Willunga, forty-five kilometres south of Adelaide, had become established with the opening of its Post Office in mid-1839, but it is unclear whether there were any doctors in the district at that time. Many medical practitioners who arrived in Australia during the nineteenth century worked as surgeon-superintendents aboard emigrant ships, supervising passenger care as well as conditions on board. Such positions not only allowed them to work at a period when few graduates could find employment in Britain, but also to travel with or without their families, some eventually settling in Australia. It has been noted that medical university training was oversubscribed thus why many graduates sought positions outside of the United Kingdom as ship’s surgeon and in the colonies including South Australia. As mentioned here some of the early Willunga district doctors worked as surgeon-superintendents that allowed them to travel to this colony. During the period from 1841 to 1853 there were at least four resident medical officers in the Willunga district – James Benjamin McDonald, William Parr Hill, Richard William Schmidt and Richard Gardiner Jay – at least three of whom came as surgeon-superintendents.

The following presents those doctors who were in the Willunga district from circa 1841 to early 1909:

James Benjamin McDonald

While his name is not included on the 1841 Census for South Australia for District C (in which Willunga was located), J B McDonald, MD, was a signatory with others of a published letter to Governor Gawler in March 1841 thus confirming his residency in the colony. Little is known about Dr McDonald – he was born circa 1813 in Ireland but the place is unknown. He had a cousin, Catherine Barnes (nee Brennan) who emigrated to Adelaide with her husband William Austin Barnes on the Coromandel in January 1837. His wife Emma was formerly Carmichael, but it is unknown where or when they married, and if they had children. Nor is it known where he obtained his medical qualifications or when exactly he arrived in South Australia. He is not mentioned in the early South Australian medical registrations although the registration of doctors did not occur in that colony until 1844.

By September 1843 he was living in Willunga, exhibiting dairy cattle in competition with Edward Loud. Dr McDonald stated that both Loud’s and his cows had been selected from the same herd that had belonged to Mr Evelyn Sturt, brother of Captain Charles Sturt, and came from the Port Phillip District in Victoria. After the exhibition, the men dined at the Old Bush Inn. Later in 1849 it was reported several cows from ‘the celebrated herds of Dr McDonald’ were offered for sale, suggesting he was well-known for the quality of his stock.

Earlier, in May 1844, Dr McDonald supported the establishment of horse racing with the event, known as the Southern Races, held near Willunga. The Bush Inn catered. Amongst those who supported the Southern Races was Edward Loud. An advertisement appeared in the press requesting the ‘attendance of gentlemen interested in this old English sport’ to meet at the Bush Inn on 22 April 1845. But it was resolved that the race meet was to take place near Noarlunga rather than Willunga. Reasons for this change of venue were not given. It is unclear if Dr McDonald remained involved with the Southern Races, but he was a judge at the newly formed Willunga races held 6 March 1850 approximately a mile (1.6 kilometres) from the township.

In February 1845, Dr McDonald reported on the use of the Ridley stripper and thresher, stating that in seven weeks ‘upwards of two hundred and sixteen acres of wheat in the most creditable manner at a cost of about five pence per bushel’ was harvested. South Australian immigrant John Ridley has been credited with inventing the stripper and thresher machine to hasten the harvesting of wheat crops. An early press report mentioned the machine needed only two men in attendance, two horses to push, and it cost ten shillings per acre. Allegedly it was capable of harvesting nearly an acre in an hour. McDonald too charged ten shillings per acre for the use of the machine. There is a suggestion Ridley had links in the early 1840s with property later known as Landcross Farm at McLaren Vale. Perhaps the machinery was sourced from there.

The following month he was a signatory to a petition to Governor Robe protesting the impending removal of the Police Station from Willunga which it was believed would cause:

… “considerable disadvantage to the Settlers generally south of Willunga as well as to themselves there being no other Station between this and Cape Jervis on the one Hand & Encounter Bay on the other and where the present Officer is frequently called to do duty (also the distance is more than 30 Miles) “…

A copy of this document is on display in the National Trust Courthouse Museum in Willunga.

Signature of Dr James B McDonald, Memorial (Petition) from Willunga District Residents on 18 April 1846 Objecting to the Closure of the Willunga Police Station, GRG 535/5, (National Trust Courthouse Museum, Willunga).

In 1848 he purchased a portion of Section 257 Hundred of Willunga, and erected a home with a frontage adjacent to St Andrew’s Terrace. This house, known as ‘Prospect Villa’, was located overlooking the Willunga township at the top of what became known as Doctor’s Hill, later Sara’s Hill. It was described as comfortable, of English architecture, and having a slate verandah. The house no longer exists.

In October 1850, Dr McDonald advertised money lending for sums ranging from five pounds to five hundred pounds, revealing his diverse business interests. He was also a trustee of the newly formed Willunga Land and Building Society, along with an R Atkinson. In March 1851, he was one of several electors of Noarlunga and Willunga who supported Major O’Halloran as a Legislative Council representative.

At a Public Meeting held at the Bush Inn in February 1852, he was a memorialist with others yet again protesting the removal of police from Willunga. Mr Loud stated:

“That it is the opinion of this meeting that the withdrawal of the police from this district at this particular period, when so many of the male population are leaving their homes and their families to go to the gold fields, is an injudicious and dangerous measure, and one which ought to be immediately rescinded, by replacing at their respective stations at least the same number of men as before.”

This was seconded by Dr Jay who had by then arrived in Willunga.

It was resolved and seconded by Dr McDonald that a:

…”memorial be prepared for presentation to his Excellency, praying for the restoration of police protection, as a right to which the inhabitants of the Hundred are entitled, not only in consideration of the importance of the district, but in respect of their claims as British Subjects”…

In the same month, Dr McDonald identified bones as ‘those of a male native’ that were uncovered during an excavation to expand Mr Bassett’s residence in Willunga. Later, in October he was amongst others who protested changes to the colony’s Constitution.

However, by August 1853 he advertised he was leaving the colony for reasons not given. On 30 January 1854 he engaged Messrs Duval and Bagot as his Powers of Attorney to sell his property as he had by then returned to Ireland. George Sara a local builder purchased the property – hence Doctor’s Hill later became known as Sara’s Hill. The name Doctor’s Hill was retained for a few years as on 26 September 1859 it was reported that:

“Messrs. Kell, Atkinson, and Martin were requested to superintend the completion of the cutting through Doctor’s Hill in order to give employment to labourers out of work, and also to execute any other repairs they may deem necessary for the same purpose, and to report the same at next meeting.”

On 1 May 1878 Dr McDonald died at his house named ‘Willunga’ at Blackrock, County of Dublin, Ireland age sixty-five years and was buried at the Deansgrange Cemetery, Dublin. Naming his house ‘Willunga’ may have reflected the high esteem that he held Willunga in South Australia and of his time there. His wife Emma died 1 April 1883 and was buried with him.

William Parr Hill

A few years before Dr McDonald left the district, William Parr Hill arrived in Willunga. He was born circa 1819 in Leicestershire, England the son of John Hill and Mary Williams. His father was a medical practitioner of Leicester who died circa 1825, and his mother died in 1834. In June 1837 William was admitted to Cambridge University as a Tancred scholar. (These scholarships were provided by a charity according to provisions in the will of Christopher Tancred who died in 1754 at Whixley, Yorkshire and allowed selected individuals to attend university). In August 1846 he was admitted to the Royal College of Surgeons, London. He was appointed surgeon-superintendent on the Aboukir that left London 1 June 1847 and arrived at Port Adelaide 4 September 1847. In November 1847 he advertised he was commencing a medical practice in Willunga. He registered with the South Australian Medical Board on 6 January 1848. Later, on 2 September 1848 he was invited by the Governor to attend a Levee at Government House in honour of the Prince Consort’s birthday. On 16 February 1850 he is noted as a member of the United Grand Lodge of England Freemasons at Kooringa (Burra) indicating his stay in Willunga was very short.

He married Rosanna Taylor, 19-year-old daughter of Willunga pioneers Robert and Jane Taylor, at St Stephens Anglican Church, Willunga on 27 August 1850. Their known children were – Annie Louisa born circa 1854 (birth not registered), died 26 September 1929 at Willunga; Robert Henry born circa 1857 (birth not registered), died 30 March 1903 at Willunga; William John born 7 June 1858 at Willunga, died 23 February 1907 at North Adelaide; and Frank Edward born 31 May 1860 at Goolwa and died 14 April 1886 at Caltowie. None of them married.

Dr Hill had left Willunga by February 1851 but briefly returned in June 1858 where his son William was born. On 30 September 1865 he died suddenly at his residence at Port Elliot and was described as of ‘gentlemanly demeanor’. Rosanna and the children returned to Willunga where they lived with family at Glenwood on Taylor’s Hill Road. She died at Willunga 6 July 1918 age 87.

Richard Wilhelm Schmidt

Succeeding Dr Hill was Richard Wilhelm/William Schmidt who was born circa 1821 in Silesia, Prussia the son of Wilhelm (William) and Christiane Ulrike Schmidt. His father was also a medical practitioner. He married Amelia Kapitzky at the Scottish Church, Adelaide on 23 July 1850. They had several children, most of whom were born in Victoria.

Dr Schmidt gained his medical qualification in Berlin in 1849 and arrived in South Australia 30 August 1849 on the Wilhelmina Maria from Hamburg as the surgeon-superintendent. That same year he bought the Willunga medical practice from Dr W P Hill and lived in the vacant Police House near the Old Courthouse until he built a residence on St Andrew’s Terrace. On 5 April 1850 he was registered to practise as a medical practitioner in South Australia. An 1850-51 land transaction is recorded at the General Registry Office in Adelaide presumably for his St Andrew’s Terrace property. However, Dr Schmidt’s stay in Willunga was very short because by 24 June 1851 he was at Kooringa (Burra). He died suddenly on 24 October 1868 at Clunes, Victoria, and in May of the following year his wife died.

Willunga Government Reserve, 1840. Sketch by Captain E C Frome, Surveyor showing the Police Station, Survey Store and Post Office. (Willunga National Trust).

Richard Gardiner Jay

Some time late in 1851 or early 1852 Dr Richard Gardiner Jay arrived in Willunga. He was born at Badley, Suffolk on 21 September 1813, and was baptised at age sixteen in November 1829 the son of Edward Jay, a miller and merchant, and Sarah Emmerson. He obtained his Licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries, London in February 1837. On 21 February 1842 he registered as a medical practitioner in New South Wales having arrived in that colony on the Eweretta on 27 December 1841 from London as the ship’s surgeon. He practised medicine at Mudgee, New South Wales until he left for London on the Louisa which sailed from Sydney in March 1843 – he was the ship’s surgeon. He married Anne Smith Jenkins on 11 February 1845 at St Giles, Reading, Berkshire. Two children were born – Gerald Jay in July 1846 at Romford, Essex, and baptised at Barking, Essex; William Eugene in November 1847 at Barking. In May 1849, as the ship’s surgeon on the Susannah from London and Plymouth, he arrived in Adelaide accompanied by his wife and two children. In February 1850 his son Edward Gardiner Jay was born at Hindmarsh but died ten weeks later.

In December 1850 he placed an advertisement in the press to inform the inhabitants of Glenelg, Brighton and neighbourhood he was opening his medical practice near the Brighton Inn. A daughter Kate Gardiner Jay was born on 21 December 1852. She died twelve months later and is memorialised, with her brother Edward, in St Stephens Anglican Cemetery, Willunga next to their parent’s grave.

Edward Gardiner Jay and Kate Gardiner Jay, St Stephens Anglican Cemetery, Willunga. (Photo Bronte Gould).

In November 1853 Dr Jay was called to attend to two accidents that occurred at Port Willunga. Archibald Bain had fallen off the top of a wall of the corn store and lacerated his scalp and bruised his spine and chest. He recovered as did James Harding who suffered a broken ankle after falling from the new jetty.

Dr Jay was community minded. In February 1852 he protested with others at the removal of police from Willunga. He was also involved with the local Mechanics’ Institute, a movement that originated in England to provide reading matter, adult education, and social activities to members. On 16 March 1854 he gave a lecture on ‘Literature – its uses and varieties’. Later, in January 1855 he arranged an evening of musical entertainment, tickets for which were available from either him or the secretary. In February 1871 he presented some readings at a ‘quarterly soiree’ of the Mechanics’ Institute held at the Oddfellows Hall which was well-attended.

He owned and lived at St Anne’s Lodge on St Peter’s Terrace in Willunga. This house remained in the Jay family until October 1886. Two children were born there. Horace Pennington on 8 May 1854 and Melville Richard on 16 February 1856.

St. Anne’s Lodge, 7 St Peters Terrace, Willunga.

He attended a Levee at Government House in November 1867 for the visiting HRH the Duke of Edinburgh. He was also appointed a Justice of the Peace. On 25 September 1873 his sixty-year-old wife Anne Smith Jay died at Willunga and was buried at St Stephens Anglican Cemetery. The following month he presided over the annual meeting of the Willunga Branch Bible Society that was held at the McLaren Vale Congregational Church. Dr Jay later remarried to Susan Colton (nee Bond) at the Independent (Congregational) Church Manse at McLaren Vale on 4 November 1874. (She was the widow of Thomas Colton, an early settler of McLaren Vale who had built Sylvan Park in 1858. He was the son of William Colton who built the Devonshire Arms Hotel, McLaren Vale in 1849. Thomas Colton returned to England, married Susan Bond at Upton, Devon on 3 April 1855 and brought his bride back to McLaren Vale).

In January 1877 Dr Jay travelled by the coastal steamer, the Kangaroo, to Wallaroo to visit his son William Eugene Jay who had a medical practice there. Dr Jay senior arrived the day before his son died suddenly at home. Perhaps the loss of his son caused him to decide to leave Willunga and take up practice in Wallaroo. The following month Dr Jay was given a ‘complimentary dinner’ at the Bush Inn and presented with an emu egg inkstand ‘as a tribute of esteem, by the ladies’ of Willunga’ on his leaving the district. His second wife Susan died at Wallaroo Bay on 3 December 1877. She is memorialised on her first husband’s headstone in the Congregational Cemetery, McLaren Vale.

Dr Jay died 11 May 1879 at his son’s residence North Adelaide and was buried 12 May 1879 with his first wife Anne in St Stephens Anglican Cemetery, Willunga. He had spent around twenty-five years in Willunga as the local medical practitioner for the town and district, the longest of the doctors presented in this piece.

In the period from 1853 to 1880 several more doctors came to the Willunga district, some also as surgeon-superintendents on emigrant ships. Following the departure of Dr Schmidt, James Sutherland Mackintosh arrived in Willunga, and James Frederick Knipe was based at Whites Valley. Dr McDonald was still present in the town as was Dr Jay.

James Sutherland Mackintosh

Dr Mackintosh registered on 5 July 1852 as a medical practitioner with the South Australian Medical Board. He had arrived in South Australia on 25 April 1853 as the surgeon-superintendent of the Caucasian from Southampton, England. His wife accompanied him on the voyage. Born in Thurso, Caithness, Scotland on 22 April 1816, the third son of the Reverend William Mackintosh and his wife Christian Sutherland, Dr Mackintosh married Catherine Suttie Gordon on 23 March 1850 at Duddington, Midlothian, Scotland when he was thirty-four and she thirty-one. They had five children: Francis Gordon born 23 March 1853 and died 18 January 1854 age five months and three weeks in South Australia; North Dalrymple Sutherland born 23 March 1855 at Willunga, died on 22 March 1901 at Woodville West; Charlotte Gordon born circa 1857 at Willunga, died 29 March 1924 at Hyde Park and was buried at the Cheltenham Cemetery; Flora Camilla born 22 February 1861 at Willunga, died 7 July 1934 at Glanville and was buried at the Cheltenham Cemetery; and Charles born 5 April 1867 at Willunga and died at Ashfield, New South Wales in 1942.

Mackintosh studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh, and qualified as a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in 1837, a Licentiate of the Royal College of Surgeons (LRCS) and an Doctor of Medicine (MD) in 1838, and later in Adelaide in 1878 a South Australian MD. He had previously studied for a year at the Hotel Dien and the La Charite Hospital in Paris, France. In a later memoir he said of his Paris study that ‘it was here that my first knowledge of the stethoscope was obtained, for the French at that time were far before us in the use of that instrument’.

Dr Mackintosh became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons, London and spent ten years in medical practice there. He added:

“When I went to London to practise I found that the law would not permit me to do so unless I was admitted a member of the Royal College of Surgeons, London, and that is how I got my third degree. The law has been considerably modified since, and a licentiate, after three years’ attendance at lectures, can come upon the same footing as other doctors.”

He followed this by two years in India working for the East India Company.

The Mackintosh family lived in Hawthorne House at 18 Main Road, Willunga (section 248) and he continued to pay rates on this house until 1879. About 1867 he returned to England for eight months. He is listed in the 1871 Census for Scotland as residing, but not practising, at 9 Glengyle Terrace, Edinburgh with is wife, four children and a domestic servant. He returned to South Australia but not Willunga where he had spent almost fifteen years.

Dr Mackintosh was listed as the vaccinator for the District of Willunga in February 1854. He was also a Justice of the Peace and had regularly served as a magistrate at the Willunga Courthouse, including at the initial trial of John Smith for the murder of William Thomas in 1855. Both Dr Richard Gardiner Jay and Dr James Frederick Knipe were called as witnesses at Smith’s later Supreme Court trial. Dr Mackintosh was involved in the establishment of the Oddfellows Hall in 1863 and was one of the Chairs at the laying of the foundation stone in September 1863. He exhibited four varieties of table grapes at the Willunga Show, held at the Oddfellows Hall in March 1866. He was Chair of the Mutual Improvement Association at a meeting on 30 September 1867.

In his final years he was curator of a museum attached to the Port Adelaide Institute. Dr Mackintosh died at his home in Semaphore Road, Glanville on 27 February 1901, aged eighty-five years.

Dr J S Mackintosh (City of Port Adelaide and Enfield Libraries’ local historical photos, Flickr). Copied from “Fifty years of the Port Adelaide Institute”.

James Frederick Knipe

James Frederick Knipe lived at White’s Valley, located between Willunga and Aldinga, at the time of his death in 1870 age forty-nine years. He was born in Wales and baptised 10 October 1822 at Llanbeblig, Caernarvon the son of George Frederick Knipe and Mary Anne Williams (they were married at Bedwardine, Worcester in 1808). His father was a Lieutenant in the English army who had served during the Napoleonic Wars and in England. The family also had connections to landed gentry in Ireland, and it is probable George Knipe was born there. James Frederick Knipe lived with his married brother, also George Knipe a surgeon, at the time of the 1841 Census at Chapel Street, Stratford on Avon, Warwickshire. He was listed as a surgeon’s apprentice. In July 1847 he was admitted to the Royal College of Surgeons. He registered as a medical practitioner with the South Australian Medical Board on 2 April 1850 following his arrival on the Sea Queen 25 March as the ship’s surgeon. During this voyage he wrote to his sisters stating:

… “I have had a great deal of sickness in the ship … the Cabin passengers … are all snobbs [sic] shopkeepers & their servants … [they] can hardly be called vulgar but [are] not ladylike … I will write again when I am settled … in the Wakefield or at the Strathalbyn Mine”…

He however first settled at Noarlunga. In February 1854 he was listed as a public vaccinator for the southern portion of the Hundred of Noarlunga. In 1855 he attended the wreck of the Nashwauk at Moana. In December 1855, Drs Knipe, Mackintosh and Jay appeared at an inquest held at the Devonshire Arms Hotel, McLaren Vale into the death of Mary Atkinson, wife of Thomas Atkinson. Dr Knipe reported he had cared for Mrs Atkinson for the previous five or six years. The involvement of the other district doctors indicates they worked together.

In July 1860 he attended a young lady who died after a fall from a horse at Aldinga. Dr Mackintosh held an inquest. Later, in September 1860, at the Willunga Local Court appearing before Dr Mackintosh and others, he was a witness in a case of Dr Jay versus Culley re medical expenses owing. In March 1862 he is noted as the secretary of the McLaren Vale races. He was a member of the Aldinga District Council, including as Treasurer in November 1862. In 1867 a tender was advertised for the building of his house, probably the “Doctor’s House” in Little Road, White’s Valley, later known as Gawenhurst in his successor’s time, and later again known as McGaffin Farm.

James Frederick Knipe (From Willunga Now & Then, Willunga National Trust)

He married a week before he died to Elizabeth Nancarrow from Aldinga. It was reported he had died on 22 December 1870 after a ‘protracted illness’ at his residence. He was buried at St Ann’s Cemetery, Aldinga, the funeral attracting many people. One obituary noted his death was ‘long expected’ and:

“He came here on three different voyages as surgeon superintendent to emigrants, and about 20 years ago settled in the South, where he acquired a reputation for skill in his profession and kindness to the poor.”

Henry Richard Gawen Tripe

In March 1871 Henry Richard Gawen Tripe had taken over the residence and practice of the late Dr James Frederick Knipe. Dr Tripe was born circa 1810 at Plymouth, Devon the son of Thomas Tripe, a surgeon, and Elizabeth Paxton White. He married Eleanor Gogay in England circa 1855 at an undisclosed location (banns for marriage at Holy Trinity Church, Ryde, Hampshire were withdrawn in January 1855). A son, Henry Richard Gawen Tripe was born 18 December 1855 at Saffron Hill, Holborn, the father listed as a ship’s surgeon. This son lived to adulthood and later served in the Merchant Navy. In 1867 Dr Tripe married twenty-four-year-old Fanny Hancock in Adelaide. Their only child, Henry St Clair Tripe, was born 15 August 1868 at Queenstown, but died of cholera at North Adelaide on 13 January 1880.

In 1832 in Plymouth, Devon, an intoxicated man attempted to assault Henry and his brother Thomas after leaving their uncle’s house, also a surgeon, and this assault was witnessed by their sister Julia. Henry Tripe obtained his Licentiate of the Apothecaries Hall, London in 1834. He was in New South Wales by 1841, having registered there as a Medical Practitioner. By 1851 he returned to England and was a visitor at the home of Napoleon Kennett, surgeon in London. From 1858 he is recorded as a medical practitioner of Sydney, Australia. By 1864 he was living and practising medicine at Queenstown, South Australia. In October 1869 he advertised the sale or let of his house and property at Queenstown presumably because he was moving to the Willunga district.

Dr Tripe was fined for keeping an unregistered dog in September 1871 at Aldinga; and he was listed as the surgeon of the Aldinga Oddfellows Court. In January 1872 at Willunga he attended, together with Dr Jay, Adelaide’s Catholic Bishop Shiel who was described as in ‘delicate health’. Bishop Shiel died a few weeks later in Willunga, and Dr Tripe attended his funeral held in Adelaide.

In July 1873 Dr Tripe purchased Dr Knipe’s house and land. He requested the council to repair the road at White’s Valley, probably close to his house. In March 1874 twenty-year-old Mrs Amelia Mary Martin was bitten by a snake. Her brother William Howe drove her to Dr Tripe’s place, but he was absent so they went to the Aldinga Hotel. Dr Jay from Willunga attended but Mrs Martin died, possibly from too much brandy that was given by well-meaning bystanders. In April 1874 Dr Tripe attended Hugh McCallum whose right arm had been entangled in farm machinery. He was sent to the Adelaide Hospital for further treatment and survived. In October 1874 William Dunstan sustained fatal injuries following a kick from a stallion. Dr Tripe was summoned, but as he was on another case Dr Jay attended instead. In January 1875 Thomas Alexander Martin fell from a horse and was pronounced dead by Dr Tripe. Dr Tripe was also called to Mrs Elizabeth Knight Fidge of Aldinga who had been found deceased in her bed – she was forty-five years old and wife of Lewis Fidge who had laid out the village of Aldinga circa 1857.

Dr Tripe died 18 May 1878 at his residence, Gawenhurst, Aldinga. He was buried at St Stephens Anglican Cemetery in Willunga, his grave marked by a headstone. In January 1879 his wife advertised the sale or let of the house and property, and in March 1879 the sale of household furniture, stock, dairy utensils and Dr Tripe’s surgical instruments, drugs and vials. Also listed were three cows, two heifers and three pigs. Fanny died in May 1932 at a private hospital in Hyde Park age 87 years.

‘Advertising’, Express and Telegraph, 15 January 1879, page 3, (Courtesy of Trove).
‘Advertising’, Adelaide Observer, 1 March 1879, page 7, (Courtesy of Trove).
Headstone, Dr HRG Tripe, son and wife, St Stephens Anglican Cemetery, Willunga (Photo Bronte Gould).

James Payne Baker

By March 1877 Dr James Payne Baker had taken over Dr Jay’s practice in Willunga. He was born 26 March 1837 the son of James Baker, chemist and his wife Frances, and baptised 29 January 1840 at St Mary, Islington, London. James Payne Baker married firstly Amy Wilkinson on 3 July 1861 at Notting Hill, Middlesex when he was 24 and she 19. They had at least two children born in New Zealand: James Elphinstone in 1862 and Malcolm Welsh in 1864. Both children were drowned on the sinking of the Star of Tasmania at Oamaru, New Zealand in February 1868. It is unknown what happened to his wife other than she survived the ship disaster. He married secondly widow Louise Ellen Bluck (nee Nelmes) in 1898 in New Zealand. There were no children of this second marriage although his wife had a son by her first marriage.

Dr Baker was recorded as a farmer at his first marriage in England, and then as a school teacher in New Zealand. He was listed as of Dunedin in the 1865-66 electoral roll. Following the death of his sons, he passed a Matriculation exam for the University of Melbourne, Victoria in 1871 but did not enrol. He returned to England to study medicine in London and midwifery in Edinburgh, Scotland. On 5 September 1876, he arrived in South Australia on the Argonaut as the Surgeon-Superintendent to thirty passengers. In January 1877 he had practised medicine at Edwardstown but soon moved.

In Willunga, he advertised patients could secure a roadside visit by ‘placing a red or white flag on the gate’ when he was travelling to Aldinga and Yankalilla. His surgery was located at St Anne’s Lodge in Willunga where he lived. In July 1878 he complained of ‘sundry injurious remarks’ and indicated his Diplomas could be inspected at his surgery. He complained of someone unknown disturbing his peace by ringing his ‘nightbell’ while ‘slightly sober’ just before Christmas 1878. By July 1879 he was a petitioner with others appealing to the Chairman of the District Council of Willunga for a railway line from Adelaide to Willunga. But in October 1879 he warned the inhabitants of Willunga of ‘unqualified’ men who are assuming the duties and task of Doctor’. His stay in Willunga though, was very short.

By December 1879 he advertised for the settling of accounts as he was moving to Mount Pleasant. This was a month after Dr Jay’s sons inherited St Anne’s Lodge suggesting Dr Baker may have been required to move residence and his practice. He eventually returned to New Zealand where he died 2 November 1904 at Tauranga. He and his second wife were buried in New Zealand.

Robert McGowan

Succeeding Dr Baker was Robert McGowan. He 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 circa 1857 at Tandragee, Armagh, Ireland; Julius Arthur Francis McGowan, born 1866 Liverpool, England and died 1918 in Belfast, Ireland, and 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.

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. 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 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.

Dr McGowan in front of St Anne’s Lodge, Willunga. (From Willunga Now & Then, Willunga National Trust).

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.

Headstone of Emilie McGowan, wife of Dr McGowan, St Stephens Anglican Cemetery, Willunga (Photo Bronte Gould)

Frank William Counter

From 1890 to 1909 there was a shift to Australian or New Zealand born or trained medical practitioners in contrast to those who had arrived earlier from the United Kingdom. Universities in the Australian colonies had begun teaching medicine in the late 1880s, although some potential medical students still chose to travel to the United Kingdom for training.

Dr McGowan was succeeded by South Australian born Francis (Frank) William Counter. He was born at Yankalilla 2 July 1864, the son of John Counter, a Bible Christian minister and farmer, and his wife Elizabeth Cole. His father had preached at Yankalilla and Willunga. Dr Counter never married. He attended Prince Alfred College in Adelaide and upon graduating he sailed to Britain on the Cuzco in February 1883 in the second-class saloon section. He studied medicine at the Marischal College, University of Aberdeen in Scotland. In July 1889, he graduated and returned to South Australia arriving in December that year on the Famenoth. In February 1890 he had taken over the Willunga practice of Dr Robert McGowan. That same month, he was the public vaccinator for Willunga. In August 1890 he was appointed surgeon to the military forces. On 7 January 1891 St Anne’s Lodge was transferred from Dr McGowan to Dr Counter. The new incumbent of St Stephens Church, Willunga appointed him as the Minister’s Warden. The following month he became the medical officer for the destitute, poor and the Aboriginal people in Aldinga and Willunga, and in May 1893 he was appointed to the Willunga’s School Board of Advice.

By January 1894 he became a Justice of the Peace. But in November that same year, the press reported he was recovering from a trap accident and that he would resume his practice at Christmas or in the early New Year. He became the President of the Southern Cricketing Association in September 1896, but in November 1899 he was recovering from surgery performed in Adelaide, although the specific nature of his illness was not stated. In March 1900 he became the surgeon to the Noarlunga Race Club.

One of his hobbies was floriculture, and he successfully exhibited flowers such as fuchsias, daisies, petunias and pansies at the Willunga Show. As well he showed ducks and a female Scotch Collie dog for which he received prizes, and pot plants. In June 1896 he was listed as a member of Willunga’s Agricultural Bureau committee. It was also reported in April 1897 that he grew thirteen-foot-high maize! As well he exhibited pigs at the Port Elliot Show, and it was reported he did ‘fairly well’.

However, on 30 April 1900 he died from pneumonia at his home, St Anne’s Lodge. Reports suggest his surgery in November had left him in a ‘weakened condition’, and he caught a cold which progressed to pneumonia. His obituary stated he was ‘highly popular in the district’. He was buried at Payneham Cemetery.

Hephzibah Ann Counter of Willunga, his unmarried sister, was the beneficiary of his estate which included St Anne’s Lodge. It is presumed she had lived there with Francis as she too had exhibited flowers at the Willunga Show.

Harold Maund Evans

Following Dr Counter’s untimely death, Dr Harold Maund Evans took over the practice and residence in May 1900. As Hephzibah Counter retained ownership of St Anne’s Lodge until February 1917 this was probably a rental arrangement. Harold Maund Evans was born 13 May 1875 at Hurdle Creek near Whorouly, Victoria, the son of David Evans and Mary Jones. An older brother, Dr John Herbert Evans, established a medical practice in Adelaide.

Dr Harold Evans was educated at Melbourne Grammar School, and later St Peters College, Adelaide. He commenced medicine at the University of Adelaide in the early 1890s but owing to a hospital dispute, medical students were transferred to the University of Melbourne in Victoria in March 1897 to complete their studies. Later that year he graduated and registered with the medical board of Victoria. By May 1898 he had registered with the medical board in South Australia. In July 1898 he was appointed as Resident Medical Officer at the Adelaide Children’s Hospital. He played lacrosse for the University of Adelaide team and was also a member of the Royal Adelaide Golf Club at Seaton. Dr Evans was appointed public vaccinator and remained in Willunga until 1908 when his practice was sold to Irish-born South African Dr John Evans who was not related.

In 1901 Dr Harold Evans is noted as having presented an annual trophy, the Dr Evans Cup, to the Willunga Public School Football Team for its winning effort between McLaren Vale, Sellicks Hill, Aldinga, and Willunga Schools. In March 1901 he was appointed as a Justice of the Peace, and the following month to the Willunga School Board of Advice. He highlighted his concerns in a letter to the press in July 1901 for the necessity of appointing a public health inspector as children recovering from diptheria were allowed to return to school despite the risk of infecting others. It is unknown whether his plea was successful. In November 1903 he is noted as having advised the Field Naturalists’ Annual Tour of the topography of the area but it is unknown if he was a member. That same month he was appointed President of the Willunga Football Club.

Dr Evans Cup, Willunga Public School Football Team, 1901. (From Martin Dunstan, Willunga Town and District 1901-1925, Lynton Publications, Adelaide, 1978, page 72).

On 26 October 1905 he was amongst those present at the opening of the telephone line from the city to Willunga. However, by early January 1906 the local press reported: ‘Much regret has been expressed at the projected departure of Dr. H. M. Evans from the district. He has always taken a great interest in the football, cricket, and tennis club’. He auctioned off his stock, furniture, and effects later that month. By November 1906 he was in England to study ear, nose, throat, and skin conditions, as well as for pleasure. On 12 July 1907 he sailed from London on the SS Ormuz, to return to Adelaide via Marseilles, France, and Naples, Italy, arriving back in Adelaide in February 1908 to set up practice in Angas Street. However, Dr Evans returned to Willunga for the Show on at least two occasions: in October 1908 and again in November 1909 winning prizes for his buggy and waggonette horses.However, on a visit to relatives in Kew, Victoria, he died suddenly on 21 May 1926 of age fifty-one years. His usual residence was given as 7 Angas Street, Adelaide. He never married.

Dr H M Evans and his driver Frank Cox in front of St Anne’s Lodge. (From Martin Dunstan,
Willunga Town and District 1901-1925, Lynton Publications, Adelaide, 1978, page 101).

Walter Cecil Marsden

After Dr Harold Evans left Willunga, the practice was taken over by Dr Walter Cecil Marsden,

who was born in December 1878 at Dunedin, New Zealand the son of George Henry Marsden and Emily Deacon. He attended Otago High School, and in 1894 placed third out of 145 in the Teacher and Civil Service Junior Examination. His parents immigrated to Australia in 1895 and he attended the University of Melbourne where he studied medicine graduating in 1901. In October 1901 he practised medicine for a short time in Glasgow, Scotland and was later employed in England by cricketing great Dr W G Grace, perhaps in part because he had played cricket at school. He registered in South Australia in May 1903 as a medical practitioner and worked as an assistant to Dr Eugene Glynn at Kapunda. In July 1904 he took over a practice at Port Broughton. He married Julia Ruby Stella (Stella) Hawke in April 1905 at Kapunda. They had five children including Mollie who was born on 4 July 1906 at Willunga, probably at St Anne’s Lodge and died in 1955. The other children, Joyce, Donald, Maxwell and Bruce were born interstate.

In July 1906 Dr Marsden was appointed as a poultry judge at the McLaren Vale Poultry Show. In March 1907 he registered, as number 19, a Talbot 10hp, 2 cylinder motor car demonstrating a change in mode of transport from horse and buggy. By April 1907 he was appointed to the School Board of Advice for Willunga and later as the medical officer for the Destitute and Indigenous people in the districts of Aldinga and Willunga. In July 1907 he also registered as a medical practitioner in Queensland, and Victoria indicating his stay in Willunga was to be short. He had moved interstate by 1910, but he briefly returned to McLaren Vale by 1930 where he became Patron of the McLaren Vale Football Club, and President of the McLaren Vale Tennis Club. However, he again left the district a short time later. He died at the Repatriation Hospital, Springbank on 2 April 1951. His wife Stella died in January 1965.

Walter Cecil Marsden with daughter Mollie (born Willunga 1906) at Mt Garnet, Queensland circa 1907/8. (Photograph from Dr Walter Cecil Marsden’s records, held by Dr Susan Marsden).

John Evans

After Dr Marsden first left the district in 1907, he was succeeded by Dr John Evans who was born 3 May 1874 in Dublin, Ireland, the son of John Evans and Mary Harvey Puis. His father was an apothecary/doctor, and a grandfather was a doctor in Calcutta, India. He married 16 April 1903 in St Paul’s Church, Durban, South Africa to Beatrice Cecelia Jones who was born in Natal. They had at least two children: John Randall Desmond Evans and Beatrice Margeurite Jervoise Evans – their dates and places of birth are unknown.

Dr Evans attended the University of Coimbra in Portugal and volunteered medical assistance during the Greco-Turkish War of 1897. Following this he qualified as a medical practitioner from Trinity College in Dublin, receiving a Bachelor of Obstetrics in 1900 and a Licentiate Apothecaries’ Hall in 1901. He stated that the Kaffir Rebellion, most probably the Zulu Rising of 1906, was the catalyst for his arrival in Australia. On 9 May 1907 he registered to practise medicine in South Australia, and in July attended Linda Mudge at McLaren Vale who had been accidentally shot.

In October 1907 he gave a lecture on the South African War at the Willunga Oddfellows’ Hall. The Boer National Anthem was played. Here he indicated he had been a member of the British Army Medical Corps as a civilian doctor, but this may have been the South African Medical Corps. Proceeds of the night went to aid the Anglican Sunday school. The next day he gave a similar lecture complete with lantern slides at the Aldinga district hall. This time funds were raised for an organ for the Methodist Church at Aldinga.

In July 1908 he was elected a vice-president of the Willunga Institute. The following month at McLaren Vale, he again gave a presentation on African life including personal reminiscences of the Boer War (South African War). He announced early in November 1908 that he was leaving Willunga to return to South Africa. Perhaps his last public duty was on 28 November when he opened a Strawberry Fete and Blossom Fair at the Willunga Agricultural Hall. Miss Nellie Hockney presented him with a button-hole spray. Proceeds of the fair went towards the installation of acetylene gas in the local Methodist Church.

Dr Evans died suddenly 8 October 1937 at Coalbrook (Clydesdale Colliery), district of Heilbron, Orange Free State, South Africa aged sixty-three. He was described as a ‘typical Irishman, versatile, charming in manner and imbued with the roving spirit of his race. He could not bear to rusticate in one abode for long …’. It was reported he had not only studied medicine but also Law and a Bachelor of Arts, perhaps the latter two earlier in Portugal. Beatrice died at Durban, Natal in February 1953, although her residence was given as Karoi, Southern Rhodesia. It is unknown if she or the children accompanied Dr Evans to South Australia.

Signature of John Evans at his marriage in 1903. (South Africa, Natal Province, Civil Marriages, 1845-1955, National Archives and Records Service of South Africa, Pretoria (available on Familysearch).

Willunga district’s medical practitioners were required to attend patients over a large area. As has been shown, these doctors came from diverse backgrounds and places. Their histories were unique. They were more than just a name in documents. Some were family men, had tales of personal tragedy, most embraced the community in which they lived, joined in local activities, played sport, attended public forums, and often served as Justices of the Peace at local courts and inquests. Few remained in the district for the rest of their lives. Their occupations allowed for them to travel and extend their medical expertise and experience. Sometimes financial considerations forced them to move. There may have been other doctors within the district, often working as locums when the resident doctor was on leave but these have not been included here.

Bronte Gould

Willunga National Trust






Trove (National Library of Australia) – Australian digitised newspapers including direct quotes from:

  ‘Advertising’, Adelaide Observer, 19 April 1845, 1.

  ‘South Australian Machinery’, South Australian Register, 7 February 1845, 2, 3.

  ‘Meeting at Willunga’, South Australian Gazette and Mining Journal, 28 February 1852, 3.

  ‘Discovery of Human Remains at Willunga’, South Australian Register, 19 February 1852, 3.

  ‘Willunga’, South Australian Weekly Chronicle, 8 October 1859, 7.

  ‘Labour Market – Corn Growing – Ridley’s, South Australian Register, 22 February 1845, 2.

  ‘Dr McDonald’s testimony to the Efficiency of Ridley’s Reaping Machines.’, South Australian Register, 22 February 1845,.3.

  ‘Court of the Resident Magistrate’, South Australian, 3 April 1846, 3.

  ‘The Southern Districts’, South Australian Weekly Chronicle, 7 October 1865, 3.

  ‘Willunga Institute’, Evening Journal, 9 February 1871, page 2.

Adele Pridmore, The Rich Valley by Adele Pridmore, pages 6, 12, 13.

Australian Medical Pioneers Index, http://www.medicalpioneers.com

Reece Jennings, An Annotated List of Registered Medical Practitioners – South Australia: Nos. 1-1018 (1844-1918), 1994, Mandrake Press, Adelaide.

Papers Past, digitised New Zealand newspapers, https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz

University of Melbourne Archives, Melbourne, Victoria.

General Registry Office Merge Index, https://localwiki.org/adelaide-hills/GRO_Merge_Index

S.A. [South African] Medical Journal . – S.A. Tydskrif vir Geneeskunde, ‘Obituary. Dr. J. Evans.’, 23 October 1937, Vol. XI, No. 20, 749.

Willunga Now&Then

SAILIS, Land Titles information.

The National Trust, Willunga Branch notes and photographs

Dr Susan Marsden, information and photographs of Dr Walter Cecil Marsden

Maree Winchester, the Tripe Family information

Robin Haines, Doctors at Sea: Emigrant Voyages to Colonial Australia, Palgrave MacMillan, New York, 2005.

Greta Jones, ‘“Strike out Boldly for the Prizes that are Available to You”: Medical Emigration from Ireland 1860-1905’, Medical History, 2010, 54,(1): 55-74.

Willunga District Heritage Survey, McDougall & Vines, September 1997.

Noarlunga Local Heritage Register, City of Onkaparinga, November 2003.



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