Development & Alumni Relations Office 

Dr Frazier Walsh (died 6 March 2003)

Eulogy on Dr Frazier Walsh by Dr. Tom Cantwell

I experienced a great feeling of sadness on Friday morning when I received a phone call from Maeve Walsh saying that her dad had passed away the previous morning. I was extremely honoured to be asked by the family to present a eulogy for Dr. Walsh. Despite being ill myself, I was determined to fulfil the family's request. I realized that there were countless other people who could speak of Dr. Walsh far more eloquently than I could. However, as I thought about his life and my knowledge of him, and did some research of his accomplishments, I realized how much we actually had in common. I had arrived in Newfoundland with my family, including infant twins, in 1975 and followed in Dr. Walsh?s footsteps to become Clinical Director and Medical Director at the Waterford Hospital. I was humbled, however, when I looked at Dr. Walsh's many accomplishments.

Frazier, as he was best known, was born in Northern Ireland in 1920. He received his medical and psychiatric training at Queen's University, Belfast and at the Royal Victoria Hospital and qualified as a doctor in July 1945. He married his wife Kathleen, on July 18, 1946. Two years later they were the parents of twin girls, Maeve and Emir - Moya "the baby" was born in St. John's on July 21, 1958. He spent the greater part of time working in mental hospitals until brought to Newfoundland in January 1950.

The circumstances of Frazier's arrival in Newfoundland, I discovered, were very different from my own. His arrival here was not smooth sailing. He, Kathleen and the twins came to St. John's on the SS Nova Scotia. The crossing was very rough. The ship had to anchor twice in the Atlantic Ocean because of weather. It also had to anchor outside the narrows waiting to enter St. John's harbour, again because of the weather. Kathleen and the twins, then seventeen months old, suffered from seasickness and I am told that Frazier threw many dirty diapers overboard during the crossing.

When the ship finally docked at the Northeast side of the harbour Kathleen looked out the porthole at the snow and ice covered Southside hills and said she didn't care if it was a desolate looking rock, she was getting off that ship and never getting onboard another ship as long as she lived.

The family was met by Dr. Pottle and Dr. O'Brien, both psychiatrists at the Waterford Hospital, in fact the only psychiatrists at the Waterford Hospital at the time. They brought Frazier and his family to the Hospital for Mental and Nervous Diseases, now known as the Waterford Hospital. I remember quite well going to a meeting with Frazier several years ago. The date was January 13 and he remarked "I remember well forty six years ago today I walked up the steps of this hospital with a twin under each arm and it seems only like yesterday."

For the next two and a half years the family lived in an apartment on the second floor just over the front entrance of the Hospital. They then moved into a house on the grounds. I am told that Kathleen and the children got to know every nook and cranny of Bowring Park over the next several years.

Frazier was a man of many talents. These were not limited to his medical and psychiatric expertise. He was an avid fisherman, gardener, and had many and varied interests.

Most of us have had to do resumes and keep them updated on a regular basis for one reason or another. I have seen physicians' resumes more than twenty pages long detailing their various activities on committees, referring to their hobbies, their talents, their accomplishments, their publications, including a recent resume I received which stated "I hold a current British driver's license."

Frazier, being a simple man, had his resume on a single page. His resume gave simply his place and date of birth, his medical degrees, his list of experience from 1946 to 1994, memberships in a variety of administrative organizations, his position as Clinical Associate Professor at Memorial University and a list of awards.

The listing on his resume is typical of the man and the physician and one has to go behind the headings to uncover his real accomplishments.

A publication of Breakwater Books titled Out of Mind, Out of Sight a History of the Waterford Hospital, written by Patricia O'Brien, refers to many of these accomplishments. Frazier, in fact, was one of the sources utilized by Ms. O'Brien in her research for this book. The second part basically chronicles the lives of three great men: Doctors O'Brien, Pottle and Frazier Walsh.

When he began at the Waterford Hospital in 1950, he was the third psychiatrist on staff. The hospital was much bigger at that time and the first of the effective medications had not yet been discovered. He was instrumental in bringing not only the Waterford Hospital into a new era but also psychiatry in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. He was deeply involved in the development of the residency-training program at Memorial University. By the late 1950's, to quote from Out of Mind, Out of Sight, "the residency training program was regarded as one of the best in existence in Canada."

Doctor Walsh was always been interested in St. John Ambulance and over the years had responsibilities for training and examining candidates, both with the civilian population and in the militia. He was instrumental in setting up the Nursing Division and Ambulance Brigade in the Hospital for Mental and Nervous Diseases. In 1962, he was received as a serving brother into the Order of St. John of Jerusalem and in November 1962 was appointed deputy provincial commissioner of the Newfoundland St. John Ambulance Brigade.

I have here an old undated cutting from a newspaper showing a photograph of Frazier in uniform and an article announcing his appointment as provincial commissioner. The article reads:

The St. John Ambulance Brigade has announced the appointment of Lt. Col. J.F. Walsh, C.D., MB as provincial commissioner of the St. John Ambulance Brigade in Newfoundland. He succeeds Col. A.S. Lewis, C.D., MD who held the appointment for 14 years.

Since coming to Newfoundland, Doctor Walsh has been keenly interested in the Canadian Militia.

He is an ex-commanding officer of No.1 Medical Company, R. C.A. M. C. (Militia) and held the post of D.A.D.M.S. for the Newfoundland area when he retired in 1964 with rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. Prior to retirement to the reserve list Doctor Walsh was awarded the Canadian Decoration.

I also have a copy of another letter written by John J. O'Brien, C.A.E., M.B.A., Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of St. John Ambulance, Newfoundland Council. In this letter Dr. Walsh is described as having "served an exemplary medical career in Canada. In addition to his distinguished psychiatric career, he has been an innovator in the field of first level, self-help care through this organization. He has worked with international resources to deliver such self-help programs to the remote areas of Labrador in Canada, where there existed no resident health care professionals. This model has been used in numerous countries around the world. Because of this endeavour, as well as his long time command of the St. Johns Ambulance Brigade in this province, Her Majesty saw fit to honour his service by conferring a Knighthood of the Order of St. John on him in 1975. "

If I were to outline all of Frazier's accomplishments, or even a few, this eulogy would be far too long and my greatest challenge was to decide what not to include. I know he would want this kept simple. I could elaborate on other awards he received including his Knighthood in the order of St. John, a medal for European Defence, a centennial medal, the Queen's Silver Jubilee Medal, and a Canadian Decoration.

Frazier often chatted with me about the changes he had seen during his career in Newfoundland and it is humbling to realize that many of the things we now take for granted are possible only because of the dedication, perseverance and unwillingness to quit or accept defeat of this great man.

To conclude, despite all his achievements, the people he held nearest and dearest to him were his wife, his children and his grandchildren. I will close with a short verse, which I recall from my own two-room National School in Ireland.

"To each is given a book of rules, a shapeless mass and a box of tools and each must fashion err life as flown, a stumbling block or a stepping stone."

On behalf of colleagues, co-workers and consumers, I thank you Dr. Frazier Walsh for all of the stepping stones you have fashioned and left for us to follow. It has been an honour to know you and work with you.



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