I would like recognize the larger than life man who made big things happen in small communities – Sir Dr. Wilfred Thomason Grenfell, born February 28th, 1865. It’s been 150 years since the birth of such a visionary!
Since 1892, Dr. Grenfell has impacted the lives of those on the Great Northern Peninsula and Labrador through the Grenfell Mission, which provided the first permanent medical services throughout the region. It established the first hospital in Battle Harbour (the unofficial capital of Labrador).
In addition to advancing the medical administration, headquartered in St. Anthony, the mission worked to make social changes and reduce poverty through advancing education, agriculture, textiles and industrial projects. A number of schools were built, a lumber mill was established in 1908 in Canada Bay to create year-round employment, farms developed and co-operatives created to reduce the reliance of merchants and their crippling credit-system for fishers.
To stimulate industrial development, mission workers also organized the local handicraft industry enabling residents to sell hooked mats, knitted goods and other items at North American retail outlets. People would save their silk stockings and send them to Labrador or the Great Northern Peninsula for the women to make and sell Grenfell hooked rugs. There is great pride taken in displaying the Grenfell rug which the handicraft group has been proudly producing for a century! There is also the Grenfell cloth, making the traditional “Grenfell” coats people proudly wear in the 21st century.
There are many legacy pieces that remain with the International Grenfell Association with more than 100 years of activity and giving back to local causes in the form of education and community development. The Grenfell Memorial Co-op is 101 years and counting and the Interpretation Centre displays a collection of books, medical supplies and other records that attracts thousands. The hospital and outer buildings signal the impact the administration had on the local economy and society.
Dr. Grenfell received many honours in medicine, in academia and medallions. Today Memorial University -Grenfell Campus, Corner Brook is named after the legendary figurehead. As well, the Route 432 on the Great Northern Peninsula is named Grenfell Drive.
I get inspired when I think and learn about more about the undertakings of Dr. Grenfell. He is one of my role models, as he had a vision to diversify an economy, empower individuals and meet the needs of people serving so many communities. The Great Northern Peninsula is a better place because of him, he has created quite the legacy.
Dr. Grenfell is a household name on the Great Northern Peninsula and Newfoundland and Labrador. More must be down to recognize the significance of his work, the role he played and how the influence of one man forever changed the fabric of the Great Northern Peninsula. His vision had radically changed and developed the economy and the way we think – we know that more is possible because he gave us hope! Let’s keep building on Doctor Grenfell’s vision!
Happy 150th Birthday, you truly deserve the recognition!
Live Rural NL –
Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA (The Straits-White Bay North)