Antle, John

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Antle, John

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The Reverend John Antle was born in Brigus, Newfoundland, on October 25, 1865. His father, Stephen Antle, was a ship owner and captain. John went to school in Brigus and became a teacher for three years before entering Queen's Theological College to study Theology, from which he graduated in 1890. Following his graduation from Queens Theological College in 1890, he was ordained to the deaconate, and two years later to the priesthood. The Reverend John Antle served for five years in Newfoundland, then followed his family to Washington state, USA. During his service in Washington, he made efforts to get the Episcopal Church to establish hospitals and a mission boat for the benefit of loggers in the Puget Sound area. The proposal was turned down in 1898. During the same period, the Reverend John Antle got to know Vancouver, B.C. quite well and decided he would try to get a parish in the city. He succeeded and, in December 1899, he was given the task of organizing a parish for the Fairview district, an area which had been cut off from St. Paul's parish. He was the first vicar in charge of Holy Trinity church. One of the social activities he developed in the newly created church was a boys' club. With their help, he built a boat called Laverock and organized Sunday cruises for the boys. In 1903, a little freight and passenger boat "Cassiar" steamed into the Port of Vancouver from a logging camp with four dead men on board, victims of careless methods of logging and lack of medical aid. The Reverend Antle decided to tackle the problem. He obtained a $ 100 grant and, on board the Laverock, he undertook a survey to study the medical, social and religious needs of the loggers and settlers. The Laverock went as far north as Alert Bay. Following this trip, Antle made several recommendations: the creation of a hospital mission ship working from a centrally placed hospital on shore; the provision of medical and surgical care; a circulating library to combat the influence of the saloons, and the publication of a monthly magazine to contain camp news and to furnish a medium for the mission to reach every person on the coast. His proposals met with considerable opposition. However, after much discussion, Reverend Antle's scheme was accepted and he volunteered to take charge of the new mission. The Missionary Society of the Church of England in Canada (MSCC) provided him with a grant to cover the cost of the boat. In 1905, the mission ship Columbia was built and launched in Vancouver. The ship was a dispensary, a consultation room, an emergency ward or an ambulance, as occasion demanded. It was also a travelling library and a chapel. A doctor was hired; he was also a mechanical engineer. The Reverend John Antle was trained to be an anaesthesist; he combined this job with his other work as chaplain, skipper of the Columbia, first-aid expert, nurse, sometimes cook , editor of the monthly magazine and superintendent of all activities of the Mission. The need for the Mission was obvious very shortly after the beginning of its operations. Two months after the Columbia started its missionary trips, a small hospital was opened at Rock Bay, site of a big logging camp. In 1907 the Columbia Mission was asked to operate a second hospital at Van Anda. By the fall of the same year the Mission was approached about starting a third hospital at Alert Bay. While the Mission developed rapidly, financing for it did not. Antle tried to promote the idea of selling one dollar medical insurance tickets to the loggers. The system would entitle the purchaser to be treated on the Columbia or in the most convenient Mission hospital and would provide the Mission with a stable source of income. But the loggers were migratory workers, often without foresight, and the hospital ticket idea was never entirely successful. Antle made a trip to Eastern Canada and England and came back with $ 10.000 which allowed him to build a bigger hospital boat. In 1910 Columbia II was launched in New Westminster. The new vessel had all the necessary facilities for giving medical and surgical aid, and in addition had a radio-telephone which facilitated the emergency communications. Initially the Columbia Coast Mission had a phenomenally rapid growth. As the years passed, the Mission continued to expand, but at a slower pace. The activities of the Mission were numerous: it undertook annual medical examinations of school children, conducted outpost clinics, gave pre-and post-natal care, and established well baby clinics for Indian mothers. The number of Indian maternity cases admitted increased steadily and there was a consequent reduction in infant mortality. The Reverend John Antle retired around 1930, at the age of 70, with the satisfaction of seeing his dream translated into reality. He did not stop sailing though. In 1939 he went to England, purchased a boat called Reverie and sailed it out to Vancouver via the Panama Canal. World War II saw him back in service in a parish on Mayne Island. In 1948 John Antle was 81, but, as the sea and the Reverie still beckoned, he set sail from Vancouver to the West Indies. Bad weather and misfortune dogged his trip and failing health curtailed the activities of this adventurous spirit. The Royal Vancouver Yacht Club sent two members to San Francisco to help sail the Reverie back to Vancouver. This was the Reverend Antle's last long trip. He died in December 1949. His burial service was held on the deck of the Columbia and his body returned to the sea at Manson's Deep, off Bowen Island.


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Revised by BCANS Coordinator, June 13, 2011.




Virtual Museum of Canada, Community Memories, Historic St. George's Church, St. George's Heritage Museum, Brigus, Newfoundland and Labrador,

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