Labrador History - 8.1

Mary TaylorChapter 8

1965 saw many changes on the coast. For one thing, dog teams were gradually replaced by mechanised transportation, because of both “progress” and the disastrous distemper epidemic of 1963. Although skidoos and snowmobiles were faster and more efficient than dog teams, I felt there were times that dogs were safer. They seemed to sense when ice was unsafe, and could smell their way home in any kind of weather.
By the end of the year there were two other important changes, the coming of electricity and telephones. A power plant, generators run by diesel engines from an old American army base further north, was running at L’Anse-au-Loup by December. At first only thirty to forty per cent of the houses were wired but gradually this spread to the rest. Prior to this, only a few people had their own private generators.
I was happy to see the change, for its impact on both health and living conditions. Many of the children had visual problems as a result of doing their homework at night by the light of kerosene lamps, so home lighting could only help. Also, once houses were wired it was not long before modern conveniences, like washing machines and refrigerators followed, purchased from the mail order catalogues. These arrived in the spring, when navigation opened.
In the fall of the previous year telephone service was installed. Long distance calls were by radio-telephone at first, and passed through an operator at L’Anse-au-Loup, a service that built up until two more operators were added by December 1965. It was exciting when I phoned Dad one Sunday that fall, even though there was the possibility someone might pick up our conversation on their radio. Such was the impact on an isolated community.
George and Mona were living in an apartment under the Gospel Hall at English Point and I enjoyed visits with them. I took them some home made ice cream once. We had a manually operated mixer at the station and made our own. The bottom part of the mixer was filled with snow, ice and coarse salt, and the ice cream container, a metal drum, filled with milk, water, vanilla and sometimes fruit, and the machine operated by turning a handle. The result was a nice soft ice cream which was very tasty.
March was young David’s third birthday, so I decided to take him some ice cream for a treat. There were a lot of sick babies at the nursing station, but things quietened down that afternoon, so I set off in the car. I was almost at the bridge over the Forteau River, when I discovered the road was blocked! Not daunted, I left the car at the side of the road and walked the rest of the way, a distance of about a mile, carrying the ice cream. This was one time the cold helped, and the ice cream did not melt! Little David enjoyed his birthday treat.
Early in April I admitted a woman in labour, having her first baby. Her blood pressure was quite high and she had a lot of swelling of her face, hands and feet and, shortly after she was admitted, she had a seizure. This indicated she had eclampsia, a toxic condition sometimes associated with pregnancy. This was an acute emergency. While Dorothy Tucker stayed with the patient, keeping a padded tongue depressor in her mouth to prevent her biting her tongue, I contacted St. Anthony on the radio-telephone. The doctor told me what to do and said they would send the plane as soon as possible. Fortunately the weather was good and the plane came with a medical escort later that morning.
Shortly before this, in March, I admitted an older woman with pneumonia. After a week’s treatment she went home but returned the next day vomiting blood, so a couple of days later I got the plane to pick her up and she was transferred St. Anthony. Sadly she was diagnosed with stomach cancer and, as nothing further could be done for her in St. Anthony, she was transferred back to Forteau for palliative care.
It was at this time I met Jean Skelly.
With March and April being so busy, I asked St. Anthony for extra help with the nursing and they sent me Jean, from Mary’s Harbour, for a couple of weeks. A pretty dark haired Irish girl with sparkly, smiling eyes who was full of fun and energy, Jean had been saved as a teenager in tent meetings in Castlederg, Northern Ireland, in 1951. In 1963 she heard George Campbell give a report on the work God had been doing on the Labrador and responded to the call. Initially intending to come for one year, she stayed 13 years (with a couple of breaks) before her marriage and move to
British nurses were all midwives, so could stay in lonely places along the coast, thus Jean was sent to Mary’s Harbour and its population of 200. She missed Christian company in that period from September, so the move to Forteau at Easter time, albeit temporary, was like heaven. It was nice to be at Bible readings again, and she enjoyed the daily devotions with staff and patients at the station. To crown it all, after the long lonely time at Mary’s Harbour, she came to us just at the time of the annual spring conference at L’Anse-au-Loup.
I really appreciated her help and she enjoyed being with us but, sadly, my cancer patient died at the end of April, so Jean returned to Mary’s Harbour. Later that fall, however, she returned to Forteau and relieved me when I went to British Columbia to spend the winter with my Dad. In June, Dorothy Tucker returned to Harrington Harbour.
In August Rosalind came. A student volunteer from England, Rosalind was studying at Oxford University and came to spend most of a year with us. She took over the time consuming paper work that Dorothy had been doing so capably, drove the Red Jeep to take patients to the plane, ordered and put away household supplies, and helped me in the clinic at times. She was a great asset. Being very good with handicrafts, Rosalind made a beautiful cover for one of the screens we used to put between patient’s beds. This one was embroidered with the letters of the alphabet and applique animals for each letter. The children especially enjoyed it.
One day a man was brought into the clinic from one of the freight boats that travelled through the Strait of Belle Isle. He had been working on an engine when it exploded in his face, giving him a nasty cut in his mouth. I asked Rosalind to help me while I sutured this laceration, so she held the man’s head while I did the stitching.
In the middle of all this poor Rosalind passed out! Fortunately the sailor had a mate, who was waiting outside in the corridor, so he called for help, notwithstanding a mouth full of suture.
“Come and help, mate! One’s out for the count!”
The other man came to the rescue and I was able to finish suturing without further incident. I should have realised that this could happen with someone who had no experience of nursing and it was my fault - but how we did tease poor Rosalind!
That fall Jean relieved me and I went to British Columbia. Dad had moved to his property just outside Parksville, on Vancouver Island, and built a small cabin. The farmhouse there, where he had been living just after I left for Labrador, had burnt down several years previously and with it all his mementoes of a career as a Captain in the Royal Engineers! He had been busy and added a living room and bathroom to the cabin in preparation for my coming for the winter. Mr. Chips, my little dog, went with me on the plane, but was not very happy about being in a cage in the luggage compartment. I could hear him barking in protest during the flight!
George and Mona (with their three children) also went to British Columbia that fall, staying in the missionary home in Vancouver, where I visited them. Mona and I were asked to speak to a lady’s missionary group about our work in Labrador and, although I never did like speaking in public and was very nervous, the Lord helped us both.
That winter Rosalind got saved. She had been attending the Gospel meetings with Jean from time to time, and before that had come to the Gospel Hall with me a few times. The clear preaching of the gospel had stunned her, and she started reading one of my books, a commentary on the Sermon on the Mount by Martyn Lloyd Jones. She was convicted. Eventually, seeing her need of a Sayiour, she trusted the Lord Jesus for herself.
She wrote to me about this many years later:
“When I came to the coast, I had ‘given up’ on God, having tried to put into practice the sermon on the Mount and failed. I had concluded I was not the sort of person God wanted in His kingdom. However I had not given up going to church each week, so when there was no service at the United Church, I went across to the Gospel Hall at English Point.
“The simplicity and forcefulness of the gospel eventually penetrated and I found, for myself the reality of the words of Jesus Christ “Whosoever comes to me I will never drive away.” [John 6:3 7] It was the start of a new direction in lfe and a new hope for the future.”
We did not know this until the following spring when Mona and George returned to Labrador. While we had been away we prayed for her and God answered our prayers. After she returned to England, Rosalind became an occupational therapist.
I had now been in Labrador for twelve years, and what an eventful time it had been! How glad I was that I had obeyed the Lord’s calling to come and minister to these fisherfolk who had become very dear to me. The Lord had worked in a wonderful way and many had come from the darkness of sin into the light of the gospel. Many lives had been changed.
“For God who commanded the light to shine out of the darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”