The Story of Grenfell of the Labrador: A Boy’s Life of Wilfred T. Grenfell

Produced by A Volunteer, Jeannie Howse and
the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at

Transcriber’s Note: Throughout the whole book, St. John’s (Newfoundland) is spelled St. Johns.
A list of typos fixed in this text are listed at the end.


The Physician In The Labrador


The Story of Grenfell of the Labrador

A Boy’s Life of Wilfred T. Grenfell



Author of “Grit-a-Plenty,” “The Ragged Inlet Guards,” “Ungava Bob,” etc., etc.


New York         Chicago
Fleming H. Revell Company
London and Edinburgh

Copyright, 1922, by

New York: 158 Fifth Avenue
Chicago: 17 North Wabash Ave.
London: 21 Paternoster Square
Edinburgh: 75 Princes Street


In a land where there was no doctor and no school, and through an evil system of barter and trade the people were practically bound to serfdom, Doctor Wilfred T. Grenfell has established hospitals and nursing stations, schools and co-operative stores, and raised the people to a degree of self dependence and a much happier condition of life. All this has been done through his personal activity, and is today being supported through his personal administration.

The author has lived among the people of Labrador and shared some of their hardships. He has witnessed with his own eyes some of the marvelous achievements of Doctor Grenfell. In the following pages he has made a poor attempt to offer his testimony. The book lays no claim to either originality or literary merit. It barely touches upon the field. The half has not been told.

He also wishes to acknowledge reference in compiling the book to old files and scrapbooks of published articles concerning Doctor Grenfell and his work, to Doctor Grenfell’s book Vikings of Today, and to having verified dates and incidents through Doctor Grenfell’s Autobiography, published by Houghton Mifflin & Company, of Boston.


Beacon, N.Y.


I.The Sands of Dee11
II.The North Sea Fleets26
III.On the High Seas31
IV.Down on the Labrador39
V.The Ragged Man in the Rickety Boat52
VII.In the Breakers68
VIII.An Adventurous Voyage74
IX.In the Deep Wilderness83
X.The Seal Hunter99
XI.Uncle Willy Wolfrey109
XII.A Dozen Fox Traps116
XIII.Skipper Tom’s Cod Trap126
XIV.The Saving of Red Bay135
XV.A Lad of the North146
XVI.Making a Home for the Orphans158
XVII.The Dogs of the Ice Trail171
XVIII.Facing an Arctic Blizzard183
XIX.How Ambrose Was Made to Walk193
XX.Lost on the Ice Floe203
XXI.Wrecked and Adrift213
XXII.Saving a Life219
XXIII.Reindeer and Other Things225
XXIV.The Same Grenfell233


The Physician in the LabradorTitle
The Labrador “Liveyere”40
“Sails North to Remain Until the End of Summer, Catching Cod”46
The Doctor on a Winter’s Journey84
“The Trap is Submerged a Hundred Yards or so from Shore”130
“Please Look at My Tongue, Doctor”172
The Hospital Ship, Strathcona220
“I Have a Crew Strong Enough to Take You into My District”234



The first great adventure in the life of our hero occurred on the twenty-eighth day of February in the year 1865. He was born that day. The greatest adventure as well as the greatest event that ever comes into anybody’s life is the adventure of being born.

If there is such a thing as luck, Wilfred Thomason Grenfell, as his parents named him, fell into luck, when he was born on February twenty-eighth, 1865. He might have been born on February twenty-ninth one year earlier, and that would have been little short of a catastrophe, for in that case his birthdays would have been separated by intervals of four years, and every boy knows what a hardship it would be to wait four years for a birthday, when every one else is having one every year. There are people, to be sure, who would like their birthdays to be four years apart, but they are not boys.

Grenfell was also lucky, or, let us say, fortunate in the place where he was born and spent his early boyhood. His father was Head Master of Mostyn House, a school for boys at Parkgate, England, a little fishing village not far from the historic old city of Chester. By referring to your map you will find Chester a dozen miles or so to the southward of Liverpool, though you may not find Parkgate, for it is so small a village that the map makers are quite likely to overlook it.

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