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Professional Life

( Originally Published 1924 )



I ARRIVED in Halifax in January, 1880, and immediately hoarded an Intercolonial train for home. We arrived at Riviere du Loup one evening and shortly after pulled out. I went to bed and was soon asleep. In the morning I woke up much refreshed and thought I had never had such a sound sleep in a Pullman. When I looked out of the window I found we were buried in a snow-drift and had not moved all night. I arrived in Montreal and was greeted by my friend William Osler (afterwards Sir William, Bart.) who gave a dinner for me. There were present Frank Sheppard, Frank Buller, James Bell and several others. It was like William Osier to do this kindly act to a young man just returned home to make a start in life. I often met him afterwards in Montreal, Baltimore and Philadelphia. My last meeting with him was at the Canadian Red Cross Hospital at Clieveden, on Lord Astor's estate, during the war, to which hospital he was a consultant He was one of the most loveable men I have ever known and a medical genius. He was easily the most eminent member of the medical profession Canada has produced.

When I left Montreal for Toronto I adopted an original plan of getting myself known to the profession, on whose support my future depended. Beginning at Brockville I stopped off at every town of any size and called on every doctor.

My father had taken a house for me so I had an address. I had my professional cards printed in England and left them on all and sundry members of the profession. I followed the same plan throughout northern, southern and western Ontario. I "hung out my shingle" at 317 Church Street on April 2nd, 1880, and thanks to my tour, which had lasted six weeks, I soon had quite a practice, which in time grew to large proportions, so much so that by the autumn of 1882 I had an income which enabled me to marry.

In the fall of the following year I was appointed Professor of eye, ear and throat diseases, the incumbent of the office having resigned, in Trinity Medical College, and Surgeon to the Andrew Mercer Eye and Ear Infirmary, Toronto General Hospital. I held this professorship until the amalgamation of Trinity Medical College with the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Toronto in 1902, when I was appointed a joint professor, resigning in 1918 after thirty-seven years' service. I was also on the active staff of the Toronto General Hospital Eye and Ear Service for twenty-seven years, during which I received no remuneration. The time is coming when the Government will have to provide salaries for medical men who do all this free medical work for the poor as in the British Colonial Medical Service. The present system is an inheritance from the old times and is not in keeping with present-day conditions and the increased cost of living.

It has always been a matter of regret to me that with the fine training I had had in Europe I did not do any original work in my profession. I think the reasons are, that I acquired a large practice so rapidly that I had not the time and later I became interested in military, philanthropic and Masonic affairs which diverted my mind from research work.

I did, however, endeavor to be of service to my fellow citizens in my professional capacity, for I tested the sight and color sense of thousands of Toronto school children without expense to the public. What was then novel in this regard is now a matter of routine in the public schools.

I also went into the question of color blindness among railway men and as a result of the public statements I then made the color sense of these employees is now thoroughly tested.

I also did two " first things." I removed adenoids in the spring of 1880. The operation had not been heard of in Canada up to that time. I also was the first to experiment with the use of cocaine as an analgesic for the eye and gave demonstration of its use to the students in the theatre of the Toronto General Hospital.

Recognizing that the then existing Toronto Medical Society did not meet the requirements of senior practitioners, who wanted something practical and not theoretical in their discussions, I organized the Toronto Clinical Society with the co-operation of Drs. Adam Wright, J. H. Burns, J. A. Temple and F. LeM. Grassett. This society had a successful career and was finally merged with the Academy of Medicine, which has sections dealing with all branches of medicine and surgery.

One grew rather tired of the procession of papers and missed the good fellowship of the old Clinical Society. The idea occurred to me that we might have a society composed exclusively of medical men at which "shop" would be barred and, following a monthly dinner, we could listen to an address by some one who had a tale to tell or who was an authority on some subject quite outside of the range of medicine. Hence in association with Drs. E. E. King, W. H-H. B. Aikens, J. 0. Orr, Adam Wright, J. M. Cotton, George Bingham and W. P. Caven, I started the Aesculapian Club. It was a great success and membership in it is eagerly sought.

When I began the practice of medicine in Toronto in April, 1880, the city had a population of 85,000. It has now 596,000 inhabitants.

There were no asphalted streets or sidewalks, the former were either macadamized or pure mud and the latter were of wood in a more or less advanced state of decay. Electric street railways were unheard of, what street cars we had were drawn by horses. In winter the tracks were buried deep in snow, but busses on runners took the place of cars, at which the poor, overburdened horses tugged and sweated while the passengers rubbed their cold noses and dug their feet into the straw which covered the floors. The Canadian Pacific Railway was a statesman's dream. The Grand Trunk supplied connections with Montreal in the east and Sarnia in the west, the Great Western with H Hamilton and Detroit and the Northern Railway of Canada ran trains to Barrie. Electric light was not yet introduced. The telephone was making its first appearance, all lines being on circuits, so that one had to listen for one's number. Some people thought it was the work of the Evil One and would not have it in the house.

The City Hall was situated at the foot of Jarvis Street behind the St. Lawrence Market; the Parliament Buildings on Front Street West between Simcoe and John Streets; Government House was located at King and Simcoe Streets, while Upper Canada College stood on the square bounded by Simcoe, John, Adelaide and King Streets. Jarvis was the principal residential street and a few houses were beginning to make their appearance on Upper St. George Street. The Toronto Exhibition was two years old and was considered a wonder. If the founders could see it now, they would be astonished. The Toronto General Hospital was on Gerrard Street East and the Burnside Lying In Hospital on Richmond Street West. A branch of the Asylum for the Insane was located in the old King's College Buildings in Queen's Park, where the Parliament Buildings now stand.

There were two militia battalions, the Queen's Own and the 10th Royals. The Governor-General's Body Guard had rural squadrons to bring it up to strength, but the Toronto Field Battery was in existence. The Infantry School Corps had recently been formed, being a permanent unit, and the forerunner of the Royal Canadian Regiment. It had a company in barracks at the New Fort, now Stanley Barracks. The athletic and lacrosse field was on Jarvis Street between Gloucester and Wellesley Streets.

The Metropolitan Methodist Church was being built, the land having been bought through my uncle, Egerton Ryerson, from the McGill estate. The Royal Canadian Yacht Club was housed in an old steamer at the foot of York Street, opposite the Union Station.

As a native son, I am very proud of Toronto. It has become a great commercial, industrial, financial and educational centre, owing in part to the energy and enterprise of its citizens, but also, being the capital of the great and fertile Province of Ontario, it reflects its prosperity.

Soon after entering practice in Toronto I became interested in Freemasonry and was initiated in Ionic Lodge, No. 25, G.R.C. H became Master of the Lodge in 1890, had the honor that year of presiding at the great Masonic reception tendered by the Craft to Most Worshipful Brother, H.R.H. the Duke of Connaught. It was a great and memorable occasion in Canadian Masonry.

I joined the Order of the Temple and in course of time became Presiding Preceptor of Cyrene Preceptory.

I had for a number of years been a Capitular Mason, but had not cared for office, but on the formation of the St. Patrick Chapter, 1 was invited to become one of the Founders. I accepted office and in due course of promotion became First Principal.

In 1890 I was appointed Grand Senior Deacon of the Grand Lodge of Canada, A.F. and A.M., and in 1923 I was appointed Grand Director of Ceremonies in the Sovereign Great Priory of Canada.

On November 14th, 1882, I married Mary Amelia Crowther, younger daughter of James Crowther, barrister and brother-in-law of William Cawthra. Of this marriage there was issue, George Crowther, born 1883; Yoris Sterling, born 1886; Eric Egerton, born 1888; Arthur Connaught, born 1890; and Laura Mary, born 1893.

My wife's sister, Sarah, married Hon. Sir William Mulock, afterwards Post-Master-General and Chief Justice of Ontario.

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