CM March 22, 
1996. Vol. II, Number 23

image God's Little Ships:
A History of the Columbia Coast Mission.

Michael L. Hadley.
Madeira Park, B.C.: Harbour Publishing, 1995. 308pp, cloth, $28.95.
ISBN: 1-55017-133-X. CIP.

Subject Headings:
Columbia Coast Mission-History.
Anglican Church of Canada-Missions-British Columbia.
Missions, Medical-British Columbia-History.

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.
Review by John D. Crawford.



As with other missionary groups, the Mission's early involvement with the Native peoples of the British Columbia coast shows little inclination towards the concept of dialogue. In fact, the Mission's ministry was strongly marked by a paternalistic approach which was itself cast in the mould of British imperialism.

This history of the Columbia Coast Mission of the Anglican Church covers a period that began early in the twentieth century and continued until the early 1980s, when the Mission's operations ceased. It is a story of people who sought to provide both spiritual and medical services to coastal communities of south-western British Columbia. God's Little Ships is also the story of an institution that saw its purpose gradually eroded by modern advances in medicine, transportation, and communication.

The Mission owed its conception and birth to the Reverend John Antle, who was its guiding force for over thirty years. His successor, Reverend Alan Greene, retired in 1959, when the great days of the Mission were drawing to a close. Many others play smaller roles in this history and come to life in its pages. There is much detail about the ships and hospitals of the Mission, and the picture that emerges is one of a keen sense of discipline and orderliness overcoming the limitations of the environment in which the Mission operated.


This sense of almost military organization is emphasized by several illustrations showing the Mission's officers in uniform, and is evident in their authoritarian, paternalistic attitude towards the Native peoples, whose ceremonies -- such as the Potlatch -- they condemned.

Professor Hadley's sources are drawn from church archives, newspaper and magazine articles, and a wide range of other materials. Many anecdotes come verbatim from the sources and reveal much of the character of their period and of the individuals who wrote them. Many of the Mission's officers lived a spartan life, and there is also a clear sense of the isolation and vulnerability of many people living in the small coastal communities, particularly in the early years when modern forms of communication were absent. God's Little Ships implicitly lauds not only the Mission's work in supplying spiritual and medical support, but also in providing social intercourse and the sight of fresh faces to lonely people.

The content of God's Little Ships is largely chronological, with some diversions into specialized channels. The index is very useful, as are the notes on sources. Professor Hadley has been selective in his inclusion of anecdotes, but there is an excellent bibliography that provides a guide for readers who seek additional detail. God's Little Ships is a fine tribute to the people and institutions of an organization that played its part in the history of British Columbia.

Highly recommended for libraries emphasizing B.C. history.

John Crawford is a retired teacher/librarian living in Victoria, BC.

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Copyright © 1996 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364