M. Ballantyne is a tale of survival on a desert island; it contains things that would not be regarded well today, but those things left a lasting impression on my mind. What I remember is the sense of adventure and excitement. Three boys are shipwrecked and are the sole survivors of the sinking. They must fend for themselves and learn how to survive on a Pacific island that is totally alien to their experiences to date.


I read The Coral Island fifty-five years ago, as an eleven year old boy confined to a hospital bed for several days. My memory of the detail in the story might, understandably, be a bit sketchy at this time distance, but I have strong memories of having been engrossed in the book and having found it exciting and interesting. The boys in the story were determined to survive and their adventures kept my mind occupied as I recovered from my surgery.

On the day I was admitted to hospital for a scheduled surgery, my older brother was an emergency admission suffering from appendicitis. He was put into the fifth bed on my right. At that time the hospital was run by an order of nuns, and as such it was ruled over by “Matron”. In the hospital, or any hospital run by a “Matron”, Matron was the rule of law. She was all powerful. What Matron said or thought dictated the actions of all her underlings. Even the medical consultants would think twice about going up against Matron’s instructions.


Every evening Matron would go on her rounds of the hospital and in each ward she would visit every patient and have a brief conversation with them to ensure they were comfortable and felt they were getting the attention they required. When Matron arrived at my bed on the evening of my admission day, she greeted me and asked me how I was and wished me luck for my procedure. Then she said, “I see there is another McClean in the ward. Is he a friend of yours?”


In the nature of an unthinking eleven year old boy, I responded, “No! He’s my brother!”



About Peter McClean

I am into my seventh decade on this planet and have reached what some call my Third Age. Having retired from full-time employment in the world of operations management and consulting I can now devote more time to my reading, the activity that I used throughout my career to counterbalance the stresses of the day-job.


Peter McClean