Morriscy, William C. (Father)

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                                 Father William C. Morriscy
                                      by Louise Manny

The following article on Rev. William C. Morriscy, who for thirty years, from 1878 to 1908, was parish priest at St. Peter and St. Paul Church, Bartibogue, was written by the late Dr. Manny, about ten years ago. Dr. Manny gathered her information from a pamphlet on Father Morriscy’s life owned by Miss Bonnie Haviland, Ferry Road, and from his obituary notices published in provincial papers.

                                       Father Morriscy

William Morriscy was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1840. As a boy he wanted to be a doctor, and, in his teens, he began to study medicine. When he had finished two years of his medical course, he felt called to the priesthood and began his study of theology, finishing his course in Rome. The call to the priesthood was imperative but medicine always interested him and, the pamphlet says, he devoted much of his spare time to its study. Apparently Father Morriscy was really a medical genius. It seems that, on his voyage to Rome, he fell in with some learned medical men and had many conversations with them on medical subjects. Father Morriscy was so completely at home in these learned discussions that the doctors could not believe he was not a graduate physician.

Father Morriscy’s first priestly charge was Caraquet, as assistant to Father Paquet there. There was no regularly qualified physician in the parish - in fact, none nearer than Chatham or Bathurst – and Father Paquet, like many other priests in those days, acted as physician also. Father Morriscy began by taking over the easier cases but when Father Paquet realized the younger priest’s skill and success, he soon handed over to him all the medical work of the perish.

Father Morriscy’s powers were soon recognized. Catholics and Protestants, whites and Indians, flocked to him and he achieved many spectacular cures. The year that the New Brunswick Medical Act was passed forbidding any but licensed physicians to practice, two men were specially exempted, Father Morriscy and the aged Presbyterian minister near Boisetown.

After some years at Caraquet Father Morriscy was given charge of the perish of Bathurst, then of Renous, and finally of Bartibogue, where, in 1878, he became priest of the beautiful church of St. Peter and St. Paul, finished about twenty five years before.

                                    Reputation Lives

In these places and in fact all over Northern New Brunswick his reputation still lives. His parishioners and patients had the feeling that they came in contact with a rare and unusual personality. He was a truly great man and would undoubtedly have made his mark in a larger world than the country parishes he lived in.

At Bartibogue, Father Morriscy lived for thirty years – the friend of all, the servant of humanity. His home was open to everyone and his hospitality was universal. He never accepted any pay for his medical services – money was instantly and decisively refused.

The story is told that when a twenty dollar gold piece was found on the parlour table after one patient’s departure, Father Morriscy hitched up his horse and drove after the man to return the money. He did not, however, refuse gifts to his church and I believe many beautiful gifts from grateful patients are to be seen there.

I have heard that patients even came from Western Canada and the United States to consult the reverend physician. In spring, summer and autumn he regularly attended twenty patients a day.

Tradition has given us a delightful picture of Father Morriscy – cheerful and amiable, the soul of hospitality, unselfishly devoted to others, he had that indefinable quality a modern age calls “charm”, and a sheer goodness which was felt by everyone who saw him.

When he died, tributes from every newspaper in the province testified to his reputation.

Father Morriscy’s skill in diagnosis was uncanny. It was said that he could tell by one look at a man what disease he had – often before there were any symptoms. He was a great believer in the mechanical properties of common herbs and balsams and used them with outstanding success, though he used drugs as well. But I am told that Father Morriscy never prescribed a narcotic drug.

Amusing stories are told of Father Morriscy’s cryptic writing which made every prescription an adventure in deciphering for the poor pharmacist. One lady tells me that she took a prescription of his to a Saint John drug store but had to wait some time as the man who could read Father Morriscy’s writing was out.

The tested formulae for the different remedies were bequeathed to the Reverend Sisters of the Hotel Dieu at Chatham to be used for the benefit of their order.

A company was formed of several New Brunswick men, among them Richard O’Leary of Richibucto and for some years the medicines were marketed with great success. However, the company was crowded out by larger patent medicine companies, who spent more money on advertising. Col. J.D.B.F. MacKenzie of Chatham had the various prescriptions and I am assured by many older people that the medicines were wonderfully affective. Father Morriscy was 68 years old when he died at Hotel Dieu in Chatham, completely worn out by his long years of service to humanity.

The little pamphlet from which I got information was published by the medicine company above referred to. It is illustrated by charming little drawings in the text. I note especially one of Father Morriscy, driving in his top buggy, with his church in the background. On the cover too, is a drawing of Father Morriscy’s head and a fine little picture of St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church.

                                    Everybody’s Friend

I have to thank Reverend B. J. Murdoch of Bartibogue Station for the loan of a valued clipping, the Chatham “World’s” obituary of Father Morriscy, written at the time of his death. The “World” said in part:

‘One man has departed this life who will be missed, one man whose place there is no one worthy to fill. Father Morriscy was a saintly man. He lived with only one thought and purpose – to do good and promote the happiness of his fellows. He was everybody’s friend, everybody’s servant. His time, his talents and goods were at the disposal of everyone who wanted them.’

“Goodness was not a religion with Father Morriscy. It was, as George Eliot says, ‘a sweet habit of the blood’ in his case. It bubbled up in his heart, sparkled in his eye, shone from his face, and fell from his lips in kindly counsel to all who sought his advice.”

“A great physician was lost to the profession when Dr. Morriscy took orders. His great strength lay in his power of diagnosis. He had the eye of a born physician and a look or gesture would often be a revelation to him in regard to the physical ailment of a patient.”

“Broadminded, tenderhearted, sympathetic, sweetly courageous, divinely charitable, loving mankind, and loving God, Father Morriscy has lain down to rest after a life of unresting industry for the promotion of the physical and spiritual good of fellow men.”

Notes: Father Morriscy was born at Halifax July 16, 1841, of Irish parentage. He was ordained to the priesthood at St. Basilica, Madawaska County, in 1864. He was recommended to Father Paquet at Caraquet by Dr. MacDonald of Chatham, as particularly adapted to medical practice, and was appointed to Bartibogue in 1878. He died at Hotel Dieu Hospital, Chatham, March 30, 1908, and was buried in the priests’ plot in St. Michael’s Cemetery.

On the day of the funeral, April 2, flags were flown at half-mast in Chatham and Newcastle and in the former town all places of business were closed. Over 1800 persons attended the funeral mass offered in St. Michael’s Cathedral, Chatham, by Bishop Thomas F. Barry, assisted by Reverends John Carter, E.S. Murdoch, N. Savoie, Henry O’Leary and Louis O’Leary. The sermon was preached by Msgr. Varrily of Bathurst.

The Lieutenant Governor L. J. Tweedie and Hon. John Morrissy, representing the provincial government, the Chatham Town Council, the CMBA and K of C were present. The band of the 73rd regiment headed the procession. Paulbearers were men from the Bartibogue congregation, John Gordon, William Innis, George Burchill, Michael Fox, Martin Connell and William Bowie.

It is likely that he was buried in St. Michael’s Cemetery and not in Bartibogue because of the difficulty of crossing the river at that season of the year.

In August of 1908 the Father Morriscy Medicine Co. Ltd. was formed with a capital of $90,000.00. Members of the company were Richard O’Leary and W.H. Hogan, Richibucto; W.C. Winslow, J.D.B.F. McKenzie, Harry Nealy, Chatham; David J. Buckley, Rogersville, and W.S. Montgomery, Campbellton.

Source: North Shore Leader June 29, 1972

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