Dr. Gren­fell as I knew him


It was al­most the last sum­mer I was at Tur­navik. The skip­per of the steam launch be­came sick and had to go up to one of the Gren­fell hos­pi­tals. Fa­ther told me that I had to take his place. I got a bad dose of ton­sil­li­tis. I had them pretty big and sore; this was a pretty bad mix-up, and now the skip­per of the launch in the hospi­tal! And the end of the capelin school, when the cod­fish were bit­ing well, and a good sup­ply of bait would be a good fish­ery. The fish were hook­ing well and, in an­other week, we would be out of the woods. No one could be spared to take my place, so I had to go.

I was just get­ting ready to leave the house when the Strath­cona, with Gren­fell, was com­ing in the tickle. Fa­ther had a boat sent along­side and got them up to the house, in the mean­time telling me to wait un­til he came.

‘ One of those

gad­gets ‘

In Dr. Gren­fell came, and the first thing he said was,“Let me look at your throat.” Then he fooled around in his pocket and brought out a case. Open­ing it, I saw some­thing for the world like one of those gad­gets you used to snip can­dles. Back­ing me up against the wall, I opened my mouth, and in went the “can­dle-snip­per,” as I called it, which was an old-fash­ioned ton­sil ex­trac­tor. He kept snip­ping away un­til I could hold out no longer, so I pushed him away. When I cleared my mouth, through the tears in my eyes, I tried to get my breath. I was sort of groggy, but I could hear him talk, and it seemed far away. I sup­pose my senses were dulled with the strug­gle and he was so in­ter­ested in his en­thu­si­asm, as was al­ways his wont, that he did not re­al­ize he was do­ing this job without any ether. I was hold­ing on as long as I could. This, we were taught, was the part of a good sol­dier. Then I heard him say, “Oh! I am sorry. I have cut your palate!”

I was gal­va­nized to action, and I came right out of my stu­por and said,“No! No, you didn’t. I can speak!” And then I laughed, and the look of re­lief on his face was very no­tice­able.

I gath­ered up my gear, oil clothes, mitts and a few other odd things I had, went out of the house and to the launch, which was al­ready blow­ing off steam. Go­ing out of the tickle, I had to pass the house and the flagstaff, and there was Dr. Gren­fell, wav­ing his hand.

Great per­sonal


The late Dr. Henry Grier Bryant [1859-1932], Pres­i­dent of the Philadel­phia Geo­graph­i­cal So­ci­ety, was a great per­sonal friend of Gren­fell, and also a di­rec­tor of the Gren- fell As­so­ci­a­tion of Amer­ica. Dr. Bryant had made sev­eral trips to the in­te­rior of Labrador, and knew first­hand many of the livey­eres, the Eski­mos and the Nas­copie and Mon­tag­nais In­di­ans, all of whom Dr. Gren­fell’s mis­sion had reached.

Dr. Bryant was also a great friend of Ad­mi­ral [Robert E.] Peary [1856-1920]. I had met him at Tur­navik back in 1894. It was in the days when Peary was mak­ing his trips, in which he was get­ting ready for his on­slaught for the [North] Pole. I had din­ner with Dr. Bryant at the Art Club in Philadel­phia. The late John Huneker, the brother of the well-known writer, James Huneker, Andy Marty and Joe Miller, all friends of the Gren­fell As­so­ci­a­tion, were there, too.

One of the doc­tors at the din­ner was a sur­geon with Dr. Bryant and also with Peary in a pre­vi­ous sum­mer trip. We got talk­ing about the North, Labrador Grand Falls, mos­qui­toes and the hard­ship of travel, both in Green­land and Labrador. Then it came to Gren­fell’s work and, of course, Dr. Bryant had first­hand in­for­ma­tion. I told them of the ton­sil story, shoot­ing the par­tridge on the Lance Ground and other sto­ries con­nected with the Gren­fell work. I had for­got­ten to men­tion that my be­ing at this din­ner was by in­vi­ta­tion from Dr. Bryant, to in­tro­duce Dr. Gren­fell at the Academy of Mu­sic, where Dr. Gren­fell was to give an il­lus­trated lec­ture to a Philadel­phia au­di­ence. The ma­jor­ity of this au­di­ence would be sym­pa­thetic to Gren­fell and, of course, this au­di­ence would be of the very best peo­ple in Philadel­phia and the sub­urbs.

‘ That story of the ton­sils and the bird’

John Huneker said that I had bet­ter tell that story of the ton­sils and the bird. Some­how or other, when I met Dr. Gren­fell be­fore the lec­ture, I changed my mind. He was a bit ner­vous; he prob­a­bly thought, “Well, Bob will talk about the ton­sils and will prob­a­bly use curse words, which will sort of em­bar­rass the au­di­ence, and make it dif­fi­cult for me to get un­der way.”

I only said a few words to in­tro­duce him. It was very easy. Dr. Gren­fell was known to the Philadel­phia au­di­ence al­most as well as the Pres­i­dent of the United States.

He showed his pic­tures and had his au­di­ence with him from start to fin­ish. In talk­ing to him af­ter­wards, he said, “I thought you would tell the ton­sil story.” I don’t know yet whether he was dis­ap­pointed or pleased; so many peo­ple were around and, with the ex­cite­ment, it was dif­fi­cult to tell by the ex­pres­sion on his face or in his words to me.

...To be con­tin­ued.

Bur­ton K. Janes lives in Bay Roberts and can be reached by email at bur­tonj@nfld.net

Bob Bartlett

Wil­fred Gren­fell

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