Academic journal article Newfoundland and Labrador Studies

Diary of a Medical Student on the S.S. Kyle, 1945-Ian E.L. Rusted

Academic journal article Newfoundland and Labrador Studies

Diary of a Medical Student on the S.S. Kyle, 1945-Ian E.L. Rusted

Article excerpt


But who, today, does not feel compelled to record his feelings, to write his memoirs--not only the most minor historical actor but also his witnesses, his spouse, and his doctor. (Nora, 1989: 14)

THE SUMMER OF 1945 marked a threshold for my father, Ian Rusted (l 921-2007). He had completed an undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto and was two years into medical school at Dalhousie University when the opportunity to work as a medical officer on the S.S. Kyle became available. The contract was renewed for 1946, and taken together these summers flame a threshold to both personal and public transformations. Assuming the role of medical officer on a coastal steamer brought him face to face with the responsibilities on the front lines of Newfoundland's health needs. The country was crossing its own threshold, leaving a world war and a frayed economy in its wake. Although he did not reflect on these transformations explicitly, except in a brief description of V-J Day celebrations and mention of broadcasts regarding the United Nations, their presence and influence are palpable in his writing during these summers. These experiences and his subsequent role as a consultant with the Department of Health helped shape his vision of medical education for the country soon to become a province. Despite career opportunities elsewhere, he returned to Newfoundland after completing his medical and graduate training and by 1967 was appointed founding Dean of Medicine in Memorial University's new Faculty of Medicine.

This manuscript was among my father's papers and was something he had been preparing for publication late in 2006. He had drafted the essay from three primary sources: small, pocket-sized, daily diaries that he kept during the 1940s; a notebook where he recorded every patient interaction that he had during his two summers on the Kyle; and a small archive of 8mm home movies and snapshots that he made during the trips down the Newfoundland coast to Labrador. A fourth resource consisted of his embodied memories of these events. Although the diaries and notebooks were written and the images taken at the time he made these trips on the Kyle, they were shaped into this manuscript decades later. Each source bore marks of an ongoing engagement with this experience. On several occasions he attempted a narration for the edited film footage, and he annotated the diaries and the manuscript with details of the unfolding lives of particular individuals. The manuscript and its memories had an emergent vitality.

Despite or because of its innumerable annotations, corrections, and editorial remarks in his handwriting, the manuscript appears to be a final version. In readying it for publication, I have tried to respect these corrections and deletions. Where additional material has been added for the sake of clarity or continuity, it has been placed in square brackets. Only the events of his first summer on the Kyle have been included. He did draft a second part of the narrative covering events of 1946, but the typescript is incomplete and it has not been included here.

Although mention is made within the manuscript of photos and film footage taken during these trips, my father did not prepare the manuscript with photos. As with all good tourist and snapshot images, his provide a glimpse of the scenic (icebergs, sunsets, coastal landscapes), a hint of complex social networks (of family, friends, travellers, and other health-care professionals), and coincidentally they document the quotidian activities of the Kyle (unloading freight and mail, sunbathing on deck, community visits onshore).

Ian Rusted was not alone in writing about his experiences as a medical officer on the Kyle. A special issue in 1984 of the journal Them Days about the Kyle included brief memoirs from other medical officers: Dr. E. Peters, Dr. W. Drover, and Dr. D. Hawkins. My father's brother, Nigel, also had been medical officer on the Kyle, in 1930 and 1931 (Connor and Hyde, 2011; Hanrahan, 2007) and his memoir about travelling the south coast on the M. …

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