A kind and gentle soul who spent decades treating patients in rural Newfoundland was laid to rest earlier this week, but his memory will live on in those who knew him, especially his family.
He worked and worked and worked and was one of these old-fashioned doctors that worked very long hours,” Charles McVicker said of his father, Maurice.
Maurice Arthur McVicker was born in a little town in Northern Ireland known as Portrush in October 1927.
During his lifetime he was many things to many people — a husband, father, doctor, sports fan and friend. Charles, his only son, says his dad didn’t often say much, but when he did, you knew you had to listen.
A devoted sports fan, Maurice went to Trinity College in Dublin and graduated in 1952.
“While at university he played on the varsity university rugby team,” Charles said.
“He played for five years while he was in university and his brother played on the same team with
him. Sports was a very big thing for him.”
Rugby important to family
Rugby was central to the McVickers family. Three of Maurice’s uncles played on the Irish National Team and Charles says his father may very well have had an interesting career in rugby had he not pursued medicine.
“There are only two families in Ireland that had three brothers play together and the McVickers were one of them. That was a big thing.”
After Maurice graduated from medical school in ’52, he moved to Lisburn, approximately 10 miles outside of Belfast.
“He did 18 months of what they called ‘houseman’s job’ — it’s an internship/residency-type thing.”
It was there, practising obstetrics, he met Iris, the beautiful young woman who would become his bride.
“She was the one of the senior obstetrics nurses there,” Charles explained.
That was in 1953.
In July of ’54 they were married, and migrated to Newfoundland one month later.
At that time there was a post-war glut in Northern Ireland, so anyone who served in the military during the war received all the prime jobs and all the post-graduate positions.
Maurice was in high school during the war so soldiers returning with medical school training or those about to graduate would have had first dibs on the positions. Being a junior, Maurice looked abroad for work.
Opportunity in Newfoundland
Through a family connection with James Payton, also born in Northern Ireland, Maurice hooked into an opportunity for a new life across the pond.
Charles said he has a lot of memories of growing up in Lewisporte, with his father at his clinic across the street from the family home. He says his dad was always there for the people who needed him.
“I grew up with people knocking on the door looking for Dad day and night. He worked long hours. Even when he wasn’t at the clinic he was either writing up a chart or whatever.”
Maurice also enjoyed driving around in his beloved Volkswagen Beetle or being up at the cottage with his family.
Charles said when he was young, his father was a huge booster of his interest in hockey and other sports.
“He supported me in any way he could — playing sports, hockey or whatever he could. Sports was his life. Work, sports and looking after Mom and I.”
At a time when most people would have given up on the idea, Maurice, a relatively private person, tackled one of his worst fears.
“Even though there was a beach about a mile from the farm where he grew up, he never learned how to swim until he was 50,” said Charles. “He learned to swim and within five years he was swimming across the pond and back. When he put his mind to something, he did it.”
Charles said his parents were offered all-expenses paid positions in Newfoundland if they stayed for two years. They spent those two years in Bonavista, another two in Musgravetown and then 30 years in Lewisporte.
“They both worked at the hospital in Bonavista, but Mom only worked two years there and for the rest of it basically volunteered and helped Dad,” Charles said.
One of the people Maurice worked with at the hospital in Lewisporte was also from Northern Ireland and was an old high school friend and rugby teammate.
“It was just by fluke, I guess, that he ended up working with Walter Pollock in Lewisporte,” Charles said.
Maurice retired from the medical profession at age 60 in 1988 and divided his time between continuing education courses at Memorial and visiting his parents in Ireland. He suffered a stroke on Aug. 31 and never regained consciousness.
He died peacefully on Sept. 6 and a memorial service was held on Sept. 9 in St. John’s.
He was 85.