Despite having such an Irish name, Dr. Joseph Patrick O’Shea wasn’t really Irish, he was Scottish – at least by birth. He was born in Glasgow, Scotland on March 28, 1880. His father, Patrick, was a sea captain for the British Navy whose ship was lost at sea; and we know his mother, Elizabeth Carroll, died young. He and a sister, Teresa, were both sent to Syracuse, NY to live with their aunt; when the aunt died a short time later, the children were sent to an orphanage in Lewiston, Maine, which was run by Dominicans.
Working on the Railroad, and Studying Medicine
After he finished high school, Joe went to Quebec where he worked on the railroad, rotating working with going to University. He wanted to be a physician and it took him 11 years to complete his degree in medicine, which he completed in 1911. When he obtained his degree, he and Dr. C.E. Parent headed west to Saskatchewan together. Dr. Parent set up practice in Sedley and Dr. O’Shea was the first doctor in Radville, a town with a good-sized French-speaking population. Dr. O’Shea set up his office next to the Bon Ton barber shop which later became a restaurant and is still one of the historic buildings of Radville.
Before Bridgetta Connaughty came into his life, Joe served overseas in World War I. He set up a makeshift ER in the basement of what had been a hotel somewhere in the North of France, which was subsequently bombed. It took the allied forces nearly a week to dig the survivors out of the basement. The Doctor was also gassed with mustard gas in Ypres and became very ill; after the Great War he was sent to either the Philippines or India to recover; we inherited an incense burner that he brought from somewhere in the far East as a commemoration of his time there.
Joe was injured at Vimy Ridge as well.
Bridgetta Connaughty was born in Fond-du-Lac, Wisconsin, in 1882. She went to school in Medford, WI and Minot, ND. She later taught school in both Medford and Eau Claire, WI before immigrating to Canada in 1909.
But Bridgetta was from hardy, adventurous stock: she went back to the USA and in Scobey, Montana she homesteaded and became one of the first women homesteaders in Montana. Later, she moved back to Saskatchewan where she became the first non-religious teacher to teach school at the convent in Wilcox, run by the Sisters of Charity of St. Louis, in 1920.
Here’s an excerpt from The Times – Wilcox SK – April 27, 1922
One of Wilcox’s most popular young ladies left town Monday night mid a shower of rice, confetti, and accompanied by a volley of cheers which well nigh drowned the conductor’s “All Aboard” and even the whistle of the C.P.R. engine. She whom all knew so well, the former Miss Bridgetta Connaughty and the present Mrs. Doctor O’Shea, on the arm of her husband was leaving for her future home in Norquay.
Saturday, in the basement of St. Augustine’s Church, a shower was held in honour of the bride-elect and the cutglass and silverware, linen, utensils of every description covered the all too small tables. More than a hundred ladies were present in the course of the afternoon.
Monday morning the wedding took place in St. Augustine’s Church. Mr. and Mrs. Tim Connaughty had the honour of acting as best man and bridesmaid while the pastor performed the ceremony. A very dainty breakfast was served by Mrs. T.J. Connaughty and Mrs. James Connaughty (Auntie Nellie) for the newly-weds, the relatives of the family and a few guests.
In the evening the district of Wilcox was down to the train to see them off. The bride was becomingly dressed in a dark navy-blue costume, wearing a Gainsborough model hat of Iodine color embroidered with silver and in lieu of flowers at the wedding; she carried her prayer book, the gift of the pastor.
They left for Norquay after the wedding.
The O’Shea’s stayed in Norquay till 1927 when they moved to Fife Lake and continued to live there until 1933. Some of the Dufour family had originally settled in Fife Lake but later moved to Norquay, Saskatchewan. Once, when they came back to the dusty, windy town of Fife Lake for a visit, they told the Doctor that he should go back up north to “God’s Country”. I guess it didn’t take long to convince them to move again!
Fife Lake was memorable for my husband because it was there that he and Eddie Belanger set fire to the relief hay. They would have been about four years old, were playing with matches.
The O’Shea’s were barren. Joe, full-well knowing the life of being an unwanted child, adopted my husband at a time when two other Connaughty-related families also adopted children. It was two years into the Dirty Thirties and my husband was a two-year-old boy when he remembers going from a cold place to a place very warm. The O’Sheas added the name “Merlin” to his birth certificate and he was called Merlin for years, although he was also known as Gerry to some and Doc to most with a name that went Gerald Patrick Merlin O’Shea.
Bridgetta insisted that Merlin should not go to the public school in Norquay but have a proper Catholic education at St. Joseph College in Yorkton. Doc (Merlin) was a young lad when he started school in Yorkton. He was so homesick for not only his family and friends but especially his dog: we have many letters from him pleading to his Mom and Dad to let him come home.
His summer holidays were great fun. His Mom and Dad had a cottage at Crystal Lake and he and his Mom stayed out there all summer long and his Dad would come out on the weekend. His friends Rudy Sterzer and Norman Robinson did everything young boys do at the lake. Rudy’s parents owned the golf course there at Crystal Lake.
And the boys had some wonderful adventures. Once they even drove the Doctor’s Model T all the way around the lake – in the water!!! They had breath-holding competitions, to see who could stay underwater the longest under a raft they had constructed. This would cause a great uproar from the mothers watching from the shore.
Rudy’s Mother, Ellie, was a German Olympic swimmer and had even swam in Hitler’s private pool. Rudy’s dad, Matt, was Canadian and all through WWII the RCMP played many a visit to the Sterzer home. Interestingly, Rudy became a member of the RCMP and retired from the force to have the first RCMP Dog Training Academy where he trained of course, German Shepherds.
Doc later attended Campion College in Regina and that was, in his opinion, worse than going to school in Yorkton where he’d been the only English-speaking kid in a school populated by Eastern Europeans. Or so the story went.
If the truth was told, it was that Doc didn’t really like school.
His Mom and Dad retired in 1947 and they spent the first winter in Chilliwack, B.C. That was when Doc got interested in flying airplanes and started learning how to fly there. The O’Sheas could have bought a section of land that is now Langley for the princely sum of $9,000.00 but a winter punctuated by violent snow storms had the family packing up and heading back to Saskatchewan, this time back to family and Wilcox. Needless to say, that $9,000 investment would have turned out very well for them, if they had decided to purchase…