Dr Margaret MacKellar Chapter VII - Designation and Departure for
THE happy college years had come to a close, and
withsteadfast face the missionary-designate was
looking forward to her life-work which was to be in India. Partings have
to be faced as part of the price they pay who choose to serve Christ in
foreign lands. There was for Miss MacKellar the sadness of leaving the
MacKellar home, where she had been as a daughter and sister for six years.
The night before she left she prayed with the family. All were feeling the
parting from one who had become very dear to them, and were solemnized in
spirit. During the time of prayer Mr. Mac- Kellar was led to God, and
afterwards made public confession of -his faith by uniting with the
church. As it was at the time of her reception into the family so it was
at her going forth: God gave her as a special sign of His blessing the
conversion of a soul.
The Designation Service at which Dr. MacKellar was formally set apart as a
missionary of the church was held in Ingersoll, April 22nd, 1890.
Impressive addresses were given by the Foreign Mission Secretary, Mr.
Hamilton Cassels; by the Rev. A. Gandier, and by Dr. Mactavish. Mrs. Ewart,
the President of the W.F.M. Society, who did not speak to mixed audiences
broke through her rule on this occasion. Other speakers were: Dr. Murray,
of London (Dr. MacKellar's pastor while in that city), and Mrs Harvie, who
presented the young missionary with a Bible on behalf of the W.F.M.B. The
Mission Band of the church presented her with a clock. The Ingersoll
church was without a pastor at the time, but the Rev. E. R. Hutt, who
afterwards became its pastor, had preached the previous Sabbath, and had
announced the service. He afterwards became the warm friend and supporter
of the new missionary.
But no doubt the most impressive part in the meeting was that taken by Dr.
MacKellar herself. She told simply the story of how God had led her. It
was an inspiring recital, and many were impressed by it
and proud that one so evidently chosen and gifted was to represent them on
the mission field. There was one young girl in the audience who eagerly
listened and long remembered the earnest words, for she, too, hoped to
become a medical missionary. Henceforth Margaret MacKellar became one of
her ideals, and words which the missionary said to her at parting were
fulfilled twelve years later: "When you come to India we will give you a
royal welcome, and I'll come down to Bombay to meet you."
Next day Dr. MacKellar left to pay a hurried visit to
her old home, Port Elgin. A farewell meeting was held there, too, the Rev.
James Gourley presiding. The friends there expressed their appreciation by
a gift of money for the purchase of medical books, and that night her old
school teacher, Mr. James MacKinnon, handed her five dollars. Dr.
MacKellar was off by the four o'clock train next morning, having said
goodbye to her sisters who had come over from the U.S.A. to be present at
both the Ingersoll and Port Elgin meetings. She stayed off at Kingston for
the Convocation, read the valedictory address for her class, and received
her degree of M.D. Before leaving Kingston she addressed a missionary
meeting in Convocation Hall of Queen's University, Principal Grant saying
as he received her on the platform: "This is the second time to-day that
Dr. MacKellar has been on this platform."
It had been decided that Dr. MacKellar should have the
advantage of a few months of post-graduate work in England before
proceeding to India.
Navigation not being yet open to Montreal, she went to
Halifax to take ship for England. For two days before sailing she was the
guest of the late Dr. and Mrs. Burns, and had the opportunity of
addressing missionary meetings, and of meeting the father of Dr. Agnes
Turnbull, her class-mate, who afterwards followed her to India.
Dr. MacKellar sailed from Halifax on May 3rd. She
thoroughly enjoyed the new experiences of the voyage, and with
characteristic generosity began a series of descriptive letters to her
home friends (printed in the Guild Gazette) which took them with her from
Ingersoll through London and Scotland and on to India.
Dr. MacKellar spent four months in London. Although the
facilities afforded to women doctors and students a quarter of a century
ago were not what they are to-day, yet she made the most of her
opportunities and profited much by her time of special work. She took a
special course in midwifery, and attended six other hospitals in London,
gaining experience in eye diseases; in diseases of the chest and of the
skin (of which there are many in India), in children's and women's
diseases, and mental diseases.
In one of her letters she speaks of the "long, lonely,
loveless, London days"—the loneliest she ever remembers. She went to that
great city practically a stranger. Can one be lonelier than in a great
city? It was another test—and she did not fail. She worked hard, and in
the intervals visited and described for her friends, who looked eagerly
for letters over her signature, such places of historic interest as St.
Paul's Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, and the Houses of Parliament. It was
characteristic of the sailor's daughter to climb the 616 steps to the top
of St. Paul's and to touch the golden cross with which the dome is
surmounted. When passing over David Livingstone's tomb in Westminster
Abbey, she remembered his prayer on his last birthday, and repeated it as
her own: "Jesus, my King, my Life, my All, I again dedicate my whole self
One of the doctors at a London hospital noticed the
Queen's colors that Dr. MacKellar wore, and asked her about her college.
He was a friend of the Hon. Michael Sullivan, of Kingston, and a member of
Parliament. He gave Dr. MacKellar his card which admitted her to the
Houses of Parliament, and she had the privilege, on more than one
occasion, in the Ladies' Gallery, of listening to debates in both Houses.
Dr. MacKellar heard many of the great preachers of the
time: Spurgeon, Dr. Parker, Hugh Price Hughes, S. B. Meyer and Mark Guy
Pearse, of whom the two first named were her favorites.
Towards the end of July a party of clerical friends
from Toronto arrived in London, and seeing how tired out Dr. MacKellar
looked, said she must take a holiday, and persuaded her to accompany them
to Scotland for a month. Among the party were the Rev. R. P. MacKay,
afterwards our Foreign Mission Secretary; Dr. and Mrs. Mactavish, of
Central Church, Toronto; the Rev. John Neil, and the Rev. Hugh Grant. Dr.
MacKellar took the keenest interest in this trip, and her letters at this
time are full of descriptions containing the most accurate details, dates
of historical events, heights of mountains, lengths of bridges; the whole
interspersed with verses of poetry or apt stories.
After her holiday in Scotland Dr. MacKellar spent a few
more weeks in London. On October 4th, I8go, she sailed for India in the P.
and O. S.S. "Peninsular." She reached Bombay on October 26th and was met
by Miss Jean Sinclair, now Mrs. J. S. MacKay, who had been with her in the
Medical College, Kingston, in 1887-1888, and the Rev. W. A. Wilson, of
Neemuch, and with them proceeded to Indore, her first station.
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