The Four Yorkshiremen

Some of you may have read Ian Beardsell’s parody “What has Twitter ever do for us” (a take on Monty Python’s “What have the Romans ever done for us?”) – a nice synergy of humour and Emergency Medicine at StEmlyns

I had always thought that “The Four Yorkshiremen” was vintage Python – but the original pre-dates Python and comes from “At Last the 1948 Show” with John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Marty Feldman.

The sketch is simple – four wealthy Yorkshiremen reflect on their current good fortune relative to their childhood humble beginnings, with each trying to out-do the other in terms of hardship.

This is EXACTLY what happens when a bunch of senior doctors get together and reminisce about their times as junior doctors. I trained in the UK and am still bitterly resentful of a system that saw overtime paid at 1/3rd of usual hourly rate on the basis that were ‘on-call’ only.

Whilst this may have worked for pre-1950s medicine when thngs were quiet, my recollection of on-call was a shift that started 7am Friday and ran through til 7pm Monday, resident in-hospital and working as a Firm (Registrar-Senior House Officer-House Officer) admitting in-patients. Each day we walked 10 miles of wards, admitted 20-30 patients and sleep was rarely more than 2-3 hrs at most, interrupted by bleeps to either do mundane chart re-writes, re-site IVs…or else be involved in managing critical patients. Why, my first night on-call as an inten, I was taught how to put in an IJV central line by my reg…then left alone to do another three on the wards within the next six hours, unsupervised.

Of course, you tell that to the young doctors of today and they wont believe you…


How might the Four Yorkshiremen Medicos discuss their junior doctor years?


The Scene:

Four well-dressed men are sitting together at a vacation resort. ‘Farewell to Thee’ is played in the background on Hawaiian guitar


FIRST YORKSHIREMAN: Aye, very passable, that, very passable bit of risotto.

SECOND YORKSHIREMAN: Nothing like a good glass of Château de Chasselas, eh, Josiah?

THIRD YORKSHIREMAN: You’re right there, Obadiah.

FOURTH YORKSHIREMAN: Who’d have thought thirty year ago we’d all be sittin’ here drinking Château de Chasselas, eh?

FIRST YORKSHIREMAN: In them days we were just young interns, glad to be getting our first pay cheque

SECOND YORKSHIREMAN: Aye, we were paid a pittance mind

FOURTH YORKSHIREMAN: Aye, I remember the more we worked, the less we got paid!

THIRD YORKSHIREMAN: Paid? I would’ve done it for free

SECOND YORKSHIREMAN: But you know, we were happy in those days, though we were poor.

FIRST YORKSHIREMAN:Because we were poor. My old Consultant used to say to me, “Money doesn’t buy you happiness, lad”.

FOURTH YORKSHIREMAN: Aye, ‘e was right.


FOURTH YORKSHIREMAN: I was happier then and I had nothin’. We used to live in this tiny old hospital flat with great big holes in the roof.

SECOND YORKSHIREMAN: Flat! You were lucky to live in a flat! We used to live in one room, all twenty-six of us, no furniture, ‘alf the floor was missing, and we were all ‘uddled together in one corner for fear of falling.

THIRD YORKSHIREMAN: Eh, you were lucky to have a room! We used to have to live in t’ corridor!

FIRST YORKSHIREMAN: Oh, we used to dream of livin’ in a corridor! Would ha’ been a palace to us. We used to sleep in the sharps bin!

FOURTH YORKSHIREMAN: Well, when I say ‘flat’ it was only a hole in the ground covered by a sheet of tarpaulin, but it was a flat to us.

SECOND YORKSHIREMAN: We were evicted from our ‘ole in the ground; we ‘ad to go and live in the sluice room. Every shift change we’d be woken up by the ward matron pouring a steaming pile of shite onto our heads.

THIRD YORKSHIREMAN: You were lucky to have a sluice! There were a hundred and fifty of us camping out in the ED.



FIRST YORKSHIREMAN: You were lucky. At least you got to work when living in ED. On my surgical rotation we lived for three months in an occupied box in the Morgue. We used to have to get up at six in the morning, clean the corpses, eat a crust of stale bread, go to work in Theatre, fourteen hours a day, week-in week-out, for sixpence a week, and when we got back to the Morgue the senior Consultant would thrash us to sleep wi’ his belt.

SECOND YORKSHIREMAN: Luxury. We used to have to get out of the sluice at six o’clock in the morning, clean the toilet pans, eat a handful of ‘ot gravel, work twenty hour day on Geriatric ward for tuppence a month, come home, and Consultant would thrash us to sleep with a broken bottle…if we were lucky!

THIRD YORKSHIREMAN: Well, of course, we had it tough. We used to ‘ave to get up out of ED at twelve o’clock at night and lickthe patients clean wit’ tongue. We had two bits of cold gravel, worked twenty-four hours a day in ED for sixpence every four years, and when we finished the Nurse Practitioner would slice us in two wit’ bread knife.

FOURTH YORKSHIREMAN: Right. I had to get up in the morning at ten o’clock at night half an hour before I went to bed, drink a cup of sulphuric acid, work twenty-nine hours a day in ICU, and pay that prick Monty Mythen [*] for permission to come to work….and when we finished, the Senior Reg would kill us and dance about on our graves singing Hallelujah….then defibrillate us and start all over again

FIRST YORKSHIREMAN: And you try and tell the young doctors of today that ….. they won’t believe you.

ALL: They won’t!


[*] with apologies to Monty Mythen – most definitely NOT a prick! Along with Mervyn Singer & Monty as supervisors, I was privileged to have one of the first ever rotations in anaesthesia/ICU as a house officer in UCL (tradition was for 6/12 medicine, 6/12 surgery rotations – I am grateful that my 6/12 surgery sentence was halved to 3/12 surgery and 3/12 anaes/ICU). Monty & co were great…I think I’ve managed to get most of the methylene blue out of my scrubs since…

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