Among my presents on a recent Christmas morning was an ordinary-looking old book, bound with blue card, and seemingly full of rhymes, entitled,

ANECDOTES OF THE WEST COUNTRY and other reminiscences from A Devonshire Doctor’s Diary, by J. W. Ley”.

Dr John Ley was a fellow student with Barnardo, and in his later career as a Doctor at Newton Abbot in Devonshire, he would pursue similar causes to Barnardo, particularly where he could seek improvements in health provision for the poor.

This book contains a series of simple verses narrating the experiences of a country doctor in the late nineteenth century in rural Devon – the missions of mercy, the comic interludes, and the great tragedies at play among the impoverished folk living under the edge of Dartmoor.

These rhymes are threaded through with an honesty and reality that tell of genuine recollections, and are narrated with a humour and at times poignancy that drew me in to read them all. I felt this Good Doctor’s works deserved to be shared with a wider audience, and so I here present my transcriptions of Dr Ley’s book.