By Dr. Allan Marble
It took two years and thousands of dollars, but a significant collection of medical records has made its way back to the province. Covering almost 70 years of Dr. George Buckley's medical practice in Guysborough, N.S., the doctor's daybooks and ledgers - now housed at the Nova Scotia Archives - are an invaluable resource for anyone who wants co learn about what it was like to practice medicine in rural Canada in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
In 2012, an antiquarian bookseller from Toronto approached the Osler Library of the History of Medicine at McGill University. On offer: a collection of daybooks and ledgers belonging to a Dr. Buckley, who had practised medicine in Guysborough, N.S. The collection included 47 daybooks and 10 ledgers, covering the years 1867-1936; the asking price was $22,500.
Dr. George Buckley was born in Sydney, N.S., on May 28, 1847. He apprenticed with Dr. Samuel Muir in Truro, N.S., before attending Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, where he received his MD in 1867. Dr. Buckley established a practice in the town of Guysborough, and provided medical attendance to the residents of Eastern Guysborough County and Southeastern Antigonish County for more than six decades. His patients included residents of the African Nova Scotian settlements of Lincolnville and Upper Big Tracadie, as well as residents of the First Nations community of Paq'tnkek at Pomquet, Antigonish County.
The Osler Library contacted Dr. Jock Murray, then president of the Dalhousie Society for the History of Medicine, to recommend the collection be purchased by an archive in Nova Scotia. Dr. Murray alerted me to the situation and so I mer with Lob Yorke, Nova Scotia's provincial archivist. Lois proposed chat if we could identify a donor who would cover half of the cost, the Nova Scotia Archives would purchase the
My research had revealed that Abigail Georgina Buckley, one of Dr. Buckley's daughters, had married John Alexander Tory Sr., the head of Toronto's prominent Tory family, in late 1898. With the assistance of Dr. Anita Foley, a practising physician in Guysborourgh, I contacted Suzanne Tory, Dr. Buckley's great-granddaughter, to ask for financial assistance. She agreed, on behalf of the Tory family, to provide $10,000 coward the purchase of the Buckley Collection.
With this generous donation in place, Lois Yorke went to Toronto to appraise the collection. She purchased it for the price of $16,000. The Dr. George Buckley Collection of Day Books and Ledgers is now at the Nova Scotia Archives; archive staff are developing an online search tool and predict the collection will be available to researchers in early 2015.
The Buckley records represent the most extensive, complete description of a rural physician's practice in Canada. The daybooks describe every aspect of medical care, including maternity cases, vaccinations, surgeries, the administration of medicines and drugs, and the practise of dentistry. The ledgers provide a record of Dr. Buckley's purchases of materia medica and medical and surgical supplies, as well as the fees he charged his patients. The collection is of paramount importance fur medical historians and people interested in the medical history of Guysborough.