Dr. Tillson L. Harrison

By Ma Haide

In the course of the Chinese People’s struggle for national independence and liberation, many international friends, in various ways, gave strong moral and material support and aid to the Chinese people. They stood and fought alongside the Chinese people, making selfless contributions and even sacrificing their lives. During the Chinese people’s war of Resistance against Japan, there were world famous doctors such as Dr. Norman Bethune of Canada and Dr. Dwarakanath Kotnis of India, and in the Liberation War, Dr. Tillson L. Harrison, from Canada. All of them had actively participated in the work of the International Peace Hospitals in China, where they later died at their posts. They were interred in the good earth of China and remain deep in the hearts of the Chinese people too.

In April 1946, Harrison took more than 200 cases of medical supplies to Peiping (Beijing) where he was warmly welcomed and feasted by General Ye Jianying and later Marshal of the People’s Liberation Army, head of the Chinese Communist Executive Department of Military Mediation. It was here that he met me. I was then the Peiping office of China Liberated Relief Association (CLARA) and held long talks and discussion with Dr. Harrison. He asked for permission to inspect the work in the International Peace Hospital in Handan. Later he arrived there in September of the same year, 1946. As a doctor, he was fully aware of the achievements of the hospital which had been working under extremely difficult conditions during the war and lacking medicines, proper facilities and personnel. It also actively promoted health care among the people. All these medical efforts moved him deeply. Upon departing, he promised to bring more supplies in that November to the Liberated Areas. After his return to Shanghai, he made a detailed report to UNRRA’s Shanghai office,China Liberated Relief Association and the China Welfare Fund. Shortly afterwards, 40 tons of medical supplies and cloth were ready for shipping. There were donations collected by UNRRA, CLARA, the China Welfare Fund, the American Red Cross and the Canadian Red Cross. Again, Dr. Harrison undertook the job to escort the supplies personally. On December 4, the train with Dr. Harrison on it pulled out of Shanghai. Because of Kuomintang authorities’ repeated obstructions, harassments and disruptions, Dr. Harrison suffered heavily from cold and hungry. And in the end, physically and mentally over-tired, Dr. Harrison arrived in Zhangqiu on the evening of January 9, 1947 and stayed in the hostel of the international Peace Hospital. Unfortunately he died in the next morning and was found dead in bed. He died at the age of 59. Our people sent his remains back to Kafeng with tears. January 16 saw him buried in a simple ceremony on the campus of a middle school in Kaifeng.

Though I had met Dr. Harrison only once, I was very much impressed by the many touching stories about him and his lofty spirit and dedication.

January 7, 1988 will be the 100th birthday of Dr. Tillson L. Harrison. We just cannot forget his dedicated sacrificing spirit and contribution to the liberation movement of the Chinese people, to the defending peace and to the enhancing friendship between the people of different countries, His image of a staunch international peace fighter will live forever in the hearts of the Chinese people and will be a model for our future generations to emulate.

This fine son of the Canadian people, good friend of the Chinese people and selfless international fighter for peace should be cherished forever in the hearts of all the peoples the world over.

The Article was written by Ma Haide, a friend of Soong Ching Ling

Canadian doctor Tillson Harrison, entrusted by Soong Ching Ling with escorting a large convoy of medical supplies to the Handan International Peace Hospital, died of overwork on the way in January 1947. Picture shows him (back row,3rd from left) with Ye Jianying (back row, 5th from left) and Huang Hua (first row, 1st from right)