Old Gosport hospital plays host to novelist

Eric Birbeck MVO (left) from Haslar Heritage Group, with author Pat Taylor
Eric Birbeck MVO (left) from Haslar Heritage Group, with author Pat Taylor

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THE history of a former hospital in its heyday has been captured by a novelist with the help of an expert in Gosport.

Author Patrick Taylor visited the grounds of the now-defunct Royal Hospital Haslar after he spent months penning a medical historical novel set in Haslar.

Such was his attention to detail that he enlisted the aid of Haslar Heritage Group’s Eric Birbeck MVO, who helped him with details of the hospital’s operation during the Second World War.

Speaking to The News on his visit, Mr Taylor said: ‘It’s a great feeling of homecoming to be here, I’ve lived with this place for 12 months.

‘Part of this book is a homage to my father who served and to the men and women who gave up their lives.’

He thanked Mr Birbeck for his help in informing the novel’s history.

‘The one thing about writing historic fiction is you cannot afford one mistake,’ Mr Taylor added.

He said he picked Haslar as a setting after reading a piece about the battle of Trafalgar that mentioned the hospital.

The novel, called An Irish Doctor in Love and at Sea follows the main character Fingal O’Reilly serving as a Surgeon Lieutenant on board HMS Warspite before he is sent to Gosport to train in anaesthesia.

In the novel he lives in Alverstoke for the few months he is based at the hospital from September 1940 to January 1941.

Mr Birbeck, who has read the manuscript, said: ‘It’s been a great pleasure.

‘Pat’s taken a little part of Haslar’s history during the Second World War when it was in great service.

‘I’ve tried to be as historical as I can to Pat because I think it makes a good story, and having read it – it really does.’

The novel is the 10th in Mr Taylor’s series of novels about the doctor and is due out next year.

As reported, the hospital closed in 2009 after a valiantly-fought but ultimately lost campaign to keep it open.

Gosport Borough Council has granted permission for a new development.