The Cecil Cyrus I knew: A Legend has Passed
Sir Cecil Cyrus
Dr. Fraser- Point of View
April 6, 2023

The Cecil Cyrus I knew: A Legend has Passed

In reviewing Dr Cyrus’ “A CLINICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL ATLAS: The Records of a Surgeon in St. Vincent, The West Indies”, Professor Henry Fraser of the Barbados Association of Medical
Practitioners referred to Sir Cecil as a legend.

“The publication of this extraordinary book is a landmark event in both the medical world and the publishing world…I believe this is the most important scientific publication from or on the Caribbean since the Natural History of Jamaica by Sir Hans Sloane in 1725.” Since his passing on 24th March, 2023 social media and the traditional media have sung praises about his outstanding work as a medical practitioner, many from persons who were his patients, and some who felt without a shadow of doubt that he helped to save their lives. Some medical practitioners who have worked among others in the region declared him as arguably amongst the best in the region. His medical skills and work as an isolated surgeon in a society that lacked the facilities that are taken for granted in the developed world are well known among people in the medical field. Added to this was the discipline he had to take photographs and document and label with date and time the procedures that were involved.

My focus here is on the man whom I believe I got to know over the years. During the years when I attended the Boys Grammar School the Vincentian Newspaper had regularly been highlighting his academic achievements as he, a student from an ‘underdeveloped’ country as it would have been labelled then, stormed the academic citadel of the University of Belfast winning scholarship after scholarship. He was moreover a student of the St. Vincent Grammar School, something of which we were proud. Cecil had certain qualities that served him in good stead and led to his academic success. He was disciplined. He had from very early an ambition to be a surgeon. He had a compassion for others and seemed to have been born with a photographic memory that stayed with him almost to the end.

I first met him when, shortly after his return, he delivered a lecture in Barrouallie. He told us a story about a man who had gone to see the doctor about a medical complaint. He was given a tablet to take that evening. He did so and immediately felt better. The next day he found the tablet in his shirt pocket and realized that he had instead swallowed a button. Dr Cyrus used that to make a point about the power of the mind. I was so fascinated by that story that shortly after, when he addressed a gathering at the Grammar School, I raised the issue with him. His immediate response was “Oh You are from Barrouallie.” The other students laughed thinking it was a comment only fit for people who came from the Blackfish town. As he explained the point, their laughter disappeared.

I had gotten to know him personally over the years. In fact, I was one of his early patients at the Botanic Hospital. I did a hernia operation, and my room was on the floor, with a balcony just overlooking his garden. It was so comfortable and relaxing that I spent two extra days before leaving. I raise this to make the point that I had to do a second hernia operation on my other side at the University hospital in London, Ontario. The female doctor who did it wanted to find out from me who had done the first operation. I told her it was done in St. Vincent.

She told me it was the finest cut she had ever seen. Dr Cyrus was the doctor attending to my wife when she was expecting our first child. Unfortunately, he had to leave the week when the baby was due. He made alternative arrangements and got a Filipino doctor to do the delivery. My wife was the only patient then. I was informed at some point by the nurses there that I was the father of a baby boy. I am not sure if they said “bouncing”. I was invited to go to the Delivery Room. On my return to a seat just outside the main entrance to the hospital, I was greeted by two friends Parnel Campbell and Ken Boyea who had brought along two bottles of wine. There were two other persons there whose names I do not remember now. We drank the wine and had a bit of a celebration knowing that the Doctor was not around. If he was around, he might even have joined the celebration!

My friendship with Dr Cyrus grew especially when he decided to write about his medical practice and return to St. Vincent. I believe I have done reviews of all of his books and made presentations at the launching of those books. Through his books and conversing with him over the years I developed an understanding of the kind of person he was. His photographic memory stood out as he related to me details of events of the past, especially his early years in Layou.

His love for children stood out. He was particularly endeared by his grandchildren. In fact he once told me that if he knew grandchildren were so charming and engaging he would have had grandchildren instead of children. One of his books that had a special appeal to me was DOCTOR GRANDAD- “A Caribbean Doctor and his little Patients and Family.” The other was A DREAM COME TRUE: The Autobiography of a Caribbean Surgeon. These two books brought out a lot about him which gave me a better understanding of the man and supplemented what had been the focus of our many conversations over the years. (To be Continued)

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian