Boggabri?s jolly good fellows? teary farewell

ABOUT 100 children from Boggabri Public School visited the doctor yesterday, but they weren?t sick.

The students and about 40 teachers and friends walked from the school to the surgery to send Dr John Prior and his wife Betty off in style on their last day of practice.

Dr Prior retired after almost 50 years as a general practitioner and Mrs Prior retired after nearly 30 years as his nurse.

Dr and Mrs Prior were led into their yard where the gathering yelled ?surprise?, ?good luck? and sang ?For they are jolly good fellows?. The children presented the devoted couple, both in their eighties, with a garden shrub and a bunch of flowers.

Several teachers and parents had tears in their eyes with the knowledge that Dr Prior, believed to be the longest serving GP in NSW, was probably the last of his kind.

Dr Prior finished medical school in 1945 and, after a year working in a hospital, joined the army for ?four years and 21 days? where he served as a pathologist and surgeon at the Australian General Hospital and Beecroft General Hospital in Japan. There he met his future wife who was serving as a nurse in the occupational force.

On their return to Australia they settled at Boggabri and had six children.

?I wanted to practise in the country and we liked Boggabri,? Dr Prior said.

?We did our own surgery, midwifery, and general medicine and a retired doctor provided anaesthetics.?

It was a very different medical profession, stretched by medical indemnity uncertainty and recruitment difficulties, that Dr Prior left yesterday. He spent his last day of practice ?very busily? seeing about 30 patients.

Dr Prior has a man lined up to convert his surgery into a library where he would catalogue his collection of several thousand books on Australian and general history and art.