St. John Ambulance trains the general public, industrial workers and other special groups in safety and first aid, and conducts courses on patient care in the home, and health care for senior citizens, with the aim of reducing health care costs and the number of accidents.

St. John Ambulance trains the general public, industrial workers and other special groups in safety and first aid, and conducts courses on patient care in the home, and health care for senior citizens, with the aim of reducing health care costs and the number of accidents.

Through qualified volunteer members of its Brigade, St. John Ambulance also provides first aid at all large public events. The official name of the association is the Newfoundland and Labrador Council of the Priory of Canada of the most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem.

The origins of the association date back to the eleventh century, when the Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem was established to care for Christian pilgrims during the Crusades. Over the years the aims of the order changed many times and by the late Nineteenth Century its work had been expanded to include the care of poor convalescents, the establishment of cottage hosptial and first aid stations, the instruction of first aid and the manufacture and provision of ambulance equipment. In 1877, the St. John Ambulance Association was founded by the Order in Great Britain to direct its first aid training and ambulance services.

In 1910, at a meeting in St. John’s called by Sir Ralph C. Williams, Governor of Newfoundland, the Newfoundland centre of St. John Ambulance was founded. With the primary aim of providing first aid to everyone who needed it, particularly sealers, fishermen, policemen and firemen, St. John Ambulance began classes immediately. In the first year of its existence 400 people received certificates in first aid and fourteen pass the “Home Nursing” course in St. John’s. Classes contined to be a success in the capital, and in 1915 instructors were sent to Grand Bank and Greenspond to spread the work of the society outside the city’s limits. In the meantime the St. John Ambulance Brigade, composed of people qualified in first aid, was founded.

In addition to administering to the victims of the S.S. Newfoundland disaster in 1914, the brigade send an ambulance unit to France to work with the Royal Newfoundland Regiment during World War I and conducted a “Cot Fund” which resulted in 239 beds being supplied for the military hospital at Etaples, France and the Naval Convalescent Hospital, Waterford Hall, St. John’s in that war.

Over the years St. John Ambulance expanded its first aid instruction to a number of small communities in the Country (of Newfoundland) and the Brigade, besides providing assistance at large public gatherings, send members overseas during World War II to work with the Red Cross.

Following the joining of the Newfoundland Centre with the Priory of Canada in 1950, a permanent St. John Ambulance office was established in St. John’s.

During the early 1970s the Newfoundland and Labrador Association began to review its record of service and found that, despite its relative success, its work had not reached a majority of isolated coastal communities where knowledge of first aid was (and still is) essential, owing to the lack of readily available medical services. Consequently St. John Ambulance began to expand its services to include many different groups in all parts of the Province. A multi-media course was designed in safety-oriented first aid in 1974 and a special health care course for senior citizens was begun in 1977. Special training of school children, teachers and industrial workers in all areas of the Province was increased, as was teaching of first aid to the general public.

From 1974 to 1978, as a result of the increased effort by the volunteer instructors of St. John Ambulance, 25,336 Newfoundland and Labradorians received certificates in first aid, and 18,000 children were trained in artificial respiration and control of bleeding. In addition in 1978 alone 125 senior citizens completed courses in health care for the elderly and 500 teahcers were awarded certificates in first aid. In total, during the five year period, people from over 200 communities in Newfoundland and Labrador were instructed by the Association. During the same period the number of Ambulance brigades also increased from four to thirteen and membership grew from fifty-five to 256. In those five years the Brigades provided 90,000 hours of volunteer service and attended to more than 8,000 casualties.


Eleanora MacPherson

 A nurse, born in Ontario who married Dr. Cluny MacPherson. Throughtout her life MacPherson played a major role in charitable and other organizations.

MacPherson came to Newfoundland in 1902, following her marriage. After a visit to Labrador with her husband in 1905 she organized the Daughters of the Empire, whose first public service was to plan and run a tuberculosis sanatorium. She was also  instrumental in establishing the first Ladies Reading Room and Current Events Club. When World War I began, MacPherson became honorary secretary of the Women’s Patriotic Association, organizing women all over the Island for the war effort. Follo wing the war she became involved in the Newfoundland Outport Nursing and Industrial Association (NONIA), becoming vice-president in charge of nursing. She was also a trustee and honorary secretary of a scholarship trust set up for descendants of World War I veterans. During World War II MacPherson was in charge of the Red Cross work of the Women’s Patriotic Association.

MacPherson received several honours in recognition of her work. She was made a Commander and Dame of the Venerable Order of St. John of Jerusalem and Officer of the Order of the British Empire and in 1936 was awarded the Jubilee Medal. She died in St. John’s on March 19, 1964.

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If you have any questions, feel free to contact Jade Quirion, our Divisional Community Services Coordinator.