Photostory #274: Good Cheer Sails on "Christmas Seal": Trim Little Ship on Big Medical Mission

Chris Lund
National Film Board of Canada
Release Date
December 13, 1960
CMCP fonds
Credit Line
Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography fonds, National Gallery of Canada Library and Archives
Main Text
Twillingate skipper, Capt. Peter Troake, has no flowing beard, no reindeer, no red plush suit, but to thousands of adoring youngsters scattered throughout Newfoundland's 1,800 outports, he is more real than Father Christmas and his visits are heralded with every bit as much fascination and excitement. During the ten years he has commanded the Canadian Tuberculosis Association's seagoing X-ray clinic, the Christmas Seal, Capt. Troake has built up a popularity rating that would be the envy of politicians anywhere. Posing happily as "one of Santa's helpers" he has won the confidence and affectation of the island's children by his merry good humour and his bewitching ability to tell a tall tale. Behind the twinkling eyes and the hearty laugh, Capt. Troake is a dedicated man with a quietly earnest purpose: to bring the health and medical facilities of his 148-ton floating laboratory to every remote fishing village dotted along the island's rugged coastline. Despite the fact that one of Canada's great medical achievements of the past century has been the reduction in deaths from tuberculosis, Capt. Troake is not a man to rest easy while a single person has need of the health facilities of his trim little white-hulled craft. His visits are awaited with a joyous expectation generally associated only with a festive occasion. When the good ship Christmas Seal nudges her way into one of the countless coves and harbours that make up the island's 6000-mile coastline, she drops anchor to the sound of music blaring forth merrily from her twin loudspeakers, and the lilting tenor of her jovial captain. When not guiding his ship, Capt. Troake can generally be found ashore urging young and old to go aboard for an examination. Thanks to the dedication of men like Peter Troake, and the skilled medical and nursing team that sails with him, Newfoundland has been able to reduce dramatically the number of deaths claimed by tuberculosis in recent years. Capt. Troake has it all figured out that if the day ever comes when the dread killer has been wiped out entirely, he'd like to travel around the island giving out presents to the countless friends he has made over the years. In the meantime he and his shipmates continue to bring them the greatest gift of all: good health and longer life.