Calitumpian Natalie Roy performs as Mrs. Medley for Fredericton's ghost walk.

Ghostly Ministrations
In life, Mrs. Medley was a groundbreaking nurse; in death she still brings her husband, the bishop, his supper.

by Lisa Alward

   It is almost 11 p. m. and a small group is crouched on the darkened lawn in front of Christ Church Cathedral in Fredericton. Their guide, a voluble young man in 19th-century costume, has just set down his lantern when a woman in white flits through the shadows behind him and disappears around the corner of the church. The guide, immersed in telling an anecdote about John Medley, the first Bishop of Fredericton, appears not to have noticed. "Oh," he suddenly adds, "and they say that his wife's ghost has been seen on this very lawn, bringing his dinner to the Cathedral just as she always did. Of course, I've never seen her."
   "This is when someone in the group usually says `but she just walked by!' " explains Natalie Roy of Fredericton's well-known theatre troupe the Calithumpians. A third year Honours English student at St. Thomas University, Ms. Roy has been playing the ghost of Mrs. Medley in the Calithumpians' "Haunted Hikes" through downtown Fredericton for the past three years. On moonlit evenings in summer and early fall, she dons an old-fashioned wedding gown and waits at the edge of the Cathedral Green for her cue - the setting down of the lantern. Then she nimbly crosses the lawn and hides among the tombs at the back of the Gothic-style edifice before taking her bow with the rest of the night's spooks.
   Natalie Roy calls the ghost of Mrs. Medley "the forgotten bride," and notes that since her death nearly a century ago, the spectral veiled figure has been spotted outside and also inside the Cathedral - playing the organ and even standing in the pulpit. Ms. Roy, who describes herself as "a believer," was quite scared the first few times she impersonated the bishop's wife. Even now she often feels "a presence or a spirit in the air" when she hurries across the Cathedral Green in her wedding whites, and she confesses to having even addressed Mrs. Medley's ghost as she waits beside the tombs for the tour to end. "It's like I'm being watched," she says. "The wind is a little heavier."
   The first published account of the ghost of Mrs. Medley appears in Stuart Trueman's book Ghosts, Pirates and Treasure Trove: The Phantoms that Haunt New Brunswick, published in 1975. The local historian, who had apparently heard stories about Mrs. Medley's nightly perambulations, describes his conversation with Christ Church Cathedral's then assistant curate, Reverend David Mercer. The clergyman confirmed that Mrs. Medley had been seen walking up Church Street and entering the Cathedral by the west door; he then commented laconically, "What she does after that, I really don't know."
   Dorothy Dearborn further embellished the legend in her two books, New Brunswick Ghosts, Demons - and Things that go Bump in the Night and New Brunswick Haunted Houses - and Other Tales of Strange and Eerie Events, noting, for example, the ghost's habit of bearing plates of food.
   Both of these authors employ a tongue-in-cheek prose style that makes it difficult to tell whether they think there's anything to this ghost story or not. Indeed, some observers have speculated the whole thing was made up so that the Cathedral could have a "presence" in Stuart Trueman's book. But for those who claim to have seen or heard her, the ghost of Mrs. Medley is very real. Natalie Roy tells of a grieving woman who sought solitary refuge in the Cathedral one night only to be comforted by an older woman. When she mentioned the incident to her priest, however, he expressed great surprise and insisted no one had been in the building at the time but himself. Over the years many a tour guide has also spoken of hearing footsteps and organ notes in the empty church.

   The newspaper coverage of Margaret Medley's death in 1905, at the age of 84, was fulsome in its praise for her many charitable acts. Bishop Medley's widow was eulogized as a "a beautiful Christian character" and "generous giver to all deserving objects" who had "a look of Heaven in her face" and whose life was "an invaluable dowry" to Fredericton's Anglicans. But the details of that life, especially any details about the years before she arrived in New Brunswick, are about as consistent as a well-worn folk tale.
   Mrs. Medley is said to have suffered a tragic love loss in her youth when her fiancé, who was either an army officer or a parliamentarian's son (take your pick), died either in the line of duty or from the emotional stress of a sister's death. She is said to have served as a nurse under Florence Nightingale, possibly even in the Crimean War. But she is also said to have graduated from Nightingale's second nursing class (which would mean that she did her nursing training after nursing for more than a decade). Even the day she died is unclear. While her death certificate is dated February 28, her obituary appeared in The Daily Gleaner a day earlier. (Most sources agree with The Gleaner that she actually died on the 26th).
   Of course, much of this confusion can be attributed to the relaxed record-keeping and creative reporting of the period. British citizens who moved to the colonies in the 19th century could expect to have their previous lives obscured, and this was especially true for women. It certainly doesn't help that Mrs. Medley's doubtless quite extensive correspondence, and the bishop's letters to her, have never surfaced. But the romantic (if sketchy) spin that Mrs. Medley's contemporaries gave to her early life points to something else as well - Margaret Medley was not a conventional 19th-century bishop's wife.
   The woman we know as "Mrs. Medley" was, in fact, Bishop Medley's second wife. John Medley's first bride and the mother of his seven children was Christiana Bacon, whose beautiful effigy hangs in the chancel of St. Thomas' Church, Exeter. The daughter of an eminent Victorian sculptor, Christiana came from a privileged and affluent background not dissimilar to John Medley's own. The two met during Rev. Medley's 17-year ministry in the diocese of Exeter, where he served as vicar of St. Thomas' and later prebendary of Exeter Cathedral. John Medley's family situation was secure and his career on the rise when a series of domestic tragedies prompted him to rethink the course of his life, with dramatic consequences for New Brunswick's Anglican Church.
   In 1839 the Medleys' eldest son, Thomas, died. Two years later, in 1841, Christiana fell prey to consumption, leaving her husband with six children, the youngest (her namesake) an infant of only one year. The family's eldest daughter, Emma, took charge of the household but, in 1843, she died of scarlet fever. John Medley's mother then broke up her household in order to move into the vicarage and look after the children of her beloved only son. But in September 1844, she was killed in a carriage accident. Rev. Medley, who was sitting beside her, was seriously injured and, if not for his firm protestations to the doctor, would have lost an arm. It was in the midst of this intense personal anguish, in October 1844, that he received a letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury offering him the bishopric of New Brunswick.
   While there were political and theological reasons why John Medley chose to exchange the comfortable civility of Exeter for the remote colony of New Brunswick at 41 years of age, there is no question that he was anxious to remove himself from the scene of so much grief. His biographer, W. C. Ketchum, recalls standing on the steamboat wharf on the June day in 1845 when the newly appointed missionary bishop arrived in Fredericton, "accompanied by his chaplain; five of his children, with their governess, and servants." As this is Ketchum's first and last reference to Bishop Medley's domestic arrangements in New Brunswick, one can only assume that the bishop placed a great deal of trust in his paid caregivers and threw himself into the work of building Christ Church Cathedral.
   Interestingly, it wasn't until the spring of 1863 that the bishop (now 59) decided to remarry. After a trip to England, he brought home 42-year-old Margaret Hudson, and the two were wed on June 16 in St. Anne's Church on Campobello Island.
   MMargaret & John Medley, ca. 1860sargaret Hudson was born in 1821 in Carlisle, Cumberland. She was the younger daughter of Commander Edward Charles Hudson of the Royal Navy and appears to have grown up in the village of Crossmead in John Medley's Exeter parish. While the second Mrs. Medley had some upper-class relations and must have been at least middle class, not much else is known about her background. According to her obituary in The Daily Gleaner, she was at one time engaged to a wellpedigreed youth of 23. (Her friend Juliana Horatia Ewing suggests that he was an officer in the army, but the Gleaner contends that he was a son of a member of parliament.) Just before he would have entered holy orders, the man's sister died from what the Victorians termed "a broken blood vessel." "This incident proved a severe blow to the young man," the Gleaner reports, "and while standing at the grave at the time of the funeral the strain became so great upon him that he broke a blood vessel and passed away also." After this melodramatic episode, Margaret Hudson took a rather unusual step for an English gentlewoman in the mid-1800s. Having "promised to devote her life to church work and helping others," she decided to become a nurse.
   Although her obituary suggests that she entered a hospital "under Florence Nightingale," this is highly implausible. Margaret Hudson was only one year older than the Lady with the Lamp. If she nursed for 18 or 20 years before marrying Bishop Medley, she would have had to begin this work in the 1840s when she was in her early twenties - at which time Florence Nightingale was still touring Europe with her sister and only dreaming of an independent career.
   Where and how Margaret Hudson did her nursing training is an interesting question. Before Florence Nightingale opened her famous school in 1860, there were only two training institutions in England. One, founded by Elizabeth Fry in 1840, was the Institution of Nursing Sisters, which accepted Christian women of any denomination, and the other was St. John's House Training Institution for Nurses, which operated under auspices of the Church of England. Juliana Horatia Ewing did "not think she has ever belonged to any order of Sisters," so, if she did have formal instruction, it was most likely at Elizabeth Fry's school. But the reality is that the majority of 19th-century nurses learned their trade on the job from the other hospital nurses. Moreover, before Nightingale made nursing a respectable profession, the women o turned to nursing were generally not from the middle classes or the gentry. Nurses, especially those known as "pauper nurses," were uneducated, lacking in skill and poorly paid. They were frequently depicted in the English press as drunken and immoral. Nursing would have been a giant step down for most young ladies.
   Margaret Hudson may have accompanied Florence Nightingale to the Crimea; Mrs. Ewing mentions that she "nursed in the King's Cross Hospital in London - the Hotel de Dieu in Paris - & somewhere else abroad - I have forgotten where." But what makes her an intriguing figure is that her personal development so closely mirrors Nightingale's own. In other words ds, instead of responding to Nightingale's impassioned call to middle-class women to take up nursing in the 18606, she was already quietly pursuing the profession at the same time as Nightingale and probably even earlier. She was a professional career woman in an age when most unmarried middle-class girls stayed home and nursed their parents.
   John Medley and Margaret Hudson met long before his trip to England in 1863. Ketchum describes her in his biography as "a close friend of the Bishop and (the first) Mrs. Medley" who "kept in touch with them by correspondence" and even "took charge" of Christiana's grave. From the start, their union appears to have b: been extremely comfortable and close. The new Mrs. Medley embraced the climate of New Brunswick with the same enthusiasm as her husband, and their wedding trip consisted of a walk about Campobello Island and a week's stay at the home of its resident clergyman. In May of the following year, the bishop purchased Bishopscote on Church Street where the two resided until their deaths in 1892 and 1905, respectively.
   Our most intimate glimpse of Bishop and Mrs. Medley is found in her friend Mrs. Ewing's letters to her mother, collected in Margaret Howard Blom's and Thomas E. Blom's Canada Home: Juliana Horatia Ewing's Fredericton Letters, 18671869. The 26-year-old Victorian children's author and her husband, Captain Alexander Ewing, were much taken with their. "Episcopal Family," and the feeling was mutual. "We see them constantly," Mrs. Ewing writes to England: "they ask us in perpetually to wittles of some kind, & send us vegetables and flowers."
   Of Mrs. Medley, she says, "She is almost as great a character as he is & in a way as clever. She is a great gardener & a botanist & lithographs a little & seems generally clever & well educated," adding that Mrs. Medley "horrified the natives here by administering chloroform on her own responsibility when she 1st came but now she says the doctors ask her to come & give it for them during operations &c. &c. She considers herself a good ladies' doctor & is amusingly professional." In another letter, Mrs. Ewing writes, "She was a confirmed pickle & tomboy in her youth - grew up a beauty, a rider, skater &c. before the 20 years in hospital. She mayn't skate here as she is Bishopess, but I think she regrets the fact! I told you how she bolted over the churchyard gate one day?" Later, she calls Mrs. Medley (who would have been 46), "a dear old thing & very amusing & as lively as 10 larks."
   The picture of the Medleys that emerges is that of a caring, if occasionally indomitable, partnership. Mrs. Ewing writes, "They are such a good, funny, quaint looking pair!" yet comments in another letter that "the Medleys are rather severe critics, if anything." Captain Ewing pu this quality of severity in a rather less flattering light when he glibly sums them up as "very `tribey' and like ourselves."
   The Medleys certainly appeared to think and act as one mind, occasionally causing Mrs. Ewing some minor irritation. Complaining of the bishop's "little despotic way," she recounts how the two attempted to deter her from holding a choir tea for fear that it might make her ill. "Having been a nursing sister for 20 years," she remarks, "poor Mrs. M. does not take easily to `parties' They generally knock her up, I believe, & so the Bishop, who knows nothing about it, thinks a plain choir tea is the most awful undertaking. He says it takes 3 women & Mrs. Medley."
   Margaret Medley, in particular, seems to have viewed the younger couple as a project. She promised to keep a "motherly eye" over Juliana who was of a frail constitution, showering her with flowers, food and drives in the country. She even lent her a scarlet petticoat for winter and helped her wallpaper a room in her rented home on George Street. But Mrs. Medley had many projects. As Mrs. Ewing's letters reveal, she was forever attending the sick, delivering food to the poor and instructing Fredericton's young. Indeed, this native practicality, along with deep religious commitment and a love of church music, was what she shared most with her husband.
   John Medley was a high-church Anglican whose feet were firmly on the ground, as"expressed in his many writings about the "practical truths" of Gothic architecture. He changed the look of New Brunswick's Anglican churches but with an eye to the pragmatic value of creating spaces that would bring congregations closer to God. Both Medleys, in their way, can be seen as proponents of new Victorian sciences. While the bishop spread ecclesiology (the practical science of church architecture) throughout his diocese, his wife instilled the practical teachings of her 20 years in the relatively unheard-of profession of nursing. This sense of their twinned missionary purpose must have bound them together ever more deeply.
   Of all Mrs. Medley's projects, the Sunday school mission at Morrison's Mills was the most far-reaching in its effects. According to the present rector of St. Margaret's Church, Rev. Canon Jon Lownds, Mrs. Medley was very concerned about the families of mill workers who lived in company housing along a stretch of the St. John River known as Salamanca or "The Mills." In the early 1870s, John Medley bought her a schoolhouse and she began giving Sunday school lessons to mill children who would otherwise have had little exposure to scripture. A stockadestyle building originally used as a post office, the "Old School House by the Side of the Road," quickly became the heart of the mill workers' community, and before long Bishop Medley was sending his trainees and curates down to preach Sunday services. Gradually, over time, Mrs. Medley's Sunday school mission became a Chapel of Ease and ultimately the parish church of the parish of St. Margaret's.
   St. Margaret's (affectionately named for its first benefactress) has moved twice since its founding, but the school house Bishop Medley purchased is still visible on the side of the Lincoln Road. In the new St. Margaret's Church on Forest Hill Road, Rev. Lownds points to a weathered wooden plaque with the painted message "God Bless Our Sunday School." On the back, it reads: "Given by Mrs. Medley to the Sunday School of Morrison's Mill, Fredericton, November 1874."
   Mrs. Medley's many good works beg the question: why would a happy, active woman like the wife of Fredericton's first bishop need to haunt Christ Church Cathedral? If there is any substance to this ghost story, the answer must lie in Mrs. Medley's final years.
   This photo of Mrs. Medley at Christ Church Cathedral in Fredericton is believed to have been taken on the day of her husband's funeral on Sept. 9, 1892.Margaret Medley outlived her husband by over a decade, and for the last decade or so of his own life, the bishop was in very poor health. Rev. Barry Craig, rector of St. Mary's Church and a professor of Philosophy at St. Thomas University who did his doctoral thesis on Bishop Medley, explains that Rev. Tully Kingdon was brought over from England to be a coadjutor bishop in the expectation that John Medley would soon retire. Bishop Medley, however, kept delaying his retirement. Rev. Craig says that Bishop Kingdon made "some tart comments" in his correspondence about Mrs. Medley meddling in church affairs, and that he eventually concluded that the bishop's wife was the one running the diocese. There was, Rev. Craig remarks, "no love lost" between Mrs. Medley and Bishop Kingdon.
   Rev. Craig also suggests that Mrs. Medley was quite disappointed with W.C. Ketchum's biography of her husband, which appeared the year after his death in 1893. Although she supplied Ketchum with many of his primary sources, she apparently felt the book failed to highlight Bishop Medley's connections to "the big wheels of the Victorian world." Rev. Craig explains that most colonial bishops did their stints in the "wilderness" only to return to England where they were lionized for the rest of their days. Bishop Medley sacrificed all this by staying in New Brunswick, and his widow wanted future generations to appreciate what a celebrated figure he would have been if he had gone home.
   And so another image of Mrs. Medley emerges - that of a lonely old woman, fiercely protective of her late husband's ' reputation and frustrated by her loss of influence over the practical affairs of her world. Certainly, it's easier to picture the spirit of this Mrs. Medley returning to the Cathedral after dark to minister to the needy or deliver her own sermons from the pulpit.
   Canon Jon Lownds of St. Margaret's Church says he likes to compare Mrs. Medley with the saint she was probably named for, Saint Margaret of Scotland. He observes that the unconventional saint who "made almsgiving into a high art" had a concern for the poor and sick that was as practical as Margaret Medley's own. "One thing is certain," Father Jon muses: "If there is a ghost of Mrs. Medley, she'd be carrying someone a plate of food rather than just hanging around an empty building." `
   Lisa Alward is a Fredericton freelance writer. She would like to thank all those who helped with the research for this article, including Twila Buttimer. of the Provincial Archives and Margaret Pacey of the Legislative Library. Word count: 3,586