George Gushue-Taylor – The Doctor on Happy Mount【Parent-Child Reading Guide】


A future star surgeon born

On December 6, 1883, George Gushue-Taylor was born in Newfoundland, which would later become a province on the east coast of Canada. He was of Scottish descent; his mother worked as a primary school teacher and his father a Christian minister. Inspired by the town doctor to care for those with limited means, Gushue-Taylor headed to Britain after high school and worked his way (with stipends) through studies at the London Hospital Medical College. With his good looks and expertise in surgery, Dr. Gushue-Taylor could have become a star of the medical profession and moved into high society. His fiancée Margery Miller, however, reminded him that he did not cross the Atlantic Ocean for personal advancement, but to serve those in need as a missionary to places far from civilization. After all, the man she fell in love with and would soon marry was the one who volunteered at the children’s home where she nursed.

At Sin-lâu Hospital in Tainan

Dr. Gushue-Taylor was raised Methodist, but did not mind working for a Presbyterian-managed hospital. Thoroughly vetted by the then Presbyterian Church of England, he and Margery, now married, boarded a ship bound for Taiwan in 1911 to take up positions at Sin-lâu Hospital in Tainan. His annual salary at first was £250, with £50 extra if he could speak Taiwanese. Three years later, he took over as the hospital’s superintendent. Besides medical work, the Gushue-Taylors 1) took care of fellow missionaries, including Hope Moncrieff (with whom they toured Penghu), Campbell Naismith Moody, and Dr. James Young Ferguson; and 2) trained local nurses. Their 1917 publication Lāi Gōa Kho Khàn-hō͘-hak, or The Principles and Practice of Nursing, which Mrs. Gushue-Taylor proofread as a nurse herself, became for Taiwan the most important and accessible reference book in the field of healthcare at the time. The bulk of its text was printed in Peh-ōe-jī, a writing system for Taiwanese derived from the Latin alphabet, with concise illustrations and supplements in English. Owing to this book, many, including one of the carpenters employed by the hospital, were able to practice medicine on geographically delimited licenses.

The Gushue-Taylors went back to Britain in 1918 because of Margery’s illness.

During the eight years in Taiwan, the Gushue-Taylors came to meet lepers and were deeply affected. The couple took pity on the conditions in which the lepers found themselves, and sought to help them, asking, “Is there really nothing we can do?”

Medical Evangelism: Taiwan, 1923

In Britain, the doctor occupied himself by working for (and acquiring) the Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons (F.R.C.S.) and as a faculty member of London Hospital.

Once Margery recuperated, the husband and wife applied again in 1923 to serve in Taiwan, this time as Canadians. They were assigned to Mackay Memorial Hospital in Taipei. Dr. Gushue-Taylor made leprosy care part of his missionary plan, so they detoured to India to visit and learn from Dr. Ernest Muir, who was a well of experience in treating lepers on the Subcontinent. Dr. Gushue-Taylor was much inspired by the fact that, instead of being confined in a hospital, the lepers under Dr. Muir’s care lived openly and self-sustainably on a farming estate.

At Mackay Memorial, Dr. Gushue-Taylor was the superintendent and the first fully trained surgeon based in Taiwan. He used his fluent Taiwanese to converse with the patients and their relatives about medical matters as well as the Gospel. Never would an operation start without Dr. and Mrs. Gushue-Taylor inviting the patient and the relatives to pray with them. The doctor was so strict in surgery preparation, patient care, and ethics (No favors!), that his assistants secretly called him Tè thóo-kong-á, or Taylor the Stone.

Efforts in Public Health

Dr. Gushue-Taylor sought help from the London-based Mission to Lepers to establish a dedicated institution in Taiwan for leprosy prevention and treatment. Its clinic was open every Saturday. The doctor made pamphlets educating the locals about the early signs of leprosy and that the bacteria causing it could be killed by soap water and were nothing to be afraid of. He constantly reminded the patients to watch their routine and to cooperate with the professionals. Without the doctor’s encouragement and other efforts, some patients would have long lost hope between endless injections and slow progress, and some would not have been cured early enough. Dr. Gushue-Taylor produced songs and demonstrations to raise awareness in medical and health matters, and to advocate the consumption of cod liver oil. Out of the hundred patients at the clinic every week, only about a dozen could afford seven days’ worth of medication. The rest the doctor paid out of his own salary and with donations from congregations in Taiwan and Canada.

On Margery’s suggestion, the clinic moved into the old building of Suang Lien Presbyterian Church to accommodate the increasing number of patients and to placate the other visitors and neighbors of Mackay Memorial, which until then hosted the clinic. To minimize the possibility of infection, the clinic’s doors had no knobs or handles and could be pushed open, and the furniture and equipment were painted blue and white to identify which ones were for patient use and which ones were personnel-only. By the nature of his work, Dr. Gushue-Taylor was in close contact with lepers every day. Worried that there would be none other than himself to treat the patients, he often asked Jesus in his prayers for protection against infection. Every year or so, Dr. Gushue-Taylor and a colleague, Dr. Robert Baird McClure, gave each other a thorough health check, and it turned out fine every time. Both thanked the Lord with all their hearts for letting them carry on caring for the patients.

Toward a homestead for lepers

At the time, the public generally dealt with lepers with quarantine and enclosure; death by loneliness, in other words. Dr. Gushue-Taylor disagreed. Like Dr. Muir, he was determined to build a place where lepers were welcome.

He found a suitable spot, a hillside, near Huilong, Xinzhuang, in 1928 for his project. The assent and approval from the Japanese government were duly obtained. The officials, however, announced without prior notice on the eve of groundbreaking that they would appropriate the land for a government-run leprosy hospital, which would be known today as Lo-sheng Sanatorium. Dr. Gushue-Taylor was indignant but did not give up. He kept looking for another location. The Rev. Keh Chuí-lêng provided much support during this period.

One day in 1930, the doctor took the ferry from the town of Tamsui to Bali across the River Tamsui. The peaceful scenery by the waters, with egrets gliding above the river, was the vision that led Dr. Gushue-Taylor to purchase the plot of land in Bali on which the lepers’ dwelling of his dreams would be built.

The townsmen of Tamsui, phobic as they were, still felt that the existence of lepers on the other side of the river would affect their lives and livelihood, and lobbied the Office of the Governor-General to pressure Dr. Gushue-Taylor. The negotiation between the doctor and the notables of Tamsui concluded thus: 1) Yearly growth in the number of patients shall be controlled, e.g. at 20 per annum; 2) No leper on public transport; and 3) The police shall be notified whenever a patient leaves the grounds.

During construction, some were caught trying to steal the building material. Dr. Gushue-Taylor, ever merciful, talked the Japanese policemen out of giving them corporal punishment. The grateful thieves refrained from ripping off the doctor afterwards. The doctor also regularly preached the Good News to the construction workers. Among the hundred of them, usually half showed up, sometimes joined by the mayor of the neighboring village.

Happy Mount: up and running

The manor, which specialized in leprosy care, opened in 1934. Rows and rows of redbrick houses rose up the hill, looking like stories of the same building. The first row was the chapel and the offices. The second row or floor was women’s quarters, and the third was for men. Up to four people may inhabit one house, which was virtually home for them. In this realm of joy and hope, the lepers were no longer forgotten or ostracized.

Dr. Gushue-Taylor named the manor Happy Mount. He wanted it to be a homestead for lepers, and not just another place of treatment. In his words: “What we are building is not a hospital, but a housing estate, which the patients can call their home … and where communal life may be developed.”

Happy Mount, by Dr. Gushue-Taylor’s design, had modern sanitary facilities. Planted on the grounds were Chaulmoogra trees, whose seeds yield oil that was an essential ingredient of leprosy medicine. Work was part of the treatment, too, giving the residents a purpose through cultivation and handcrafting. Happy Mount stood for self-governance, self-support, and enjoyment of life, and the Gushue-Taylors acted as the stewards of this lepers’ homestead where healthy living was achievable.

The Gushue-Taylors also lived on site to avoid embarrassing the citizens, as the residents of Happy Mount were known. The doctor retained his job as Mackay Memorial’s superintendent, and Margery took his place running the manor when he was at work. Dr. Gushue-Taylor resigned from the hospital in 1936 after the husband and wife decided to dedicate themselves to Happy Mount, never to retire back in their native countries but to grow old in Taiwan. With the doctor’s encouragement, the citizens developed into a vivacious society, forming after work bands, choirs, and modern theater troupes, the last of which drew the ire of a major donor, a conservative Canadian church, by performing contemporary plays inside the chapel and being reported on in the papers. The church thought the performances sacrilegious and as a warning almost pulled their $200-a-year.

Forced to leave Taiwan

Taiwan was a Japanese possession before and during World War II. The missionaries, many of them from Allied countries and concerned with the growing political hostility, started leaving Taiwan after the breakout of the war. The Gushue-Taylors resented abandoning their posts, but were forced to in 1940 when the Japanese government accused them of espionage. The couple made sure everything on Happy Mount was in order before their departure, and handed over day-to-day management to Làp Gím-hoe, a Taiwanese nurse and employee. The day they went away, the doctor, already halfway to the port, turned back just to leave his wind coat behind for any citizen that might need it. Dr. Gushue-Taylor continued to serve remote communities back in Canada.

The Gushue-Taylors: Permanent residents of Happy Mount

Margery Gushue-Taylor died in 1953, while post-war Taiwan was going through a regime change. The doctor was by then not in good health, either. On hearing that the property rights of Happy Mount was in jeopardy, though, he rushed back to Taiwan to take care of the situation, and to appoint a consensus candidate to run Happy Mount. He set off for Canada one last time on April 17, 1954, taking a fistful of Happy Mount soil with him, and left the words, “Carry on the Good Deed.” Unfortunately, appendicitis struck him off the coast of Hokkaido, Japan. The ship could not reach the medical help on shore in time, and Dr. Gushue-Taylor died on board. Before he drew his last breath, he told the captain: “Should I be no more, kindly send the remains back to Taiwan. My body belongs there.”

He was cremated in Japan and the ashes interred in Taiwan as he wished. The monument “to the memory of Mr. and Mrs. George Gushue-Taylor, M.D.” can be found today on Taipei Happy Mount Home.

Leprosy had been eradicated from Taiwan, and the citizens were long gone. Happy Mount lives on, with Dr. Gushue-Taylor’s original buildings now housing students with disabilities.

Dong, Ying-yi, and Chen, Xiu-li. Taiwan lai-bing huan-zhe de shou-hu tian-shi : Dai Ren-shou yi-shi chuan = The Formosan angel of lepers : Dr. George Gushue-Taylor. Tainan, Taiwan: Taiwan Church Press, 2010.

ISBN: 9789866331138.

Dr. George Gushue-Taylor wrote The Principles and Practice of Nursing in Peh-ōe-jī, a romanization system for the Taiwanese language. For consistency, historical Taiwanese terms and names in this book are also rendered in Peh-ōe-jī.