Dr Margaret MacKellar: Kaiser-I-Hind recipient – III

By WAHEED RABBANI
Dr MacKellar’s Photos Courtesy: B. Chone Oliver

Story so far: After facing many challenges, and after losing her father when just a girl, young Margaret MacKeller gains entry to medical school at Queen’s University in the late 1880s, and ultimately realizes her goal of going to India as a missionary. She works hard in her new mission, and wins the hearts of the people among whom she works. Now read on:

Waheed Rabbani was born in India, near Delhi, and was introduced to Victorian and other English novels at a young age in his father’s library. Waheed graduated from Loughborough University, Leicestershire, England, and received a Master’s degree from Concordia University, Montreal. While an engineer by profession, Waheed also obtained a Certificate in Creative Writing from McMaster University, Hamilton, and embarked on his writing journey.  Waheed’s novels are available on Amazon and other bookstores. He now lives, in his retirement years, with his wife Alexandra in the historic town of Grimsby, on the shores of Lake Ontario, For more information visit his website: http://home.cogeco.ca/~wrabbani Author's Note Following the arrival of French, Portuguese, British, American, Danish, and other European missionaries in India, since the fourteenth century, it is not surprising that the Canadian Presbyterian Church also opened a mission there in 1877. While the former missionaries had already established their missions in the Northern, Eastern and Southern India, the Canadian mission had to settle for the “unclaimed territory” in Central India. Likely due to its location in the remote state, Indore, the Canadian Mission has remained somewhat obscure. However, from its humble beginnings in village huts and bungalows, and following land grants from the Maharani of Indore, the mission established not only churches, dispensaries, schools, an orphanage, but also hospitals in impressive two-story edifices. The need for doctors, nurses and medical staff was met by trained graduates from Canadian institutions, all eager to serve in India. I “stumbled” upon the accounts of these Canadian missionaries while researching for my project, a historical fiction novel on the 1857 Indian Mutiny/Rebellion (or The First War of Independence, as some Indian historians prefer to call it). While noting that a number of British and American missionaries had been caught up in that conflict, being curious, I researched to find if any Canadian missionaries were involved. However, I discovered that the Canadian mission was only opened there, some twenty years later, in 1877. Nevertheless, reading about them, I was intrigued to learn about the indomitable Doctor Margaret MacKellar, for she was from the Bruce County, and I used to travel there regularly in connection with my job for Ontario Hydro. It is unfortunate that, while some sketches of her life exist (even Lucy M. Montgomery wrote a brief account), a detailed biography of Doctor MacKellar’s lifespan has not been written. It is likely because of the dearth of information, particularly of her later years in India and Canada.  My story is a brief compilation of my humble attempt at reconstruction of the life of Doctor Margaret MacKellar, based on whatever details I could acquire on the lifespan of this magnificent missionary lady doctor. She most regrettably largely remains forgotten.

Waheed Rabbani was born in India, near Delhi, and was introduced to Victorian and other English novels at a young age in his father’s library.
Waheed graduated from Loughborough University, Leicestershire, England, and received a Master’s degree from Concordia University, Montreal. While an engineer by profession, Waheed also obtained a Certificate in Creative Writing from McMaster University, Hamilton, and embarked on his writing journey.
Waheed’s novels are available on Amazon and other bookstores. He now lives, in his retirement years, with his wife Alexandra in the historic town of Grimsby, on the shores of Lake Ontario,
For more information visit his website: http://home.cogeco.ca/~wrabbani
Author’s Note
Following the arrival of French, Portuguese, British, American, Danish, and other European missionaries in India, since the fourteenth century, it is not surprising that the Canadian Presbyterian Church also opened a mission there in 1877. While the former missionaries had already established their missions in the Northern, Eastern and Southern India, the Canadian mission had to settle for the “unclaimed territory” in Central India.
Likely due to its location in the remote state, Indore, the Canadian Mission has remained somewhat obscure. However, from its humble beginnings in village huts and bungalows, and following land grants from the Maharani of Indore, the mission established not only churches, dispensaries, schools, an orphanage, but also hospitals in impressive two-story edifices. The need for doctors, nurses and medical staff was met by trained graduates from Canadian institutions, all eager to serve in India.
I “stumbled” upon the accounts of these Canadian missionaries while researching for my project, a historical fiction novel on the 1857 Indian Mutiny/Rebellion (or The First War of Independence, as some Indian historians prefer to call it). While noting that a number of British and American missionaries had been caught up in that conflict, being curious, I researched to find if any Canadian missionaries were involved. However, I discovered that the Canadian mission was only opened there, some twenty years later, in 1877. Nevertheless, reading about them, I was intrigued to learn about the indomitable Doctor Margaret MacKellar, for she was from the Bruce County, and I used to travel there regularly in connection with my job for Ontario Hydro.
It is unfortunate that, while some sketches of her life exist (even Lucy M. Montgomery wrote a brief account), a detailed biography of Doctor MacKellar’s lifespan has not been written. It is likely because of the dearth of information, particularly of her later years in India and Canada.
My story is a brief compilation of my humble attempt at reconstruction of the life of Doctor Margaret MacKellar, based on whatever details I could acquire on the lifespan of this magnificent missionary lady doctor. She most regrettably largely remains forgotten.

Shortly after her arrival in India in 1891, the young Doctor Margaret MacKellar worked hard in her new mission — even as she managed to stay out of major controversies and confrontations.
In her characteristic manner she devoted her energies to her work.
But holidays could be as dangerous as work.
One of Dr MacKellar’s vacations was spent in company with several others of her mission in visiting Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and South India. The party nearly lost their lives crossing the strait from Ceylon to India in an open boat. The monsoon had burst and they were 19 hours, instead of five, in making the trip.
She also visited several Christian establishments in South India, and was much impressed to see “Christians sitting down in the hundreds for the Lord’s Supper”.
Returning to Neemuch, when Margaret narrated her experiences, the daughter of an Indian Catechist, present at the meeting, on hearing what God had wrought, yielded herself to God for His service.
She subsequently took a four years’ course in the Ludhiana Medical College and became a helper in the medical work at Neemuch.
During the severe famine that hit that area in 1899-1900, Margaret’s determination was tested once again, which received, unexpectedly, attention from another authority.
She gave all her efforts to attend to the relief of the sufferers. A great number of starving children were brought to the station, and were provided whatever assistance and accommodation was available.
Margaret’s resolve was to attempt to save all, but if that were not possible, she would go to any trouble to rescue even one child.
Long after the abatement of the famine, the missionaries’ efforts had to continue to care for the large number of orphans left destitute from the calamity.
While in speeches, by the Viceroy and others, the British Indian Government acknowledged these additional labours by the missionaries, a pleasant surprise awaited Margaret in the form of a formal recognition.
It came in 1911, on the occasion of her fiftieth birthday, at her outdoor garden birthday-party, arranged by the hospital staff, with British and Indian officials also invited.
Towards the end of the festivities, a government officer stood up to mention that Doctor Margaret MacKellar would be an honored guest at the camp of the Central India Officers, in December, at the Delhi Coronation Durbar for King Emperor George V and Queen Mary.
The audience clapped politely — but they broke into loud cheers, when they heard the official announce the reason for her invitation being that Doctor MacKellar’s name was on the honors’ list of recipients for the prestigious Kaiser-I-Hind medal!
Margaret was additionally elated when she realized that she was the only missionary from Central India to attend the Delhi Durbar that year.
That night in her prayers she thanked the Lord profusely for showering her with His blessings.
*****
Margaret’s attendance at the December 7, 1911 Durbar was her most memorable visit to Delhi. She was overwhelmed by the sight of the sea of tents, set up like a temporary city, to accommodate the nearly 250,000 attendees, at the Coronation Park in the north of the city.
Special trains had brought, not only those on the honor list and top political and military personnel, but also most ruling rajas, nawabs, princes, other landed gentry, and their entourages as well.
All made their way to their allocated enclosures in the huge circular stadium with tiered seats, built as if to accommodate an international soccer match. In the centre of the arena stood a domed pavilion with gold brocaded cushioned seats placed on a raised platform, for the King and Queen and other dignitaries.
Earlier, the Regents had appeared, in full regalia and robes, at a balcony of the Red Fort, reviving the former Mughal Emperors’ tradition of darshan, to receive nearly 100,000 of the commoners who walked by in the street below.
To the disappointment of many, who were expecting to see elephants, the Majesties rode in a royal carriage, and — as this was the first time motor cars were used — a convoy of cars painted in royal blue and displaying colorful emblems, followed the royal procession.
They travelled through the narrow street with armed guards holding back the crowds on either sides of the roads.

Dr Margaret MacKellar

Dr Margaret MacKellar

The King and Queen, the Viceroy and Vicereine, Lord and Lady Hardinge, and other officials, arrived at the stadium, amid a deafening cheer from the public. The party proceeded to their seats in the pavilion on the dais.
Even from the distance, Margaret observed the fine attire of the Royals. Film crews could be seen scurrying about filming the event, to produce the first color film of a Durbar.
Following the coronation of the King and Queen as the Emperor and Empress, with the imperial crowns of India, George V addressed his subjects. Among the many announcements, his most surprising one was the declaration of the moving of the capital from Calcutta to Delhi. It stunned the crowd momentarily, but was soon met with resounding cheering.
The Indian princes arrived in hierarchical order to pay homage to the Emperor. A faux pas in protocol, to be remembered for a long time, was made by the Gaekwar of Baroda. He arrived in an ordinary dress, carrying a cane — instead of a ceremonial sword — and after a simple bow to the Majesties, he turned his back on them and sauntered away!
The march-past began, led by some 800 surviving elderly veterans of the Indian Mutiny wars, wearing medals on old and faded uniforms. They were followed by the famed cavalry and military regiments, all dressed in their shiny regalia.
Finally it was Doctor Margaret MacKellar’s turn, among the hundreds of others on the honors list to be viewed by the Royals.
As they were too numerous to be presented individually, the group walked by the Majesties on the semicircular track.
It is not known if Margaret had a friend take her picture of that event, for it would have been an impressive addition to her collection of memorabilia.
*****

Hospital patients moved out into the warm sunshine, Neemuch.

Hospital patients moved out into the warm sunshine, Neemuch.

The following year, 1912, with the events of the Delhi Durbar still fresh in her mind, brought Margaret further joy. The construction of the long-awaited Neemuch Hospital was completed.
As the day of its opening ceremony arrived, Margaret’s heart was filled with ecstasy, for she considered it the crowning achievement of her twenty-two years of service in India.
However, she was ecstatic when the Honorable Agent for the Viceroy came forward from the gathering and stepping up to her, pinned the shining Kaiser-I-Hind Medal on her blouse.
Overcome with emotion, Margaret barely managed to murmur her thanks.
Glancing around and upon noticing, through moist eyes, the numerous Indian faces of women and men in hospital uniforms, Margaret felt at peace.
That night in her prayers, remembering the much earlier supposedly “superstitious curse” placed at her doorstep, she particularly thanked God for staying true to His words: “There shall no evil befall thee.”
Margaret then thought that her work in India was complete, and she would be soon ready to return back home to Canada, to a comfortable life. Perhaps she even looked forward to some male companionship?
Little did she know that the start of World War I would interfere with her plans.
*****
Upon the outbreak of World War I hostilities, the Medical Missionary Association of India, realizing that there would be need to relieve military doctors for service abroad, offered their services to the British Indian Government.
In June 1917, Doctor MacKellar received the following telegram from the Director General of the Medical Service in India: “Are you willing to accept employment in a Government hospital in India so as to set free medical officers for active service?”
Upon Margaret’s inquiry the Missionary Boards and Council cabled their willingness and the Council in India set her free for war work. It was on August 4, the 3rd anniversary of the start of the war, that Margaret received a call from the Military offices in Simla to act with three others on a committee of selection to choose units of medical women for service in military hospitals. Many had offered their help.
Subsequently, Margaret was attached to the Freeman Thomas Hospital, Bombay. There, for her diligent services, she earned a personal thank you from the commander-in-chief.
Later, Doctor MacKellar was appointed as the secretary of the Women’s Christian Medical College in Ludhiana, Punjab, and for the last five years of her residence in India, was the chairperson of the governing body of that institution.
*****
After her retirement, in 1930, Margaret lived quietly in the United Church House in Toronto, Ontario.
Although she travelled a bit, was occasionally invited to give lectures, and even received an honorary Doctorate from Queen’s University, it seems she was not given the official recognition which she truly deserved.
Was she mostly forgotten because she was single and her Uncle Archie’s premonition had come true, or was it for some other reason? It is not clear.
Nevertheless, what is evident is that Margaret was not troubled, for she wrote in one of her reports: “What we long for most, we see least of — that is, the conversion of souls. Mass movements are only beginning in Central India, if indeed they can be said to have begun. As yet the joy is over the one sinner repenting — for, as a rule, they come singly.”
However, in all her years of service in India, Doctor Margaret MacKellar had seen a goodly number of souls brought to Christ through her medical missionary work, and “saved to serve” Christ in India.
Margaret was surely satisfied that at Judgment Day she would not be appearing before the Lord “empty handed”.
******
On Thursday, August 28, 1941, the following notice appeared in only one of Canada’s newspapers, a small town tabloid, The Ingersoll Tribune:
Dr Margaret MacKellar passes in Toronto
The news of the passing in Toronto on Sunday of one of the most famous Canadian Women medical missionaries to India, in the person of Dr Margaret MacKellar, brought sadness to many in Ingersoll for Dr MacKellar had many personal friends here besides the many who know and admired her for her wonderful career….
Death came at Toronto General Hospital in her eightieth year. She was member of Old St Andrews’ United Church, Toronto, and the funeral service was held from that church on Tuesday afternoon with interment at Port Elgin.
******
Indeed, Doctor Margaret MacKellar deserves to be remembered for leaving behind a legacy, of achieving ones goals through firm resolve and determined efforts, staying firm to her belief and serving the needy of the World, and particularly one for youths of limited means to emulate.
© Waheed Rabbani
Concluded

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