McGowan, Robert Dr

Date of Birth/Death:


Robert McGowan was born 15 June 1830 at Cregans, County Armagh, Ireland the son of William McGowan, farmer, and his wife Sarah Donaldson. He was baptised on 21 July 1830 at Mountnorris Presbyterian Church, Newry, County Armagh, and was married three times. Firstly, he married 26 October 1853 in Belfast, Ireland to Sarah Amelia Spackman, daughter of William Spackman Esquire, a merchant clothier. She died 2 January 1875 in Liverpool, Lancashire, England. Known children of this marriage were:

  • Madeleine born c1857 at Tandragee, Armagh, Ireland
  • Julius Arthur Francis McGowan, born 1866 Liverpool, England and died 1918 in Belfast, Ireland
  • Horace Alexander Heywood McGowan, born 1869 at Liverpool and died in 1919 in Sydney, Australia.

Dr McGowan, a widower aged forty-six, remarried in Melbourne, Victoria to Emilie Howard Burton, age thirty-eight, at Trinity Church on 1 September 1876. Emelie died 19 February 1881 at Willunga and was buried at St Stephens Anglican Cemetery. He remarried on 14 November 1882 at St John’s Church, Adelaide to Ada Jane Addison, daughter of Thomas Plummer Addison, Chief Clerk of the Customs Department. He does not appear to have had any children by these two marriages.

Dr McGowan had gained his medical qualifications in 1848 at Queen’s College, Belfast, Ireland, and 1851 Glasgow, Scotland. He practised in 1854 at Warrenpoint, County Down, and Tandragee from 1858 to 1860. In December 1870 he arrived in Melbourne as the surgeon on the SS Great Britain. Three years later in 1873 he registered in Victoria as a medical practitioner, but in July 1876 he arrived at Port Adelaide on the Astracan from London as the surgeon-superintendent. Of the nine deaths during this voyage Dr McGowan noted the deceased passengers had been in a ‘delicate state of health’ when they embarked. On 4 October 1876 he registered with the South Australian medical board. In June 1877 he was appointed a Justice of the Peace.

He became a foundation committee member of the Willunga Institute in August 1880. The District Council of Willunga rates also note he had township allotments, a house, and cottages, but it was not until July 1886 that he purchased St Anne’s Lodge from the Jay family. During his almost ten years living in Willunga, he became involved with the Willunga Agricultural Society in March 1882 as a wine judge; an auditor of St Stephens Anglican Church in April 1882; supported the formation of the Willunga Volunteer Rifles in May 1885; and was elected Chairman of the Willunga District Council in July 1885 and July 1886. In September 1887 he applied to the Destitute Board for blankets for a Mrs Green of McLaren Vale. In July 1888, Dr McGowan attended the Star of Greece shipwreck at Port Willunga.

However, in March 1890 he advertised the sale by auction of his household furniture and effects as he had sold his practice and was leaving the district. St Anne’s Lodge was transferred to Dr Francis Counter in January 1891.

On 10 November 1898 Dr McGowan died at his residence in Mallala. Of his time in Willunga he was described as ‘a thorough gentleman, [who] performed many acts of kindness in the district … . His many acts of benevolence and kindly manner endeared him to all’. He was buried at St Stephens Anglican Cemetery in Willunga. His third wife Ada died 22 August 1923 at Magill.


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