Dr. Frank Shepherd

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Dr. Frank Shepherd (1851 – 1929), known as "Frank", was the 2nd son and 3rd child of Captain R.W.Shepherd and his wife Mary Cecilia Delesderniers.

Frank was born in Como at Riversmead on Nov. 25, 1851 and spent the first ten years of his life there.

When he was 7 years old, his father described him as “a bold, noisy, good natured, robust boy ready for anything in the shape of fun, although never neglectful of his studies or other duties that are allotted to him, with one of the best hearts.” His much younger sister, May Shepherd Robertson, wrote of him:

”Frank was the clever one of the family and was named after his two grandfathers, Frank after P.F.C. (Frank) Delesderniers, and John after John Shepherd.

My memory of him as a child was him teasing me, but being kind and affectionate through it all. Many a time, though, I was locked in a cupboard for screaming with rage as a result of the teasing.

He never lived at home after 1873, so as I was only 9 years of age then, I have not many memories of him at Como. I remember him going about in a white sailor suit with his friends, the Torrances, manning the old sailboat, the “Cora”.

When I grew up, I was always rather in awe of him. I remember when I decided to go in for nursing, I had to screw up my courage to speak to him about it and was surprised that instead of laughing at me, he was most kind and understanding. But he would not let me go to any training school but the New York Hospital where his friend, Dr. Bull was.”

When Frank was 9 years old he was taken to Montreal to see the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) open the Victoria bridge. The population of Montreal was then only 135,000.

Dr. Frank Shepherd had begun his education in the village school at Como. He continued at Montreal High School when his family moved to Montreal for the winter months. At age 16, Frank had a severe attack of rheumatic fever which left such a serious mark on his heart, that he could never play games such as football or hockey and seemed to have little interest them.

On November 1st, 1869, at age 18, he was among the 150 students who met in a little college in Cote Street in Montreal. Eleven gentlemen who composed the Medical Faculty of McGill (all general practitioners) stood before them. All wore whiskers, frock coats and top hats. The occasion was the introductory lecture at the annual opening of the session. Each year one of the professors took his turn as lecturer, addressing the freshmen with a welcome and much good advice.

And so began Dr. Frank Shepherd’s study of medicine. His primary subjects were anatomy, institutes of medicine, chemistry, material medica and either botany or zoology. McGill was the first medical school on the continent to demand four years of study and of the seven Canadian medical schools, Mcgill was by far the best.

After completing his courses at McGill, he spent several years traveling and studying in England and on the continent. On his return to Montreal, Dr. Frank Shepherd became a demonstrator in anatomy where he introduced methods he had seen in operation abroad. Practical anatomy acquired increased importance in the eyes of the students and they began to take it seriously. The curriculum was extended and more practical courses were given.

In 1878, Dr. Frank Shepherd married Lilias Torrance. At this time, he was subsisting on the small amount of money he earned by teaching anatomy, supplemented by an allowance he received from his father. His father heartily approved of his son’s marriage and continued his allowance. He also presented him with a residence on Mansfield St. in Montreal.

The couple had a happy marriage. Lilias was a charming woman and they made a very attractive couple. Sadly and to Frank’s great sorrow, Lilias died in 1892, after a long illness, leaving him with three young children, Ernest, Cecil and Dorothy. As a young student in England and Europe, Dr. Frank Shepherd developed an interest in the world of art and later became a collector himself and a patron of the arts in Montreal. In 1906, he was elected president of the Montreal Art Association.

He held this office until 1911 and in 1918 he was re-elected and remained President until his death in 1929. Today in the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, they have in their Canadian collection a sculpture by Laliberte donated by Dr. Frank Shepherd and two paintings, one by Morrice and one by A.Y. Jackson, bought with funds donated by him for this purpose.

Dr. Frank Shepherd went on to become an eminent Montreal surgeon, practicing at the Old Montreal General Hospital. He also served as Dean of the Medical Faculty at McGill. When young Percy Nobbs came to McGill from Scotland to be head of the School of Architecture, he met Dr. Shepherd’s elder daughter, Mary Cecilia (named after her grandmother, but always called Cecil).

They fell in love and married in St. Mary’s Church, Como, in 1909. Her wedding dress is still at Greenwood. Their granddaughter Phoebe was always proud to display it, along with other wedding gowns and old photos, when she hosted Country Homes Tours at Greenwood in the 1980’s and early 1990’s.

Sources: Family papers and Francis John Shepherd – Surgeon, His life and Times 1851-1929 by W.B. Howell, M.D.

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