Wednesday, February 5, 2014

from "Among the Deep Sea Fishers" | April 1911

Toronto, April, 1911

Dr. Grenfell’s absence in England has meant the cessation of the “log” and there is but little information to hand of the winter doings at the hospitals. The Christmas festivities at St. Anthony seem to have been most successful. A member of the staff writes: “We are now well started on the new year and bright Christmas season when so far away from our own kith and kin. I must tell you about our employees’ dinner which we served in the waiting room on Monday following Christmas to forty-three people. I had the room cleared and picnic tables made in such form that Dr. Little and Mr. Halsey were able to sit at the two ends and carve. It gave more dignity to the occasion and was a great joy to the people. The tables we made as pretty as possible with our simple decoration of paper napkins, mottoes, pickles, cheese, berries, raisins, figs, etc. Then we served soup, venison, potatoes, cabbage, plum pudding, ice cream, etc. At the end of the meal each person received a box of candy and a gift as well. Mr. Forbes managed the phonograph throughout the meal, and before they all departed a flashlight was taken. All went quietly and smoothly and from what I have heard was evidently a great success. Dr. Little I know was pleased. The orphans’ tree followed at 4 p.m. and gave a tremendous deal of pleasure, not only to children, but to the grown people as well, for Santa Claus in the person of Mr. Halsey and his two sons, Mr. Write and Mr. Evans, came flying down the Fox Farm Hill on a komatik drawn by two reindeer. It was so very real and made it so much more impressive.”

Dr. Little writes under date of the 15th of January: “All goes well at St. Anthony. Dr. Wakefield started yesterday for the Straits with ten fine dogs and Aleck Simms as driver. . . We have all been struggling through a grippe epidemic but it is over and all are well. There is no special news. Things are pretty well started. Night school with two classes, men and boys; club for the men; Legion of Frontiersmen; Bible class for the girls; choir, etc. etc. All are awfully good about doing anything.”

While in England the Kin honoured him [Grenfell] by giving him a long and special audience, and though he was ostensibly taking a holiday he did not by any means neglect the opportunity of arousing interest in his work. The following report of one magnificent meeting in Queen’s Hall, London, shows that his simple earnest tale of the needs of his people and his aims for their betterment has lost none of its power:

“An expectant crowd that filled Queen’s Hall from area to top gallery welcomed ‘Grenfell of Labrador’ with British enthusiasm on Monday evening. Norman Duncan has made Dr. Grenfell’s work known far and wide in this country, and although one of the journalists who interviewed the Doctor last week confessed to an absolute ignorance of the geographical situation of Labrador, probably every one in the audience could have come through an examination with better results than that. From the first row Field Marshal Lord Grenfell followed his relative’s story with keen interest, and there were many well known people in the audience.

Sir Ernest Shackleton presided with that peculiar sea-dog air of his. He told us that there were five members of his Antarctic expedition present, and not a few of us who have read his book would have dearly liked to see those men paraded on the platform. Standing in the centre of the platform, his broad shoulders on the slant and his hands clasped for all the world as if he were hauling in the slack of the mainsheet, the hero of the South Polar expedition declared, in his bluff way, that the mass of the civilized world had come to appreciate the great work done by a man who was trying to do his best for the bodies and the souls of ‘nameless men who nameless rivers travel, and in strange valleys meet strange deaths alone.’ A happy, poetical description of Dr. Grenfell’s life work!

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