Dr. William Hird was born December 8, 1864 on a farm in Uxbridge, Ontario. His parents, James Hird and the former Elspeth Stephen, were originally from Scotland. His older brother, Jim, stayed on the family farm and Will became the academic. He completed his elementary and high school curriculum by age 12 and he entered the University of Toronto to further study Classics. He obtained his B.A. (Hons. Greek & Latin) in 1880 at the age of 16. As was the custom, Dr. Hird returned to Uxbridge to teach school for a year. He then began his extensive world travels. In Sydney, Australia he studied economics and later wrote for for the Melbourne Times. He was away for almost 5 years. Upon completion of his around the world travels his decision was to study medicine. He graduated from The University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine with his MD in 1895. He did further studies in the hospitals of London, England and Edinburgh, Scotland and was asked many times to become a “specialist”. However his heart and dedication belonged directly to the people of the land and their rural community, rather than to the more sophisticated society of a city.
The young Dr. Hird took on the locum of his cousin, Dr. William Stephen in Wallaceburg, Ontario. By chance Dr. Hird met young Ada May MacDonnell, daughter of prominent shipbuilder, Captain Wm. J. MacDonnell. Dr.Hird then decided to stay in Wallaceburg and his cousin, Dr. Stephen eventually moved on to St.Mary’s, Ontario. The couple were married on the 12th of January, 1898. They had three daughters, Jane Elsie, Eleanor (Nell) McNabb and Sydney Stephen. All three of their daughters became highly educated and accomplished women. Dr. Hird and his wife also took their daughters on extensive world travels, as he regarded travel as an invaluable source of education. Daughter Sydney became a hospital dietitian (U of T) and her daughter, Sydney, became a physician.
Dr. Hird saw his practice progress from horse and buggy, to automobile; from receiving hand delivered messages from patients in need of care, to receiving phone calls from the sick. His office, attached to their home at the corner of Nelson and Elizabeth Streets, was always full. Mrs. Hird ran the office “for only she could take the message correctly”. Many days he would spend with a very ill patient or women in prolonged labour in the country. During the 1918 epidemic of Spanish flu that took so many lives he worked tirelessly.
Dr Hird studied all of his life because he loved to learn. He had thoroughly studied the Bible and memorized the poetry of Robbie Burns as a child. He was a compassionate source of wisdom and knowledge to all, regardless of social situation. His foresight was renown. He enjoyed reciting lengthy poetry, discussing classical literature and philosophy, debating economics and following boxing. He was always interested in medicine as it connected him to human reality and purpose. Medicine was his intimate great teachers of humanity.
After 25 years of medical responsibility, Dr. Hird sold his practice to Dr. Charles Rowland. He and Ada moved into the house of Capt. Macdonnell at 144 Margaret Ave. where people still sought them out. They continued to enjoy their cottage on Walpole Island where the residents loved the good doctor and his down-to-earth wife.
Dr. Hird died May 4, 1958 at the age of 95 in Beaconsfield, Quebec at the home of daughter, Sydney Price. He could still recite Tennyson’s complete In Memorium. Mrs. Hird died in Wallaceburg, December 1953. This beloved and legendary couple are buried in Riverview Cemetery in Wallaceburg.
Composed: By Dr. Sydney Sparling for the Chatham-Kent Physician Tribute website.
*Dr. William Stephen and Dr. Charles Rowland also appear on the Chatham-Kent Physician Tribute website.