THE ADVOCATE 769
VOL. 78 PART 5 SEPTEMBER 2020
By R.C. Tino Bella*
Service on the Skeena: Horace Wrinch, Frontier Physician, by Geoff Mynett.
Vancouver: Ronsdale Press, 2019. Paperback; 450 pages. $21.95
Reviewed by Christopher Harvey, Q.C.
This book is very well researched, as one would expect from a lawyer. After
a career as in-house counsel and corporate secretary to MacMillan Bloedel,
Geoff Mynett has quietly pursued his interests in music, literature, art and,
now, writing. He has found some success in charcoal and pencil portraiture.
Now he has produced a book worthy of a career author.
Service on the Skeena is the story of Horace Wrinch. His life is traced from
boyhood on a farm in England, to farming in Ontario with his brother, to his
life’s work as a medical missionary in Kispiox and then Hazelton, B.C. While
still in Toronto at the turn of the century, Wrinch met W.H. Pierce and
Thomas Crosby, both early Methodist missionaries in North Coast Indigenous
communities. Their accounts of the urgent need for medical help in
the Upper Skeena district diverted Wrinch from his earlier intention of
going to China.
In 1900 the Methodist Board of Missions in Toronto sent Wrinch to the
wilds of the Upper Skeena to build a hospital. He was supplied with encouragement,
prayers and little else. After a five-day train journey to Vancouver,
Wrinch and his wife boarded a steamer bound for Port Essington at the
mouth of the Skeena River. Next came a hair-raising journey by paddlewheeler
the 180 miles up the Skeena to Hazelton. Situated at the forks of
the Skeena and Bulkley Rivers, Hazelton at that time is described as a “tumble
of settlers’ houses, shacks and warehouses lining the riverbank”. Immediately
behind this small patch of fee simple land was Gitanmaax, the