McCrae House

McCrae House

McCrae House in Guelph, Ontario,  Canada is the birthplace of Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae.  He is known for his famous poem "In Flanders Fields" which he composed the day after the death of a friend from battle field injuries. It was published originally in the December 1915 issue of Punch magazine and partly due to his poem the poppy has become the symbol of Remembrance Day.  

Birthplace of John McCrae in Guelph

John McRae received his medical degree from the University of Toronto in 1898 and did further training in Toronto and at John Hopkins in Baltimore. He postponed his fellowship in pathology at McGill to serve with the Canadian forces in South Africa during the Boer war.

After completing further training at McGill and in England he returned to Montreal and private practice.  During this time he also taught, conducted research and contributed to several medical textbooks including Osler's Modern Medicine.  He had many other interests outside of medicine and in his spare time he wrote poetry,  sketched, and explored the Canadian north by canoe. This would all end with the outbreak of World War 1.


John McCrae                                   John McCrae and Bonfire

He volunteered and was appointed Brigade-Surgeon to the First Brigade of the Canadian Forces Artillery and was involved in treating the wounded from trench warfare and gas attacks.  It was during this time that he wrote  "In Flanders Fields" and through his letters we know that he struggled with the human cost of war.  The poem has become an enduring tribute to the sacrifices that were made then and continue to be made now.

Throughout  1917 he suffered recurrent bronchitis and flare-ups of his childhood asthma which culminated in pneumonia in January 1918. This lead to admission to a British army hospital where he died from pneumonia and meningitis.

The following is a link to moving musical version of his poem and the limestone cottage in the video is his birthplace which is now a museum that celebrates the many sides of the man.  It is well worth a visit.