The Life of a Cottage Hospital: The Bone Bay Experience.


139 pages
Contains Photos, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 978-1-897317-05-1
DDC 362.1'0425709718





Reviewed by Melvin Baker

Melvin Baker is an archivist and historian at Memorial University of
Newfoundland, and the co-editor of Dictionary of Newfoundland and
Labrador Biography.


A retired medical professor and historian of medicine at Memorial University, John Crellin has actively promoted the study of medical history in Newfoundland and Labrador with an emphasis on alternative medicine as practised historically in the province. This book is a case study of rural medicine that examines the story of one cottage hospital in western Newfoundland that opened in December 1939 and closed in 2001. The book has three principle themes and on each account the author succeeds. It examines the relationships of a small hospital with the people and the community it serves. It discusses the quality of rural health care provided by the hospital and tracks the overall trends in medicine in the 20th century. Finally, it seeks to show how the tensions in health care today can be best understood by knowing how the people’s values and expectations have changed over time.

Crellin is fortunate in his explorations to have a rich source of government documentation, oral interviews, and memoirs, and all sources are well intertwined to provide a lively and informative history. He makes good use, for example, of an unpublished memoir of one physician, Dr. James Gough, who served at the hospital from 1954 to 1961 (hopefully, this memoir will be published). He also demonstrates the important role Dr. Ian Rusted played in promoting medical education among rural doctors during the 1950s (Rusted founded Memorial’s medical school in 1967). More scholarly study is needed of 20th-century medical developments in both pre-Confederation and post-Confederation Newfoundland and Labrador. As Crellin’s ample footnotes show, what is needed is a good historical overview of these developments, or at least an authoritative edited documentary anthology of that history.


Crellin, John K., “The Life of a Cottage Hospital: The Bone Bay Experience.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 17, 2024,