Renowned surgeon hopes for revival of his museum
Local Vibes
August 15, 2017
Renowned surgeon hopes for revival of his museum

by Bria King

“Are you squeamish?” retired surgeon Dr Cecil Cyrus asked, as he opened the doors and ushered me into what some may describe as one of St Vincent and the Grenadines’ (SVG) national treasures.

And my initial excitement flickered a little – but quickly returned – as I began to wonder about the type of specimens that awaited me inside the “Dr Cecil Cyrus Museum”.

The museum, which is perched on an incline in the Montrose area, near to the Botanic Gardens, is home to thousands of photographs, specimens and tools, as well as memorabilia that document the life and work of one of SVG’s early surgeons.

“I had no intention of starting a museum when I came home, but the enormity of the diseases I saw was so overwhelming that I thought it necessary to store them for posterity,” the 88-year-old said.

The display features carefully labelled photographs and jars of different body-part specimens, collected from various cases that the doctor encountered in his career up to retirement in 2001.

On a shelf titled “Making Do”, Cyrus displayed instruments that he often used to carry out procedures – a fitting title, as among them were instruments crafted locally by Glen Gooding, who at the time taught at the technical division of what is today the SVG Community College.

Although I had never seen one before, a small T-shaped instrument called a trephine became my favourite of that display.

“That was used to save the lives of 16 patients who had bled inside their skull and posed an emergency which had to be dealt with promptly,” Cyrus, who has authored four books, told me.

“In a sophisticated country, it’s made of vitallium or steel, but here, he (Gooding) could only use cast iron.”

If the displays weren’t compelling enough, I listened with childlike excitement and awe as the father of four and grandfather of 10 recited the stories behind almost every photo and specimen sitting in the museum.

“I’m a very general surgeon who had to cope with everything from the head to the toe and not just confine my attention to one particular system in the body,” he said.

“It was necessary here, because we had no specialists, so one had to do whatever, cope with whatever condition was presented.”

The museum also features a non-medical display, which is equally touching, as Cyrus is able to paint a vivid picture of his personal life, with memorabilia from growing up in the Leeward town of Layou, his 13 years of studying abroad in the United Kingdom and even meeting the Queen during one of her visits to SVG.

Unfortunately, not many can experience what I did, as the museum is no longer open to the public.

And with the building up for sale, the retired surgeon is hoping that persons can come on board to help move the displays to a more central area and revive the museum to its glory.

Cyrus, who taught at two medical universities here, added that the displays could prove to be educational and interesting for medical students, Vincentians and tourists alike – as long as they are not squeamish.

“I want to leave them as part of my contribution to my country,” he said.