Expositor hosts Dr. Jack Bailey’s biography launch Friday afternoon

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Meet author Petra Wall

LITTLE CURRENT – Many’s the Haweater whose first breath of air was taken following a slap on the derriere from the hand of Doctor John Francis (Jack) Bailey. Despite that somewhat rude introduction to life on Manitoulin, all grew to love and trust the plain speaking physician. Dr. Bailey’s life and times are celebrated in a new book, ‘Doctor John Francis “Jack” Bailey: A medical pioneer of Manitoulin,’ by The Expositor’s own ‘Now and Then’ contributor Petra Wall. 

The author will be holding a book signing at The Expositor office in Little Current from 4 to 6 pm this Friday, August 1.

It is very fitting that the launch of a book about the man who guided so many Islanders into life on Manitoulin, and whose life was dedicated to their good health, should be celebrated at the start of Haweater Weekend.

Although Ms. Wall admits that Dr. Bailey balked at being the subject of one of her ‘Now and Then’ columns profiling the lives of Manitoulin residents after his close friend (and longest served patient) Vi Vincent passed shortly following her own profile in the column, he eventually relented as he grew closer to starting his own spirit journey.

What probably played a bigger role in Dr. Bailey’s reluctance to be interviewed was his loss of hearing later in life. That loss of hearing proved to be a terrible frustration to such a loquacious gentleman as Dr. Bailey, who loved the art of conversation. The need to constantly have something repeated was also an assault on a rightly proud and independent individual.

“When he got a new sophisticated hearing aid system controlled by his wrist watch he was willing to have short visits to capture bits and pieces of his story,” she said. “Perhaps he felt it was the right time.”

Ms. Wall knew Dr. Bailey professionally during a number of iterations of her career in the health field. “I was working in Wiiky, as health director for a time,” she recalled. “He was always there for me to ask questions. We became friends and my husband Bill and I would go over to sit in his living room.” As time went on and Dr. Bailey grew older, the couple would bring him “something as a treat. I felt that he wasn’t eating enough.”

During interviews over the course of two to three years, Ms. Wall collected his personal stories, but her work on the book was aided tremendously by mining her own Expositor columns.

“So many of the people I interviewed for ‘Now and Then’ would mention Dr. Bailey, how he saved their lives or helped them get through a difficult time,” she said. “Those stories really helped to tell the story of his truly amazing life.”

As one of only three doctors on Manitoulin Island when he arrived in 1948, a situation that remained static for the next 19 years, Dr. Bailey was a critical lifeline to health care, often serving in roles that he had to self-train for. “He underlined in his notes that it meant being on call all the time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” recalled Ms. Wall. “There were no specialists, ambulances or labs.” To reach patients in remote regions Dr. Bailey would often be transported by early bush planes.

Ms. Wall said that she was greatly assisted in her research into Dr. Bailey’s life by his family, particularly son Geoffrey Bailey. The book contains many full colour and black and white photographs that followed his life and times, from early family to his later years.

Ms. Wall will be at a book signing in the Expositor office in Little Current from 4 to 6 pm on Friday, August 1. Light refreshments will be served.