The British Empire Library

Doctor In Vanuatu - A Memoir

by Dr E A (Ted) Freeman

Courtesy of OSPA

Dr J D Macgregor (British Solomon Islands Protectorate 1957-75)
This is a fascinating story in which Dr Ted Freeman provides a wide-ranging account of many aspects of life in Vanuatu (or the New Hebrides as these islands were designated then) from 1963 when he was first appointed Medical Superintendent of Paton Memorial Hospital in Port Vila, until 1969 when his professional career almost came to an untimely end following a devastating illness shortly after his return from surgical studies in Scotland.

The author outlines the medical work carried out by a number of doctors, both expatriate and local, and a number of medical and surgical cases are described in some detail. One particularly outstanding and almost unbelievable case is that of a young man who was accidentally shot by a colleague's rifle, but who miraculously survived following multiple blood transfusions and auto-transfusions, the bullet being removed successfully at a later date.

The book is by no means confined to a description of medical activity, however, but also discusses the general difficulties of life as a medical missionary on a minimal salary and with a growing family. He also describes the rather curious political arrangements of the time, whereby both Britain and France administered the New Hebrides as a Condominium until independence in 1980, and due acknowledgement is made of the British Resident Commissioner, Sandy Wilkie and his staff, who seem to have been particularly helpful.

However, the real hero of the story, or rather heroine, must surely be Dorothy Freeman, mother of five children, who despite all the difficulties of life under the conditions described, maintained a happy household and provided key support to her husband both before and after his devastating illness.

In summary, this is an interesting and worthwhile read, not to be missed by anyone who has either worked in, or has an interest in the colonial history of, the South Pacific. The book is well illustrated by a substantial number of good-quality photographs.

British Empire Book
Dr E A (Ted) Freeman
University of South Pacific
978 982 02 0380 8


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