Cowra in Days Gone Bye by J C Ryall 10/ (Pages 119 to 134)

Published 20 July 1928


Cowra District Hospital.

The initial movement to establish a Hospital in Cowra dates from 1881. The old Police Barracks in Mulyan was renovated and shelter for a few patients was made. Some eight years after a Hospital Committee came into being, the Government granted the present site and £500, and portion of the present. Buildings were erected with accommodation for eight patients. About 1893 an epidemic of diptheria was responsible for the old isolation wards immediately at the rear of the main block; a kitchen and one bath room were added. The nursing staff consisted of a married couple. In 1896 regular nursing began with a Matron and two assistant Nurses. Some years after the Nurses’ Quarters were used by the Nurses were converted into additional wards.


Next an operating theatre was built. Operations up to this time were performed in the passage behind the entrance hall. A few years ago an independent isolation block was put up, and at the time the present additions were begun, the Hospital could accommodate about 16 to 18 patients. At the annual meeting of members in 1925 the Committee was commissioned to go into the question of additional accommodation, and proceed with the work. Architects’ opinion was obtained and the present plans arrived at. Now the institution has 50 beds available, and with the sleep-out verandah more could be added.A special Children’s Ward with 7 beds and basinette is part of the new additions.


To-day the Hospital compares very favourably with institutions of similar capacity, and is quite equal to any ordinary demands likely to be made on it for some time to come. The renovated Hospital has accommodation for 50 patients, and the isolation ward has room for 20. One naturally asks how long this may meet the requirements of the district. In 1890 the daily average was 3 to 4. In 1912 the accommodation was for 16 patients and the daily average 10. The female accommodation then and thereafter being totally inadequate to meet the demand. In 1922 the daily average was 16, and in 1927 was 19.


Thus the daily average in 15 years increased by 9, and it may be assumed, allowing for even greater increase in the demands, the present Hospital would easily meet. all the calls for the next 20 years.


The New Wards

The building of the Wyangala Dam, it is said, is about to commence, and of course that means a large staff of men within 20 miles of Cowra, and whether the road is from Cowra or Woodstock, all the sick and injured will find their way to the Cowra Hospital. Wi th the great increase in the beds made available by the extensions there will always be plenty of room for all the patients likely to be brought from Wyangala. The Cowra District Hospital, from a hygienic standpoint, leaves nothing to be desired; as it is situated on a high, commanding position, and has accordingly a sound sanitary area surrounding it.


The new wards, both male and female, are equipped with modern furniture t and, as the Hospital is one of the most up-to-date operating theatres in the State, fitted with a system of lighting as is installed in Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, every facility is afforded for treatment of surgical cases by day or night. The new Childrens’ Ward opens up an avenue long wanted and should give a sense of mental security to patients to be treated, where fresh air, combined with warmth, are essential. The limitations of the Hospital are few, but with the advent of time one may see these remedied. They are absence of (1) Full size X-ray apparatus; (2) pathological Laboratory.


For the efficient working and management of a Hospital from a great London to a small Cottage, such as some remember Cowra to have possessed, “team work” between the Committee, the Medical, Nursing, and domestic personnel, is essential; the spirit of co- operation and mutual help, with an elastic measure of give and take by all, should combine to further the greatest efficiency in the treatment of the patients themselves, which should be the high ideal of all concerned with an institution devoted to the care of the sick. The patient himself must be considered as the pivot around whom the whole working of a Hospital revolves, and all feelings of self amongst a staff have to submerged into working in common for his welfare.


The Cowra District Hospital attempts, it is hoped not unsuccessfully, that ideal of the patient being first, last and always the only consideration, and the working staff daily becomes more seized with the fact that one portion of it cannot do full justice to itself without the efficient aid of another section. The people of Cowra can look upon their local Hospital as one whose staff are resolutely daily trying to attain as nearly as humanly possible the high objectives of kindly, safe and thorough treatment of the sick. To attain such common end, all–Staff, Committee, and public– have to work so as to feel they have given their best to the institution. The Committee in carrying out the commission entrusted to them are now in the position to hand over the building with all wards refurnished free of debt, but find their resources sorely taxed, and are faced with the question of carrying on with a depleted treasury.


In this connection, at the opening I by Sir Neville Howse, V.C., M.H.R” on the 25th instant, the people of Cowra and district will be given an opportunity to assist their own institution, and it is hoped that the response will be generous.



Published 27 July 1928


 The Origin of our Hospital.

When I first made the acquaintance of Cowra in February, 1878, the population of Cowra and district was not sufficiently large to induce a legally qualified medical practitioner to settle here. Shortly before my arrival Dr. Riley, a member of the old school of medicine, gave the place a trial for a month or so, and he then departed a poorer and a wiser man than when he made his debut. Then an individual styling himself “Dr, Cherry,” whose qualifications were questionable, inasmuch as he was not furnished with surgical instruments of any kind, and furthermore, he was careful to avoid writing a prescription. At all events, his callers were so few and far between that he was not afforded any opportunity to make many dupes. He disappeared as suddenly and as mysteriously as he made his entree.


About the same time Mr. Charles J. Lewin, M.P.S., opened a pharmacy, in the premises now occupied by Mr. Jackson, confectioner, that is before the place was remodelled. This gentleman, in the hope that the town would improve kept going for a couple of years, and then he disposed of his business to Mr. W.F. Leeder, a Grenfell chemist, and departed to conduct a business in the city.


 Dr. Francis Pym Flockton

In the meantime came an eccentric individual who styled himself Dr. Francis Pym Flockton, and who boasted that he was the son of a Church of England clergyman, and had six brothers all of them qualified medical men. This man certainly should have had some knowledge of medicine, seeing that he was what is termed a “Three Years Man,” which means that out of a five years course he had completed three years. I gleaned from his fragmentary recitals concerning his early life–I say fragmentary because this eccentric character was so restless that he could not be persuaded to converse on only subject for mere than a couple of minutes, and even then he was continously on the move.


When he had been three years walking the hospitals he was seized with an ambition to serve his Queen and Country in the Army r so he purchased a commission in a crack cavalry regiment. After serving as a warrior for a brief period, experience taught him that without a substantial private income, in addition to his pay, his status as an officer and a gentleman would suffer to such an extent as to make the position unendurable. This was more than a man of his temperament could stand, so he sold his commission and after marrying an English lady, he resolved to proceed to New South Wales in quest of fortune. Finding that he was utterly incompetent to fill any available position in the city, he decided to wander afield, thus he came to Cowra with his wife.


At that time Cowra was a very insignificant place, with a population of about 50 or 60 souls. Some kindly, sympathetic residents, more out of pity for Flockton’ s wife, erected a crude habitation on the flat near the river as a shelter for the couple.


At the outset Flockton assumed all the airs and graces of a fully fledged ‘medico, and succeeded in impressing the unsophisticated denizens of the place with a sense of his importance. As there was no medical men within a radius of 35 miles of the little village, he was afforded ample scope to ply his calling, and for a time, while he curbed his passion (a fondness for alcohol) he managed to earn more than a bare crust. His success in the treatment of a few simple cases, purely with the aid of household remedies, won for him a reputation which was the means of bringing grist to the mill. After the death of his wife, the very eccentric individual was dependent upon various residents for an occasional meal and shelter. although his services in a medical capacity were frequently enlisted, his recompense never exceeded a few shillings, and that was soon passed over the bar for stimulants.


He was not a man who imbibed until he became helpless, neither was he one who would breast the bar for an interminable period, nor would he hang about hotels in quest of a stray glass. His invariable practice was to dash off his draught hurriedly and then pace about the streets until seized with a desire to have another cup. He was a being who never read a newspaper or book, hence he knew nothing of current events or present-day literature. He was only known once to attempt to write a prescription, and it was so crude and meaningless as to be utterly valueless. His surgical instruments comprised a pocket-knife, a small packing needle and some thread, and his stock of medicaments included. a small bottle of croton oil, Epsom salts and castor oil, and he relied on mustard plasters and hot baths as remedies for outward application.


In surgery he vas wholly at sea, and knew nothing whatever regardinq antiseptic precautions. On one occasion I happened to be present when a lad of about 18 years of age was brought to him with a severed great toe , an injury which had been sustained while sinking post-holes with a bar, termed a spud. The toe was only attached to the foot by a narrow strip of skin. Flockton set to work with a basin of warm water, which was not  particularly clean, and dirty grubby hands and clothes in the same condition, to cleanse the injury. There was no attempt at sterilisation. After drying the toe and wound, the would-be surgeon withdrew from his pocket a small packing needle with a turned point and some filthy thread. he then seized the detached toe and passed the needle and thread through its edge and then proceeded to endeavour to re-unite the severed portion with the foot.


The bare idea of using an anaesthetic or dope was repudiated with scorn. Finally after much trouble on the part of Flockton, and the endurance of excruciating pain by the victim, which was accelerated through the tearing away of sound flesh owing to the unskilful manipulation of the needle by Flockton, the detached toe was placed in its original position.


Flockton, then gazing on his work admiringly, utterly regardless of the pain he was causing the poor patient, swayed the toe to the right first and then to the left with a view to straightening it. He then remarked in a self-conscious manner: “An excellent bit of work. heal with the first intention.” We later ascertained that, in consequence of the decay of the severed toe and the septic condition of the wound, the lad had to be taken to the Carcoar Hospital for treatment.


The Dislocated Shoulder Episode

On another occasion a man was brought to Flockton with a dislocated shoulder. Flockton on seeing the man remarked: “We will soon set that right.” He then called. in four men off the street, and after directing his patient to divest himself of his clothing ordered him to prostrate himself on the floor. This was followed by each of the men pulling a limb of the prostrate man with all his might. Between the agonised yells of the unfortunate patient and the encouraging shouts of Flockton, the uproar can be readily imagined. Needless to say the effort was futile. Dr. E. Smi tb, when on one of his periodic visits from Carcoar, later adjusted the dislocated shoulder in the course of a couple of minutes.


There is another instance of the incompetence which should be mentioned, inasmuch as it evidences that at times he was a menace to the reputation and even liberty of law-abiding citizens. It refers to a man who, while in a state of intoxication, met with a number of falls from his horse while riding in front of an outside hostelry. After the final fall the man vomited a quantity of greenish fluid, and thus died. This Flockton averred was caused through the liquor the man had imbibed having been adulterated with bluestone.


At the inquest next day Dr. Stred, of Grenfell, deposed that death was due to a rupture of the gall bladder, hence the green fluid. At times Flockton had an irritating and offensive manner, and was most vindictive. In those days the Catholic Priests stationed at Carcoar used to visit Cowra to celebrate Mass monthly, and later fortnightly, and on these occasions Dr. Smith, of Carcoar, visited Cowra professionally. Flockton, through his lengthy association with the district, evidently concluded that he had acquired an exclusive right to the medical practice here, hence whenever Dr. Smith came here he held. that that gentleman was poaching on his (Flockton’s) preserves. Thus, the visits referred to irritated him and roused him to an intense pitch of excitement. He gave vent to his feelings by walking backwards and forwards in front of the Royal Hotel (Dr. Smith’s place of call) and exclaiming in stentorian tones: “The son of a ——German butcher. I am an English gentleman, the son of a Church of England clerqyman , and I have six brothers who are doctors with good practices in England. This is my field, and I will beat you yet.” Dr. Smith had too much good sense to take any notice of a man who could hardly be held responsible for his actions or utterances.




Legal Proceedings

My Canowindra correspondent in one of his contributions to the “Free Press” characterised Flockton as a quack. This so infuriated the old man he determined to have revenge, and with that end in view he instructed Mr. E. W  S . North, a drunken Carcoar solicitor, and son of the Carcoar-Cowra Police Magistrate, to take proceedings in the Small Debts Court against me for slander, Ten Pounds being claimed as damages. On the day of the hearing there were no less than twenty Magistrates on the Bench. I defended myself personally, and succeeded in completely outwitting North, who evidently relied upon me to prove his case. I declined to make any admissions of an incriminating character, hence the case broke down at the outset, much to the chagrin of North and his prejudiced father.


I regarded that act of Flockton’s as one of base ingratitude, because I pitied the old man and frequently assisted him in time of need. Possibly North had a finger in the pie, and relied on a verdict to obtain a share of the plunder. Some year’s later Flockton went to Canowindra to reside, and later to Euqowra where he died.


Published 3 August 1928

                                                             Need for Hospital

In 1878 some of the new arrivals in the town, who had families, declined to regard Flockton’s medical pretensions seriously, and the bare idea of a qualified medical man being 35 miles away was deplorable, hence a number of them entered into a bond, guaranteeing a’ a medical man a given sum for twelve months. In response to an advertisement there were several eligible applicants, and a practitioner whose name I cannot recall was appointed. He was here, however, only a week or so when he suddenly resolved to proceed to Narrabri, where the inducements offered wereconsidered to be more advantageous. Dr. Harrison, having agreed to fill the breach, be came here with his wife, and having secured the cottage now occupied by Mrs. J E. Taylor, as a residence, he remained here for twelve months, the term  agreed upon. He was an unobtrusive individual, who made few friends: and took no interest whatever in local affairs.


Dr. J. Rutherford Ryeley, some time later came here from Grenfell, where he had for some time “looked upon the wine when it was red.” When he came here he was still suffering from over indulgence: and a week later he left for Mudgee in a Maudlin condition, where a month later he committed suicide. Dr Burgoyne, another unsteady Grenfell medico, started visiting here spasmodically, but domestic trouble, after a brief run, brought his association with Cowra to an abrupt close. In the meantime, through the columns of the “Free Press”, I dwelt upon the advantages to be derived from founding a public hospital, and as an inducement pointed out that all funds contributed towards the building of such an institution would be liberally subsidised by the Government , and that the funds would be further supplemented by unclaimed impounding fees, etc.



         Later in my capacity as hon. sec. to the Progress Association I sought and obtained permission to apply to the Government to dedicate a site for hospital purposes, and the present site is the result. By repeated appeals I was at length successful in making the hospital movement a live issue, and that despite the discouraging influences of pessimists who regarded action in that direction as premature. Through the efforts of the Progress Association, of which I was the guiding element, good headway was made in connection with the initiatory steps in respect to establishing a hospital.


Before proceeding further it occurs to me that the readers of the “Free Press” may gain a better idea of the progressive strides that have been made in respect to medical requirements and hospital stabilising since 1878 in proper sequence as nearly as possible.



The Flockton period with all its disabilities, Mr. C.J. Lewin opened a pharmacy in the premises now occupied by Mr. Jackson confectioner , which was then in its original form. Dr E.R. Smith, of Carcoar visited here at stated intervals. To treat urgent cases he had to be summoned from Carcoar, 35 miles distant, when the customary travelling fee had to be paid. Dr. Burgoyne, of Grenfell, also visited here, but only spasmodically.



In response to an advertisement in the “Free Press” a number of townsmen assembled in public meeting agreed to guarantee a medical practitioner a given income for twelve months. Out of a number of applicants who saw the advertisement regarding the matter in the City Press , Dr. Harrison was selected, and came to reside here in January, 1880. Finding that his income was not equal to the sum guaranteed, Dr. Harrison called upon the guarantors at the end of the year to make good the deficiency, and this was done by each of those concerned contributing a proportion to the number of his family. Dr Harrison left Cowra a few weeks later.


Through the “Free Press” I personally pointed out that the first step in securing the services of a medical man on a permanent basis was the establishment of a hospital. As an initiatory measure I sought and obtained the authority of the Progress Association to select a site for a hospital. This done I applied through Mr Andrew Lynch, M.L.A., to the Lands Department to grant and dedicate the selected site. This followed in due course.



At a public meeting held at the instance of the Progress Association towards the close of the year I submitted to the meeting a mass of information I had collected from various sources relating to hospitals, and this was considered sufficiently satisfactory to warrant the appointment of a committee to take preliminary measures to establish such an institution, under the presidency of Mr. John H. Turner, manager of the Joint Stock Bank.



         Fair progress was being made in Hospital matters when Dr. F.P, Bartlett, then quite a young man, came to Cowra as medical examiner for the Mutual Assurance Society of Victoria, with Mr. Fincher, the Co.’s representative, in June. In July a delegation of ladies, headed by Mesdames D.C.J. Donnelly, J.H. Turner, and W. P. Mylecharane interviewed the young medico, and urged him to commence the practice of his profession in Cowra. As an inducement, it was incidentally mentioned that an effort was being made to found a hospital here. Time was given Dr. Bartlett to gain an opinion of the district before giving a definite reply. That reply came a week later, and was in effect that if he were given a positive assurance, that every reasonable effort was being made to establish a hospital, he was prepared to comply with the wishes of the delegation. At a special meeting of the recently elected hospital committee, held two days after Dr. Bartlett had communicated his decision, it was resolved to endeavour to secure premises for a temporary hospital, and a sub-committee was appointed to take immediate action.


That body eventually in consultation with Dr. Bartlett decided to make habitable the old mounted patron barracks on the Canowindra Road, near the Riverview Subdivision. The use of the deserted building having been granted by the Police Department, Dr Bartlett as authorised to supervise the remodelling of the structure so as to make it serve as an asylum for the sick. At a meeting of the committee held in September, Mr and Mrs John Simpson were appointed Wardsman and Matron. At that meeting Dr. Bartlett announced that he had obtained the use of a room for a surgery from Messrs. D. C. J. Donnelly and Co., hence he had commenced his practice here. He also reported. that satisfactory headway was being made with the conversion of the police Barracks into a temporary hospital and he believed that fairly comfortable quarters for the Wardsman and Matron, in addition to the sick, would result.


Towards the end of September the Wardsman and Matron were duly installed and the vastly improved old building was in readiness for the reception of patients. Through special appeals and sundry entertainments sufficient funds were raised to meet the cost of repairs, providing beds and other furnit.ure , in addition to supplies for the embryotic institution.



It being evident that the Hospital as an institution had come to stay, the committee determined to make an effort to erect a structure of a more permanent and suitable character than the very antiquated and ill adapted building then in use. Accordingly the secretary was instructed to apply to the Government, through our members, Messrs. A. Lynch and E.A. Baker, for a special grant of £500 for building purposes, in the course of a few days a reply came to hand stating that the sum applied for would be available on the customary conditions, £ for every £ locally raised. This was an incentive to take immediate action, so it was resolved to proceed with the essential preliminaries, Mr. W.E. Simpson, C’. P  S., who had served as a licensed surveyor for many years, undertook to prepare a design for a brick cottage hospital, the estimated cost of which would be within the means of the committee. At the meeting of the committee held in February the Wardsman and Matron tendered their resignation, owing to the failing health of the Wardsman, and at an adjourned meeting of the commmittee Mrand Mrs. John McDowell, of Sydney were appointed to the vacant position, on the strong recommendation of Mr. F.B. Freehill, a former much esteemed townsman, who took an active part in the initial stages of the Hospital movement. Mr. and Mrs. McDowell, who had had some experience in Hospital work in Ireland, entered on their duties in March.


The treasurer I at the monthly meeting of the committee re- ported the receipt of £110 being the nett proceeds of a concert and public picnic held towards the close of the preceding year. In July, at a special meeting of the subscribers, Messrs. John Pring (Crowther), Thomas Walsh, and Joseph Charles Lyall were elected trustees of the area at the corner of Brisbane and Liverpool streets, which had been dedicated as a site for a public Hospital. Mr. Pring was chosen in recognition of his having been a very generous donor to the funds. It will not be out of place here to point out that liberal donations to the funds of the Hospital at the outset of the movement were few and. far between. a feeling prevailed that any action taken here to found a Hospital was antagonistic to the Carcoar institution, hence should be discountenanced.


These people had become so accustomed. to Cowra being regarded as a mere off-shoot of Carcoar, that they either sternly opposed. or; refused point blank to t.ake part in any movement having for its objective the bringing into being of any institution which could be- construed into an interference with the assumed vested rights of thethen chief town of the electorate. Amongst this section of the community may be mentioned such large property owners as Messrs. G. Campbell, I.J Sloan, and other s of a similar status. When however, it was found that institutionss could be established without their assistance they gradually threw off their allegiance to Carcoar and joined forces with the new progressive party.


We refer to this phase of affairs with the object of conveying to our readers an approximate idea of the obstacles and difficulties those engaged in founding the Hospital and other movements in the early days of the “Free Press”, Cowra had to face and. overcome. Our village, as it was then styled on the official maps, was certainly small and insignificant, but the surrounding country possessed abundant natural resources and all the elements essential to prosperity, hence it was only reasonable that those who saw eye to eye with me should endeavour to bring the place into prominence. That we succeeded in raising it from the obscurity to a plane few of the old residents ever dreamed of its attaining is ample compensation for a vigorous and strenuous struggle.


 We will now, resume our recital of the Hospital movement.





I have omitted to mention that the first regular annual meeting of subscribers was held in January, when all the original office-bearers were re-elected. The report of the Medical Officer (Dr. Bartlett) showed that a much larger number of patients had been admitted and treated than had been anticipated. There were no complaints, and matters were progressing most satisfactorily, despite the unsuitable character of the building and the inexperience of the nursing staff. The fees paid by patients were found to be short of the actual cost of their treatment and maintenance. In view of the make-shift nature of the building in use as a temporary Hospital, it was considered expedient to increase the rate of fee. It was further held that a Hospital was primarily intended to serve the needs of the sick and poor.


Tenders for the erection of a fence to enclose the site recently dedicated by the Government were called in February and four months later the contract was completed. About June or July a large assortment of shade trees were procured from the Curator of the Botanical Gardens, Sydney, and the work of planting these trees was undertaken by Dr. Bartlett, who, with the assistance of Mr. McDowell, Wardsman, completed the work. Just prior to Christmas I forwarded to every house holder in the town and district subscription lists, accompanied by an appeal to ask the members of the family assembled at the festal board on Christrnas Day to contribute something towards the Hospital funds, no matter how small the sum. This was the means of augmenting the funds appreciably.


The first Hospital ball took place at the Fitzroy Hotel, and as a social function was not a great success” the attendance being limited. Financially, however, the proceeds from the sale of tickets, added to the contributions collected by the ladies, brought the receipts in the aggregate to about £60. The committee, at a special meeting held in November, approved of the design for a cottage Hospital prepared by Mr. Simpson and Mr. Simpson’ 5 offer to prepare specifications and working drawings, was thankfully accepted. The design referred to provided for two wards, affording accommodation for three beds each, one women’s ward two beds, kitchen, bedroom for lo1ardsman and Matron, pantry, and a small apartment in the centre of the building to serve as a reception and board-room.


Published 10 August 1928

                                                                     Hospital Annual Meeting

The Annual meeting for the reception of reports and election of committee and officers was held in January, and the reports were again satisfactory. There was a very slight alteration in the personnel of the committee. The very excellent manner in which the Hospital, with its drawbacks, was conducted won for Dr. Bartlett the confidence and “warm enconiums” of the committee. The Wardsman and Matron also were awarded a large slice of kudos. The great social event of the year was the annual Hospital ball, the date of which was fixed for August. Months prior to the appointed date the services of the ladies of the town and district were largely in vogue, and to their credit be it said they entered on their allotted tasks with characteristic zeal and assiduity.


Prominent among the workers were Mesdames Thos. Walsh and R. Daly. These two ladies, with horses and vehicles, made a systematic tour of the district in quest of contributions in money and kind for the ball supper, and were successful beyond the most sanquine expectations. They also succeeded in disposing of a large number of tickets. The trips of these two ladies to outlying portions of the district in many instances extended over weeks, thereby evidencing their measure of thoroughness and very deep interest in the welfare of our embryotic Hospital, and their deep desire to see it develop into something approaching modern ideals. In later years the same two ladies could always be relied upon to do the lion’s share of the collecting and organising work. Other ladies deserving of mention for their efforts were Mesdames D.C.J Donnelly, S. Wright, J.C. Ryall, J.H. Turner, H. Ford, H. McLeod, W.J. Quick, S.A. Rheuben , M.T. Phillips, R. Meagher and others whose names I cannot at the moment recollect.


The ball took place in Messrs. D. C. J. Donnelly and Co.’ s new store adjoining the Royal Hotel. As the building was just approaching completion it was devoid of counters and fittings, consequently it was an ideal ballroom when much pains had been bestowed on the preparation of the floor. The assemblage on the occasion numbered eighty couples, and included visitors from Canowindra, Grenfell, Young, Forbes, and other localities. The music was supplied gratuitously by Mrs. Shaw (piano) and the: Messrs. Woodbridge brothers (violins).


Dr Bartlett; for thoughtfully providing and. dispensing claret cup and ice creams; earned and was accorded a large meed of praise. The supper, which was tastefully laid out in rooms in the upper storey,was an exquisite feature of the entertainment, the tables were laden with a profusion of the most delicious viands, the preparation of which testified to the gastronomic skill of the housewives of the town and district. As a social event it was unanimously pronounced the most enjoyable and successful of its kind that had been held within a wide radius for a considerable period.


The customary annual meeting of subscribers was of a routine character, the reports being again of a satisfactory and encouraging nature. The announcement by the treasurer that the amount of funds in hand would warrant proceeding with the erection of the proposed new building was hailed with much pleasure by the gatherinq. The incoming committee was authorised to call for tenders and to take measures to expedite the completion of the work. The committee, at its meeting in February, resolved to insert advertisements in the local and other newspapers inviting tenders for the erection of a brick cottage Hospital as per approved plan and specifications. At the committee meeting in March, out of quite a number of tenders to hand , that of Mr. Henry Ford (£850) was accepted. Mr. J.V. Bartlett, Road Superintendent, undertook to· perform the duties of supervisor of works gratuitously. I will pass over many little difficulties and incidents closely associated with building operations. Suffice it to say that towards the close of the year the walls of the new structure had been reared and the carpenters had entered on their share of the work



The contract for the foundations and brickwork was sublet by Mr H. Ford to Mr James Hough, a local tradesman, who revelled in outwitting, super-particular and exacting employers and supervisors . Mr. J.V. Bartlett, the Supervisor appointed by the committee to overlook the works in connection with the erection of the building, was a Victorian of the type which regarded the Mother Colony as being a hundred years behind the times industrially, commercially, and in fact, every phase of life. He had the reputation, when not pecuniarily interested in a contract, of being a very hard intolerant, and scrupulously keen stickler for rigid adherence to specifications and terms of contract. In this particular instance, determined to show the benighted people of Cowra how superior Victorian business methods were to those of .NSW. when the trenches for the foundation had been excavated , he inspected the work, and insisted on some inequalities in respect to width and depth being evened off. He then gave the sub-contractor strict instructions regarding the laying of the rubble stone masonry. At this juncture Mr. Bartlett was called away to a distant part of the district to pass some road work.


An old adage runs: “While the cat is away the mice will play,” and its verification was evidenced in this way: while Mr. Bartlett was away where duty called him, Mr. Hough employed four men with tip-drays to cart loose rubble stone from the hillside and dump it into the foundation trenches. He then went over the work with a spawling hammer and levelledit off . This done, he spread a coat of mortar over the rubble. Later , when Mr. Bartlett came on the scene, he expressed. pleasure at seeing such progress made with the masonry. which he evidently assumed had been carried out in accordance with instructions. Of course, Mr. Hough was careful to prevent his act of deception from reaching the ears of the committee. It was only when the contract was passed, and the contractor paid off, Mr. Hough openly boasted how cleverly he had tricked and duped the ultra smart and notoriously keen Clerk of Works.


That, however, it was no idle vaunting on the part of Hough was proved some years later. while I was acting on the works section of the Hospital committee, I was sent for by Mr. Thomas Plunkett , the contractor for the addition of a nurses’ room at the rear of the women’s ward, and was shown by him the loose character of the foundation of the main building.


After this digression I will return to my recital of incidents associated with the early history of our Hospital.



Published 24 August 1928


The New Hospital

The erection of the new Hospital was completed and handed back to the Comrnittee by the contractor in March 1885. Furnishing the new building on modern lines was next. undertaken by the ladies; who experienced some difficulty in providing the wherewithal, owing to the inexplicable disinclination of the well-to-do residents to make a liberal response to their appeals. Under the circumstances, acting on the advice of Dr. Bartlett, the furniture was of the very plainest character. This was clearly shown in relation to mattresses, which were made of clean straw, such being, in Dr. Bartlett’s opinion, the healthiest, cleanest and most economical material–healthy and economical because the cost of refilling a mattress and thereby removing disease germs, made it the former, and economical in consequence of its being so inexpensive.


The sheeting was strong, rough and unbleached, the blankets were coarse and heavy. The bedsteads were of the strong and antiquated variety. There were no lockers and only one general linen press, this being in what was styled the dispensary. The chairs and tables were in keeping with the other articles, rough and strong. The kitchen stove and cooking range –a second-hand purchase, was found after an all too brief experience to be cracked and unservicable. The: crockery, cutlery, and kitchen utensils were in keeping with the: other articles enumerated. The evident actual motive of the collectors being to ensure durability at the least possible cost.


There was no children’s ward, no operating theatre, no lavatory and no laundry. Some of these were provided a few months later. The furnishings having been completed, the institution was officially opened about the middle of April by Mr George Campbell of Jerula , the senior Parliamentary representative for the Carcoar electorate, he having topped the poll at the latest election. That gentleman, a fluent and talented speaker, delivered a remarkable fine discourse on the benefits conferred upon suffering humanityby providing Hospital accommodation for the treatment and. relief of the poor and needy.


In concluding a brilliant speech, he warmly congratulated all who had taken an active part in providing such comfortable quarters for the sick. He was pleased to able to announce, he added r that just prior to leavinq Sydney he called on the Premier, who at his (Mr Campbell’s) request decided. to make a special unconditional grant of £500 available for the management. The latter announcement was hailed with very great pleasure by all interested in the welfare of the institution and evoked lusty cheers from the gathering. In addition to a social function conducted by the ladies, in celebration of what may be termed the actual birth of our District Hospital because the occupancy of the old barracks could only be regarded as a very. temporary expedient–a mere makeshift–the committee conducted a baby show in one of the wards, the first and only one of its kind held in Cowra.


There were a fair number of entries, but little difficulty W2S experienced by the judge (Dr Bartlett) in deciding in favour of Mrs T. Curry’s twin boys. These two fine, fat chubby children

were seated on a mat in the ward sucking the toe of a stocking containing a very dark sugar. The mother stated she had a strong objection to dummies , hence she- used the sugar as a substitute. The fine healthy’ appearances of the infants testified to the effectiveness of the method adopted by Mrs. Curry for rearing her offspring.


At the monthly meeting of the committee which followed the opening of the Hospital, the secretary was instructed to insert advertisements inviting tenders for the erection of tw0 lavatories, a small morgue, bathroom and laundry, all of the diminutive and cheap order, and three or four months later these very essential adjuncts materialised. Towards the close of the year the committee met with a set- back through the resignation of Mr And Mrs McDowell, who had for nearly four years proved most exemplary offices in the capacity of Wardsman and Matron. On the very strong recommendation of Mr McDowell, his brother-in-law and sister, M. and Mrs Arthur McCann, were chosen to fill the vacant positions and took up heir their respective duties in 1886.



‘On vacating their positions as officers of the District Hospital, Mr and Mrs McDowell took over he control of the Railway House, a small weatherboard. building, from Mr. and Mrs. John Wilson, wh left for Gou1burn, their native district. For about a year or so Mr and Mrs venture appeared investment. Eventually, however, Mr McDowell allowed drink to become ruling passion and to this vice he added gambling for heavy stakes . This state of affairs so perturbed Mrs McDowell who foresaw ruin staring herself, husband and family in the face, that early one morning she committed suicide and murder by leaping into the well at the rear of the hotel with her infant in arms. This was a sad and pathetic climax in what appeared to be a happy married life. A little later McDowell placed his daughter in charge of his sister, (Mrs. McCann) and left Cowra , When last heard of he was in Western Australia.



Through the effects of epidemics and the persistence with which chronic suffers of the nomadic type returned to the Hospital for treatment, the reources of the institution were so severely taxed that it became imperative to refuse admission to many cases of an urgent nature. This regrettable situation appealed to the human instincts of the committee by whom a strenuous effort was made to find temporary housing for the overflow. Upon such a regrettable state of affairs becoming known to Mrs. Thomas Walsh, that lady’s inherent charitable instincts prompted her to convert a room at the rear of the Centennial Hall into a temporary ward. This room was provided with two beds, bedding, and other furniture. In addition to all this good kind work, Mrs. Walsh attended to the nursing and maintenance of the patients. If ever there was a good Sarnaritan of the Scriptural type on this earth, the late Mrs. Walsh. was one of the superlative order.


In addition to this it will be remembered by readers of our our notes, that Mrs. Walsh was one of the institution’s best and most successful collectors. Her good work did not end even here, seeing that after the Centennial Hall was erected, its use for the annual balls, or in fact for any other function having for its object the raising of funds for the Hospital was placed at the disposal of the management gratuitously. We have a very distinct recollection of how Mrs. Walsh used also to assist in the preparation of the suppers for the annual balls and juvenile parties in addition to giving handsome contributions. Furthermore, the kitchen and its appointments, were largely availed of by the committee of ladies.


This state of affairs prevailed so long as Mr. and Mrs. Walsh retained control of the hotel and hall. Indeed few have any conception of the extent and value of the late Mr. and Mrs. Walsh and their very estimable daughters. In this connection, we must pay a well merited compliment to Mrs. Kate Walsh who, later on, when a trained nurse was installed, became so closely identified with the institution as to be for some years to be regarded as part and parcel of it. Indeed, on sundry occasions she was in full charge of the place. Later, when Mr. and Mrs. Peter Links took over the Court House Hotel and Centennial Hall, the gratuitous use of the Hall for Hospital functions continued.



As Dr. Bartlett was so closely associated with the founding of the Hospital, and later for its success, I feel that some incidents in connection with his life should be mentioned.In 1883 he married Miss Sloan, the youngest member of the North Logan family. The cottage which many years later was occupied by Mr. W.A. Stokes, was the first residence of the -newly wedded couple, and some years later still Dr. Bartlett purchased “Ilfracombe” from Mr. N. Challacombe. In 1885 Dr. E.S. Smith left Carcoar for Cowra ” and rented “Ilfracombe” from Dr. Bartlett.


Just prior to the retirement of Mr. and Mrs. McDowell from the position of Wardsman and matron of the Hospital, Dr. Bartlett was granted 12 months leave of absence to visit England, and his locum teneus, Dr. Gerarty, assumed charge of the practice, in addition to the position of Medical Superintendent of the Hospital and Government Medical Officer. Dr. Smith ascertained that Dr. Gerarty had failed to submit his diploma to the Medical Board, showing he was qualified to act as a medical practitioner. Inquiry showed. that Gerarty.had represented to the Board that he was Dr. Thomas Gerarty, an Irish practitioner, whereas he was simply a cousin of that gentleman, and his only pretensions to a knowledge of medicine was derived from dispensing while being employed in an Irish pharmacy.


He, however, stoutly maintained that he was Gerarty, the Irish practitioner until positive proof was forthcoming from Ireland to the contrary. In the meantime, he married Miss Freestone, daughter of the late Mr. A. Freestone, solicitor, of Young. Shortly after this marriage he was deprived of his position of Government Medical Officer. This was followed by a heavy drinkingbout, during which patients were neglected and his young wife brutally treated. The return of Dr. Bartlett towards the close of the year terminated Gerarty’s Cowra career. From here Gerarty went to Cargo. Some months after settling there his continued ill-treatment caused his wife to leave him. ” Later he became a confirmed drunkard and died in squalor and misery at Cargo about eight years ago. It was fortunate that while in Cowra no case of inattention to patients could be traced to him. He informed me that while serving as an apothecary in Ireland, his cousin, Dr Gerarty, had sufficient faith in him to take charge of his extensive practice.


Thus, he acquired some knowledge of diagnosing and treating diseases. He was of a bright, genial, and sympathetic disposition, and would have been a useful member of society in any capacity but for his besetting sin, drink. Dr. Smith was appointed Government Medical Officer when it was found that Gerarty was not qualified to hold it. Upon Mr W.B. Simpson, C.P.S., reached the retiring age he sold his residence to Dr. Smith, and went to Sydney to retire. Dr Smith, after adding a second storey to the place, went to reside there. This place is now the residence of Mr. W. F. Ormiston.


In 1891 Dr. Cortis, of Bathurst, purchased Dr. Smith’s practice here and Dr. Smith left for England to take possession of his late father’s large and varied valuable estate. In the meantime, Dr. Bartlett resided at “Ilfracombe.” Dr. Bartlett’ s brother with his wife and two sons, Drs Ralph and Frank, came to Cowra on a visit in 1892, and their doing so enabled Dr. F.P. Bartlett to pay another visit to England, his practice being entrusted to his two nephews, who soon adapted themselves to Australian conditions, and became exceedingly popular during their 12 months adjourn. Dr. F.P. Bartlett resumed his practice in 1893, and his visiting relatives returned to England


Dr J.E. Foley came to reside here the same year, and about a year later he purchased Dr Cortis’ practice, the latter having decided to proceed to West Australia. Having so far dealt with the members of the medical profession, I will once more return to a review of Hospital affairs. .