In 1918, Dr and Mrs. Fergus O’Connor, my great-grandparents, moved to 193 Earl Street in Kingston, Ontario, with seven of their soon-to-be eight children. A white rose bush from the original that old Daniel had brought over from Ireland was planted outside the front door. It was an elegant brick row house around the corner from Saint Mary’s Cathedral, where Fergus and Frank had been married eleven years earlier, and where several of their children and even some of their grandchildren would eventually be wed. “One ninety-three,” as the house is still referred to among my relatives, although it passed out of the family in 1988, seemed like a palace to me as a child, with it’s high ceilings, beautifully carved furniture, and three stories of rooms. It was not a palace though, or even a mansion, just a grand old house.
Fergus slowly built up a new practice. He taught medicine at Queen’s University, and continued on the faculty for forty years. His close friend, Monsignor J.G. Hanley said of him:
His concern for his students was not limited to their professional development. Working in an area fraught with deep moral implications, he instilled in future obstetricians sound ethical principles to guide them in making crucial decisions which would crucially affect the lives of their patients. Moreover, he was not merely a professor to his students; they all regarded him as a personal friend, and so he was.
By the late 1930’s he was delivering one third of all the babies in Kingston. He had many poor patients who could not pay, but to Fergus being a doctor was a vocation, not a career. However, he would gratefully accept an offering such as a bag of potatoes in the place of money, so that he could feed his family. He eventually became Chief of Obstetrics at the Hotel Dieu Hospital in Kingston and remained so for almost half a century. He delivered his last baby at age eighty-four.
We were always encouraged to aim high—accomplish as much as possible, accepting the results. We were all given as much freedom as possible to live our lives, with parental guidance that was not too directed and with a family attitude of loving, direct example and a family history shown by Mother and Dad. (from Because You Asked For It by Dr. Fergus James O’Connor.)Share