by COLIN FARRELL
Special to the Wreckhouse Weekly
PORT AUX BASQUES – Robert “Bob” McGrath started his professional career in Port aux Basques in 1960, when he and wife, Sheilagh, moved to the region so that he could take over as manager of the Cabot Drugstore.
McGrath would remain in that position until 1963, when he and his wife opened their own business, McGrath’s Rexall Drug Store. They later expanded their business to include a medical centre. When he wasn’t running his own business, Bob also served as a part-time pharmacist at the Dr. Charles L. LeGrow Health Centre.
Before moving to the province’s west coast to set up shop, he and his wife made their home in St. John’s.
“I was a hospital pharmacist at the old general (hospital) from 1956-1960,” explained Bob. “That’s why, when I went to Port aux Basques, they had me to take over the dispensary at the hospital, which never had a pharmacist. So I did that for quite a number of years before we got the accreditation for the hospital, whereby we were able to hire a full-time pharmacist.”
Bob was actively involved with the local business community, serving for 19 years on the Port aux Basques and Area Chamber of Commerce, including serving two of those years as President. Outside of work, he was heavily involved in the community as a member of the local Toastmasters Club, the Channel-Port aux Basques Royal Canadian Legion, and also the local heritage society. He even ran for the PC Party in 1968 against Don Jamieson.
Along with his brother-in-law John Battcock, McGrath supported many of the athletic clubs in the area such as bowling, darts and softball. He also became involved with the Port aux Basques Lions Club.
“Everyone, in fact the previous pharmacist before me was a member of the Lions Club in Port aux Basques,” said McGrath. “(From) 1960-1979 in the Port aux Basques Lions Club, and then I came to St.John’s and transferred from Port aux Basques to the St.John’s Lions Club, and I’m still a member some 40 years later.”
The organization recently awarded Bob with his 60-year service pin.
“The amazing thing about it is the chap who presented me was the District Governor (Michael Foote), and after the meeting his father was with him. He said ‘Bob I remember you 48 years ago when you came down to Burgeo to charter a new Lions Club in Burgeo.’”
Bob and Sheilagh remained in Port aux Basques until 1979, when the couple sold their business and moved back to St. John’s. McGrath ended his 43-year career in 1994 when he retired from Lawton’s Drugs in St. John’s.
“I started of with Lawton’s on Bell Island in 1951.”
Throughout his career, McGrath has received numerous accolades, including the Bowl of Hygeia Award in 1991, presented to top pharmacists across Canada in recognition of their community service.
“So that got us a free trip to Philadelphia,” shared Bob. “I saw the Liberty Bell and all these good places.”
He has also been made an honorary lifetime member of the Pharmacists’ Association of Newfoundland and Labrador.