Prairie an­ces­tors

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As a Cana­dian prairie-born de­scen­dant of an early CPR set­tler, I read with in­ter­est your ar­ti­cle The Rail­way Mi­grants in your Jan­uary is­sue. My great grand­fa­ther, Wil­liam James Moore, first trav­elled west in 1898 from On­tario to set­tle in an area of what was then called the North West Ter­ri­to­ries (present day Saskatchewan) near the town­ship of Car­lyle.

Wil­liam first built a sod home to live in and over time hauled logs from the Moose Moun­tain area, 24km away, to build a log home with a sod roof. All the while, he was work­ing the land. In 1899, he trav­elled to On­tario to bring his wife and four young chil­dren to the homestead. The fam­ily flour­ished and three more ba­bies were born.

I have long ad­mired the for­ti­tude and op­ti­mism of early prairie set­tlers like Wil­liam and his fam­ily who en­dured dif­fi­cult win­ters with tem­per­a­tures of - 40°C and sum­mers that could be as hot as + 40°C. With very few re­sources and liv­ing long dis­tances from neigh­bours and the near­est town, they not only I was de­lighted to read the ar­ti­cle Un­der thee Knife in April’s mag­a­zine, es­pe­cially as it pro­filed Joseph Lis­ter. I had looked into his life some time ago when I dis­cov­ered that my great grand­fa­ther’s brother James Reid had been a stu­dent at Glas­gow Univer­sity train­ing to be a sur­geon while Lis­ter was a pro­fes­sor there.

Glas­gow Univer­sity was very help­ful in an­swer­ing my en­quiry con­cern­ing James’s stu­dent days there. I have a copy of the Univer­sity Cal­en­dar 1863- 64, which de­tails the cour­ses James would have had to have taken to qual­ify as a sur­geon, which he did in 1868. Th­ese in­cluded med­i­cal cour­ses such as the Prac­tice of Medicine, Anatomy, and, of course, Surgery un­der the pro­fes­sor­ship of Joseph Lis­ter MB. The cal­en­dar states ‘ The pro­fes­sor de­liv­ers a course of lec­tures on the Prin­ci­ples and Op­er­a­tions of surgery’. This was just at the en­dured and sur­vived but pros­pered and made the Cana­dian prairies an ex­tremely suc­cess­ful farm­ing area.

So thank you for high­light­ing not only a com­pelling hu­man story but also an im­por­tant his­tor­i­cal story from Canada!

I am at­tach­ing a photo of my grand­fa­ther from about 1918 with the log home that Wil­liam built in the back­ground. Wil­liam time that Lis­ter was be­gin­ning his an­ti­sep­sis work so surely he was dis­cussing it with his stu­dents. I won­der what James and his fel­low stu­dents made of th­ese new ideas, es­pe­cially as when James qual­i­fied he joined the Ben­gal Army and went off to In­dia where I sus­pect con­di­tions were worse than in Scot­land. I won­der if as a ju­nior of­fi­cer he had any in­flu­ence on the way that pa­tients were treated out there.

James spent the whole of his ca­reer in later built a two-storey home for his fam­ily and the log struc­ture was used to house live­stock. Mar­i­lyn Gard­ner, Mel­bourne, Aus­tralia Editor replies: It’s great to hear from read­ers who feel con­nected to some of our ar­ti­cles. How they coped with such ex­tremes of weather, is be­yond me. In­dia,I be­com­ing a Sur­geon Ma­jor in Port BlairB on the An­daman and Ni­co­bar I slands. I have a lot of gen­eral in­for­ma­tion abouta James but I wish there was more abouta his per­sonal life as a sur­geon in In ndia and the med­i­cal changes that he mustm have seen through his life.

So thank you for the ar­ti­cle which gave mem a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of how things were in Bri­tain.

I al­ways look for­ward to re­ceiv­ing my mag­a­zine as it al­ways has some­thing new to tell me but this one came with an ex­tra spe­cial sur­prise! Diana Holdsworth, by email Editor replies: I’m glad you en­joyed the ar­ti­cle, Diana. It had a lot of res­o­nance for me to as my great grand­fa­ther was also a sur­geon, al­though he trained in Birm­ing­ham, so not un­der Lis­ter.

Mar­i­lyn Gard­ner’s grand­fa­ther

Wil­liam James Moore, c1918

OurO Vi Vic­to­ri­ant i surgery f fea­turet iAin April’sil’ i is­sue

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