Margaret Arkinstall was born on February 2, 1906 in Scotland, the daughter of a Congregational minister, George Watt Smith, PhD, and his wife, Florence Kippax. Her father earned his doctorate of Divinity for his research and a book on Dr. David Livingston. Margaret spent her early years in the Scottish community of Glengarry County, Ontario. Pursuing her education, she obtained her medical degree from the U of T in 1930, then interned in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.
She married Dr. William Arkinstall, a Queen’s graduate in 1931, and together they settled in Hearst, Ontario, a frontier English/ French northern town whose economy depended on the railway and pulp industry. The hospital was operated by the United Church Missionary Society. While the Arkinstalls saw themselves as missionaries, they were responsible for their own income. Dr. Margaret documented their time in the north with the book, Pioneer Partners at St. Paul’s, selling some 2000 copies.
The couple remained in Hearst for fourteen years, participating in the town life, the church and hospital development. In 1945, the family moved to Kapuskasing, and shortly after Dr. Bill relocated their practices to a farm near of Newmarket, Ontario. Dr. Bill was a pioneer surgeon in Hearst, but was always a farmer at heart. Margaret practiced in Newmarket for over 20 years as a family doctor, particularly active in obstetrics. Well into her eighties, she volunteered in the seniors’ care home and at Canadian citizenship ceremonies. She opened her own home to take in a large family of Vietnamese refugees in 1979 for a year. She was active lifelong in the community, the United Church and community theatre, helping start the Queensville Players. A park has been named after her In Newmarket and she was named the first Citizen of the Year of East Gwillimbury. In 1997 a church window was dedicated to Dr. Margaret and her husband in the Hearst United Church. In January 2000, she was awarded the Order of Canada, a fitting tribute to her life. She died on October 6, 2001, aged 95; survived by 4 children.
Submitted by William (6T3) and Karin Arkinstall and Peter Kopplin (6T3)
Awards and Honours
Order of Canada, January 2000.