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Home > McGill News > 2002 > Fall 2002 > Letters


This Won't Hurt a Bit...


I noted with interest the letter and response in the McGill News concerning the late Dr. Herbert Jasper (Spring 2002). In 1938 I was in my sophomore year at McGill and took a psychology introductory course. Shortly before Christmas, our lecturer prevailed upon me and several other class members to volunteer to help Dr. Jasper in his electroencephalography work. We were told he required a number of "normal" readings to provide a basis against which he could measure abnormal ones.

What we were not told about, and didn't discover until we were in his lab at the MNI, was his procedure. It involved shaving all the hair off about eight spots on the top of our skulls so he could attach electric leads with, I believe, collodion. So we were left with these bald spots, each about the size of a cent.

The hair grew back, and the teasing was tolerable, but I never forgot the lesson. Ask questions before volunteering or follow the old Army maxim -- never volunteer.

Col. B.J. Finestone,
BCom'41, CD, CdeG
Montreal, Que.

Medical History


In an attempt to document some family history, I tried to find the graduation details of my father Urban Joseph Gareau's medical class. Apparently he entered medicine in 1912, but joined the armed forces in 1914 along with 200 other medical students under the command of

Dr. (Col.) H.S. Birkett who, I believe, was the Dean of Medicine.

Initially my father served in France in an Army hospital and preserved correspondence suggests his work consisted of advanced orderly or first aid work.

In August 1917 his letters state that he was in charge of a ward of 77 patients. In another letter he spoke of helping a Dr. Elder in a "head case." Later he apparently was given a choice of serving elsewhere and chose the Royal Navy. He served as Acting Probationer Sub-Lt. Surgeon aboard the destroyer HMS Lurcher for a short while until he was returned home in 1917.

I can only guess that the armed forces were short of qualified medical help and these students were used to fill the gap until "proper doctors" became numerous enough to return the students home. I am not certain whether the students who served were put in special classes or were simply inserted into the classes in progress.

I am told that the class that my father graduated in was deemed to be 1919. I could not find a copy of the yearbook and I was told that the only one at McGill was held in the Students Union. Copies of some of the pages were sent to me. My purpose in writing is to learn more of the details of this strange interlude that some students went through, and to appeal to your readers in the hope someone may have an unwanted copy of the 1919 Old McGill yearbook, which I would be pleased to purchase.

Paul Gareau, BSc'49, MDCM'53
Victoria, B.C.

Ed. note: In these situations, we turn first to the history of McGill compiled by Dr. Stanley Frost, LLD'90. In Volume II, Dr. Frost writes: "One of the most valuable contri-butions to the war effort was that of the Faculty of Medicine." Dean H.S. Birkett had been a peacetime officer in the Canadian Army Medical Corps, and it was he who proposed that McGill should "raise, equip and staff" a 520-bed general hospital "officered by men chosen from the staff of the Faculty of Medicine and with the other ranks including a high percentage of medical and other students. The nursing personnel would be selected from graduates of the training schools of the Montreal General and Royal Victoria hospitals." Upon hearing McGill's proposal, the military brass countered with a request for a hospital unit twice the size, or 1040 beds, and the Faculty met the challenge.

Over the course of its operation from 1915 to 1919, and despite the ravages of the influenza epidemic, McGill's field hospital, known officially as No. 3 Canadian General Hospital (McGill), managed to keep its mortality rate below 1%. "Behind that statistic," says Dr. Frost, "stands a tale of courage, sacrifice and professional skill on the part of a great company of men and women."

A Call to Arms

In a letter to the McGill News in the Spring 2002 edition, Nigel Richardson stated that McGill has no crest. I have written the only history of the McGill coat of arms (1960) and probably know more than most people about this subject. Mr. Richardson is correct in heraldic terms. A crest is a device given to a person or family to be worn on a helmet or shield and not given to an institution such as McGill. The coat of arms can appear in a crest.

Time and usage, however, have changed this in Canada and as you mentioned, Canadian dictionaries including the Oxford Canadian and the Gage Canadian define crest as an emblem, usually of felt or cloth, worn by organizations, sports teams etc. Thus, a McGill graduate can wear the McGill crest on his blazer in Canada, but probably should be careful of his definitions when in the U.K.

Joseph Hanaway, BA'56, MDCM'60
St. Louis, Mo.

P.S. You're doing a great job with the McGill News.

Beware, I May Sing

Though not an alumnus of McGill (U of T'50, in fact!), still I enjoy reading McGill News as it reaches me by mail, a kindly gesture on your part which may be due to a few modest donations I've sent along -- for example, celebrating Hugh Hood's lifetime and obituary, and in response to a request for support for the Faculty of Music's concert hall at McGill. (I'll do what I can to continue.)

About "Concern About Logistics," the letter by Robert Shepherd, MDCM'76, in the Summer 2002 issue: I agree with him wholeheartedly in regretting distortions inherent, it seems, in language as a conveyor of thought and emotion.

My peacetime service in the Canadian Army of the '50s saw the Ordinance Corps and the Service Corps dividing, for the maintenance and the supplying and provisioning of the troops. My father's WWI diary tells of his battery mates (and himself) bringing wagonloads of ammunition from the railhead to the battery positions, a tough, weary and dangerous job. Now, I believe, "Admin and Logistics" has succeeded to all these and related duties and functions.

What I really want to get at, however, is the distortion in signification, denotation and connotation -- towards which the editor adds, "...sometimes usage overtakes strict meaning." Too true!

As a retired Latin teacher, I hasten to throw in my two denarii's worth, as follows:

1) "Lie" and "lay" are, in some dictionaries, considered interchangeable words by dint of much and widespread usage. Hence the argument that the spoken and written word has the conveyance of meaningful communication as its be-all and end-all.

2) A glance at your dictionary will provide two contradictory meanings for the word "sanction" -- Ah, yes.

3) Latin, from which we derive about 68% or so of our English words, comes into troubled waters from another front. Consider: "Cave canem," translated either as Beware the dog! or Beware, I may sing!

All the best, Dr. Shepherd -- we'll see better linguistic days ahead, I'm sure.

Jim O'Brien
Fonthill, Ont.

Still Flying High


As the baby boomers reach their 50s, more attention is being paid to the subject of aging, and I was recently the subject of a TV documentary on aging that featured women with unusual hobbies.

Seen here at 74 years, I fly this 172 Cessna regularly out of Brampton Flying Club. I am also an active member of the Skicousi Women's Downhill Club and known as "The Bionic Woman" due to double knee replacements. I activate all airport safety alarms on my many travels.

As a tour guide and information officer at the Living Arts Center in Mississauga, I meet people and performers worldwide. Being a member of the Richard III Society of Canada keeps me mentally stimulated and lures me to England on many research adventures. In 1983 I collected outstanding craft talent to establish The Nice Things Crafters, who raise funds for women's shelters with an annual show and sale in September.

No less important to aging well is my involvement in The Red Hat Society -- a small group of retired women who do nothing but meet and drink tea -- inspired by a 1961 poem by Jenny Joseph called "Warning." (When I am an old woman I shall wear purple / With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.../ And pick the flowers in other people's gardens / And learn to spit.)

For our 50th McGill Reunion in 1998, 16 of the 22 living classmates attended, many of whom were WWII veterans. We all agree that aging well is due to good genes, continuing curiosity and good posture. Physical Education people are well preserved!

Lorna (Hamilton) Murphy,
Mississauga, Ont.

Ed. note: I've been sitting up much straighter after reading Lorna Murphy's letter. Lorna, who is married to Terry Murphy, BSc'49, also sent along a picture of her Red Hat Society group, and although it may be a small chapter, the organization seems to be a worldwide phenomenon, with tens of thousands of members (www.redhatsociety.com).

Read the poem that started it all at www.alumni.engin.umich.edu/~jxm/warning.html.

Desperately Seeking Susie


Andrew Mullins reviewed Pennies From Heaven, a CD by the Susie Arioli Swing Band featuring Jordan Officer, BMus'02, in your summer issue. I would appreciate direction as to where this CD can be purchased. I've tried HMV and Borders to no avail.

Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Madeleine Gauthier Walker, BN'61
Mississauga, Ont.

Ed. note: Andrew advises that Pennies From Heaven should be available in Canada at larger music stores and stores with good jazz sections, but if you can't find it, you can order from Justin Time Records, 5455 Paré, Suite 101, Montreal, Que., H4P 1P7, (514) 738-9533, or online at www.justin-time.com.

Fatal Error

In your recent effort to declare winners in the contest for the first husband-and-wife-team graduates from the medical faculty you referred to one of the leading contenders, Dr. John Gilbert, as "the late." Actually, he is neither late nor lamented by a long shot. In fact, he was very much in evidence at a lively celebration of his ninetieth birthday held at Hanover, New Hampshire, in July. What is more, he continues to teach pathology at the Dartmouth College Medical School.

"Late" indeed!

Donald P. Little
Professor emeritus,
McGill Institute of Islamic Studies

Ed. note: Professor Little's harrumph is richly deserved. I did mix up Dr. John Gilbert, MDCM'43, with another title contender, Dr. Eugene Webb, MDCM'43, who is deceased. Fortunately, in addition to being busy and productive, Dr. Gilbert possesses a forgiving nature.

And While We're At It...

John Cleghorn, BCom'62, sent a gentle note clarifying his position at SNC Lavalin. He has been appointed chairman of the board there, and not chairman and CEO as we stated in Alumnotes. If we awarded him extra credit, we didn't give Barbara Steinman, BA'71, enough. She is the winner of a 2002 Governor General's Award in Visual and Media Arts.

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