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Dr Margaret MacKellar
Chapter VI - College Days


THROUGH correspondence Miss MacKellar had come into relationship with the officers of The Women's Foreign Missionary Society. At the invitation of the Secretary, Mrs. Harvie, she attended the annual meeting in London in 1885, and the W.F.M. Society soon adopted her as their own, and helped her financially during her High School course.

In the spring of 1886 she first met the Foreign Mission Committee of the Presbyterian Church, when at the same time Dr. Marion Oliver was accepted as a missionary for India.

As there was urgent need of medical women for India, the ladies of the Board had suggested that Miss MacKellar should take a medical course, and they offered to become responsible for her expenses. At this time Miss MacKellar had not been medically examined, but any one seeing her rosy cheeks and her energetic movements would have said she needed no physical examination.

She became a great favorite with the Board, and at one of the annual meetings Mrs. Gordon (mother of Ralph Connor) came up to her, and putting a hand on each shoulder and looking into the earnest eyes of the young student, said "My dear, you must pray to be kept humble, for you have become a public pet in the church."

Thus at the opening of the College years in 1886 we find Margaret MacKellar's name on the list of those who registered as students of medicine at Queen's University, Kingston, and so a new stage in her preparation commenced. The following years were busy ones. In addition to her college work, the young student entered heartily into the different activities and pursuits of college life. In her first year at Queen's, the Student Volunteer Movement was first organized, and Miss MacKellar became a member. In her second year the number of volunteers was thirty-five, four of whom were women. A hundred per cent. of the women carried out their purpose of being missionaries, but only about thirty-three per cent. of the men. In her second year the Students' Y.W.C.A. was also organized and Margaret MacKellar was chosen President. Always eager to help the work of missions, she started a snow ball scheme for the Women's Hospital at Indore, Central India, and as a result handed the treasurer seven hundred and fifty dollars.

Her summer months, too, were filled with work. Two or three of the doctors in Ingersoll invited her to visit certain of their patients with them. Another woman student was in Ingersoll one summer studying to pass her matriculation examination. A relative of the MacKellar family called Uncle Archie humorously remarked of the two would-be doctors: "Well, Maggie, the F.M.C. has shown great wisdom in choosing you two." "Why?" "You are both so homely that nobody would ever want to marry you, and you will both be so old when you get through that even the cannibals will not want to eat you!"

At one time during her course, Miss MacKellar was asked to prepare and read a paper on Medical Missions at the annual meeting of the W. F. M. S. Owing to an examination being held at that time she was unable to be present at the meeting, but her paper was read by Mrs. G. H. Robinson, who recently retired from the W.M.S. Board. The address was afterwards printed and copied by an American paper, a copy of which fell into the hands of Thomas MacKellar of Germantown (Philadelphia, Pa.). He became interested in the young woman who bore his name, and who intended to become a missionary. He gave her a volume of his poems, one of which, a hymn found in many collections, has even since been a special favorite of Margaret MacKellar's

"All unseen the Master walketh,
By the toiling servant's side;"

The first of several gifts of money he sent her was expended in London on lessons in riding, an accomplishment she had been advised to acquire before going to the mission field. She had already had some lessons in Ingersoll, where she arranged with the proprietor of a livery stable for the use of a horse between five and six in the morning. The owner himself gave her lessons, and when she asked for his bill, he said he wanted her to take his help and the use of his horse as a contribution to her mission work.

We may here give the story of an answer to prayer, an account of which Miss MacKellar wrote to the Guild Gazette. She had seen that Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Bible, in six volumes, had been offered by the "Missionary Review of the World" for twelve dollars, and she desired to have the set. She began to pray for it, and from the first had the assurance that her prayer would be answered. The arrangement was that two dollars were to be paid each month. During the Christmas holidays she was praying earnestly for two dollars for the first volume. She was called to address a missionary meeting, and after it was over some one gave her a donation towards the special scheme she was pleading for—the Indore Hospital—and then handed her a two-dollar bill, saying, "Miss MacKellar, I should like you to accept this for yourself." When the circumstances were related, it was hard to tell which felt more joy, the giver or the receiver. In February word came from the publishers that the six volumes could be had for ten dollars and a half, paid before May 20th. Miss MacKellar said to herself, "I might as well pray that the whole sum be given by that time." So that night she prayed for the necessary amount. Next day a friend gave her two dollars, saying she had many times thought of giving it, but had been afraid of offending her. That morning she had felt impelled to come with it. She was told her gift was an answer to prayer. These instances were told to an Arts student to convince her that God hears and answers prayer. When she went to bid this student good-bye, the latter handed her two dollars, saying it was for another volume of Matthew Henry's Commentary. Three dollars more was saved from a board bill, as she went on a visit for a week. Arrangements were made to board with a friend in Toronto for a month at a lower rate than in Kingston, and the difference would just make up the amount required. But when she went to pay her board bill, the friend refused to take anything. Miss MacKellar wrote: "She said she had stated a price because she knew I would not come if she had said it would be nothing. The Master Himself knows how deeply my heart was touched as I told my friend of His faithfulness to me, His unworthy child, and as I told her all about the books, and said, 'See how God answers prayer—I was praying for ten dollars and a half, and He gave me nineteen!'

The Commentary was afterwards passed on to an Indian Professor in Indore College.

Many other incidents of answered prayer might be given. Indeed Miss MacKellar's whole life from the time of her conversion was a record of answered prayer.

Her circumstances after giving up her regular employment to go back to school led her to cast herself upon God: she looked to Him for the supply of every need, temporal and spiritual. He did not disappoint her. Her devotion to Christ; the completeness of her surrender; the singleness of her aim, and her determined efforts to prepare herself for her chosen work, touched many hearts, and when people listened to the story of the great need that had called her, and of how God had led her on, they were inspired to give her a helping hand.

Throughout her college course Miss MacKellar did not go away for her holidays at Christmas, but spent the time in reviewing her work. During one of these vacations she was asked to address a meeting on missions at a place in the country. She had not her usual written address on hand, as a cousin had borrowed it from her to read at a meeting.

She sent for it, but it failed to reach her in time for her meeting. What was she to do? She felt that the time had come for her to cast herself wholly on God for help. There came to her mind as a message from God: "Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. Be not afraid of their faces. for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord." She was driven from the station directly to the place of meeting, and had not even time for quiet thought. But her subject had been well prepared. She was familiar with it, and had great freedom in speaking. From that time she never used a manuscript and seldom a note of any kind.

During her college course she did good solid work. As her work was to be among women and children, it is gratifying to know that she took a high stand, she and another student being tied equal for second place in the department of midwifery and women's diseases. She also passed successfully the Ontario Council's examinations, a stiff test; and at the close of her college course represented her class as valedictorian.

Dr. O'Hara and Dr. Agnes Turnbull were two of Dr. MacKellar's college friends at Kingston, and they, too, have given life service to India. In college the three were known affectionately as Hario, Turnio, and Dr. MacKellar, because of her small proportions, as Tinio.


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