Home  §   Research Services   §   Sales   §   History Pages   §   Links

MARCH 2005, No. I (archived)
Back to newsletter list

WEB-SITE ADDITION.  –  A new page has recently been added to the Hay Historical Society web-site comprising two articles from the Town & Country Journal from 1881.  In the first article the writer travels by coach from Narrandera to Hay (including a two-day break in his journey at Darlington Point).  He describes "North Yanko", "Gogeldrie" and "Cuba" stations, Darlington Point township and the nearby Warangesda Aboriginal Mission.  The second article contains a detailed portrait of Hay township, including descriptions of local businesses, buildings and public amenities.  The article includes a description of the annual race meeting and a short history of the township.  The new page is here.

RINGER, LATEST PUBLICATION OF THE HAY HISTORICAL SOCIETY.  –  For those not aware, the Society's latest publication, Ringer, was launched before Christmas last year.  It is a wide-ranging collection of stories and articles about the history of Hay and surrounding district.  Lavishly illustrated with a wealth of historic photographs, Ringer offers a selection of articles on a diversity of subjects for those with an interest in the Western Riverina.  A comprehensive index is included listing the people, places and significant events mentioned in the text, as well as maps of the town of Hay and the Western Riverina.  The cost of Ringer is $40 (plus $10 for postage and handling within Australia).  More information can be found here.



In his book The Riverina: People and Properties (F.W. Cheshire, Melbourne, 1960), Robert B. Ronald states: "Probably Dr. Thomas Lang was the only doctor to ever practise in or near Booligal" [p. 45].  There were, however, two other men who worked as medical practitioners at Booligal, one of them properly qualified and the other a medical fraud who eight years previously had been charged with "neglect and improper treatment" of a patient subsequent to her death.

Up to the mid-1860s several of the doctors who practised at Hay made regular visits to Booligal to attend to the sick and injured of the district.  These visits were advertised beforehand, as the following indicate:

Dr. Taylor will be in Booligal on the 1st Tuesday and Wednesday in each month.  [Pastoral Times, 24 September 1864, 3(4)]

Dr. William Frederick Taylor practised at Hay from about May 1863 to June 1866.

Mr. Weston, Surgeon-Accoucheur, will visit Booligal, and may be consulted at Rosette's Hotel, on Thursday, the 5th April [1866] next.  [Pastoral Times, 31 March 1866, (Hay Supplement), 5(1)]

Dr. James Weston arrived at Hay from Deniliquin in November 1865 and practised at Hay township for about a year.

On 16 September 1866 a woman named Catherine Helena Robertson gave birth to a son, Robert James, at Booligal.  The record of birth gives the father's name as Arthur Bell Robertson; occupation: "Physician"; aged 52 years.  The informant for the registration of birth was the father of the child, Arthur Bell Robertson, of Booligal.  Robert James Robertson was the sixth child of the family (who was eventually to become a MLA in the New South Wales government from 1907 to his death in 1933).  The father, Dr. Arthur Bell Robertson (also recorded as 'Robinson'), worked as a medical practitioner in the Booligal district from September 1866 to at least April 1867.  The evidence indicates Dr. Robertson attended to all classes of society in his work, from squatters to labourers.  He assisted in the delivery of children, and attended to the sick and injured of Booligal and surrounding district.  On 4 April 1867 "A.B. Robinson", attended to the 50 year-old labourer Thomas O'Brien at Booligal, who later died that same day.  The cause of death was "paralysis", from which O'Brien had suffered for 10 days previously.  This is the first recorded death at Booligal to show an indication that a medical practitioner had attended to the person before they died.  Later the same month Dr. Arthur Bell Robinson assisted (with the midwife Mrs. Donnely) in the birth of a daughter to the 18 year-old Agnes O'Brien, widow to Thomas O'Brien who had died three weeks previously.  The informant for the registration of the birth details was "Arthur Bell Robinson (Medical Attendant), of Booligal".

Notwithstanding all this, the evidence suggests that Dr. Arthur Bell Robertson (Robinson) was not a qualified medical practitioner, and by that stage was certainly operating under a false name.  Robertson, whose birth-name was Robert John Stuart Robertson, was born in about 1814, probably at Brussels in Belgium, the son of a British Army officer.  Little else is known of the early period of his life except that he arrived in Australia in 1850 with the unshakeable conviction that he was a direct descendant of the Stuart Kings of England and Scotland and the rightful heir to the English throne.  In October 1851 he married the Irish immigrant, Catherine Eleanor Joyce, at Clare in South Australia.  During the next few years Robert and Catherine probably lived at various places in the Victorian goldfields.  In November 1858 Robertson and his family were living at Wedderburn where, as Dr. Robert John Stuart Robinson, he treated the 28 year-old Mrs. Anne Barrows for an abscess in the ear.  After two visits by Dr. Robinson her condition worsened and Mrs. Barrows' husband asked another doctor to attend to her.  Two days afterwards, however, Anne Barrows died of "inflammation of the brain or its membranes".  On 4 December 1858 a Coroner’s inquiry was held at Mount Korong before the Coroner of the District of Dunolly.  Dr. Robinson gave evidence at the inquiry:

I am a Master of Medicine of the King's College London… Licentiate of the Andersonian College of Glasgow, and Member of the Medical Board of Victoria, and resident of Korong…  [ Deposition by Robert John Stuart Robinson, Victorian Supreme Court Records 1841-1873 (Victorian Public Record Office) – NCR 2355]

The jurors found that Anne Barrows' death "was accelerated by the neglect and improper treatment of Robert John Stuart Robinson" and Dr. Robinson was charged with that offence.  He was to appear at the next Circuit Court at Castlemaine to answer the charges.  Dr. Robinson was held in custody, but by January 1859 he was discharged by the Victorian Attorney-General on what seems to have been a technicality.  The case seemed to hinge on whether Robertson was legally qualified and registered as a medical practitioner with the Medical Board of Victoria (neither of which was the case) and so it was determined that no case existed and Robertson was freed.  Evidence suggests Robertson and his family then moved to New South Wales, living at Menindee, Walgett (and possibly Goondiwindi in Queensland) during the first half of the 1860s.  By September 1866 Robertson and his family were living at Booligal (as has been outlined).

In early April 1867 it was announced that Dr. W. K. Farrelle, who had been practising at Hay, "is about to remove to Booligal".  The last record of Dr. Robertson at Booligal was on 25 April 1867 when he assisted with the delivery of Agnes O'Brien's baby, so there was probably a short period of overlap between Robertson and Dr. Farrelle at Booligal.  Where Robertson went to when he left Booligal is another of the many unknowns about this man, though Wilcannia is a possibility.  By 1870 Robertson was involved in a partnership in a copper mine near Bathurst, after which he spent two years in prison when he was convicted of perjury (the complainant being his partner in the mine).  While serving his prison term evidence came to light of a bigamous relationship between Robertson and a woman in Bathurst.  During the ensuing years Robertson married yet another woman.  He fathered a total of five children from these two bigamous relationships, and in 1874 spent time in prison for bigamy.  During this period Robertson became estranged from his first family; Catherine Eleanor Robertson and her children settled at Bourke where Catherine died in March 1893.  Robertson, under the name Robert John Stuart Robertson, died on 3 July 1899 at George Street Asylum in Parramatta.

Robertson's successor at Booligal, William Kaye Farrelle, was born in 1843 at Longford, county Longford, Ireland.  It has not been determined where Farrelle studied for his medical qualifications, though he used the following after his name: "L.R.C.Phys" (Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians), "L.R.C.SurgEdin" (Licentiate of the Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh) and "L.M.Dub" (Licentiate in Midwifery, Dublin ?).  Dr. Farrelle and Mary Jane Graham were married in Belfast, Ireland, in October 1866.  The couple emigrated to Australia soon afterwards and by late January 1867 Dr. Farrelle had commenced practising medicine at Hay.  During March 1867 there was an epidemic of scarlatina at Hay.

Scarlatina, it is said, is again prevalent in the neighborhood – a son of Mr. Sabine's, about three years old, was taken ill on Monday, and died yesterday [5 March 1867].  There is a deal of sickness about at the present time, both amongst adults and children.  [Pastoral Times, 9 March 1867, 2(6)]

William Sabine (the publican of the Bush Inn) and his wife Frances lost two of their children of scarlatina within two weeks.  Dr. Farrelle had attended to both children prior to their deaths.  In late March it was reported that Dr. Farrelle would continue his practise at Booligal.

Dr. W. K. Farrele, who has for some time been practising his profession at Hay, and during his stay here made many friends, is about to remove to Booligal, where there is no doubt but that he will meet with every encouragement… I congratulate the inhabitants of the Lachlan on being about to secure the services of a gentleman of such standing in his profession.  ['Hay' report (dated 29 March 1867), Pastoral Times, 6 April 1867, 3(2)]

Advertisements simply reading "Dr. W. K. Farrelle, Booligal" were placed in the Pastoral Times newspaper.

Mary Jane Farrelle gave birth to two children during her stay at Booligal.  A male child (probably registered before he was baptised) was born on 22 August 1867; another son, Frederick, was born on 2 August 1869 at Booligal.  On both occasions the midwife was Mrs. Elizabeth Le Lievre.  Dr. Farrelle and Elizabeth Le Lievre often worked together when delivering babies at Booligal.  The doctor remained at Booligal until early 1870.  On 7 February 1870 Dr. Farrelle passed through Hay "en route for Nelson, New Zealand, where he has succeeded in obtaining a good appointment".  The newspaper report stressed that Dr. Farrelle was "very much respected, and leaves behind him many friends" [Pastoral Times, 12 February 1870, 2(7)].

Dr. Farrelle's departure from Booligal left the township without a medical practitioner until late November 1871 when Dr. Thomas Lang arrived there.  Thomas Lang was the eldest of three brothers who had held pastoral runs on the south side of the Murrumbidgee, near the location known as Lang's Crossing-place (where Hay township eventually developed).  Thomas Lang was a qualified medical practitioner, having been educated at Edinburgh University.  Thomas and his brother William arrived at Port Phillip in 1839 (later joined by their brother Gideon in 1841).  Thomas Lang's central preoccupation during his first three decades in Australia was in pastoral pursuits.

By the early 1860s, in the district surrounding the new township of Hay, the Lang brothers held "Mungadal", "Pevensey" and "Eli Elwah" runs on the Murrumbidgee, and also "Booabula" ("Wanganella North"), "Wargam" and "Willurah".  The partnership between the brothers was dissolved in 1862, with William Lang going his separate way from his two brothers.  The drought years of the mid-1860s was particularly devastating for Thomas and Gideon Lang, and by the end of the decade they had disposed of the Riverina properties which they retained after the partnership split.  In the latter part of 1871 Thomas Lang and his family relocated to Booligal.

Dr. Lang and his family have taken up their abode in our township; we are glad to have an experienced medical man like the doctor amongst us.  ['Booligal' report, Hay Standard, 15 November 1871, 3(1)]

Evidence indicates that Dr. Thomas Lang initially lived in the Booligal township and, as Ronald states, practised as a doctor there.  At various stages – January 1873 to February 1874 and during October 1875 – Dr. Lang worked as the resident doctor at the Hay Hospital, though the evidence suggests he frequently travelled between the townships in order to maintain his practice at Booligal.  At some stage Dr. Lang selected a property of 500 acres near Booligal called "Woorandari" (or "Woorandara").  In February 1879 a notice appears in the Riverine Grazier indicating that Thomas and Louisa Lang left Booligal township to reside at "Woorandari":

Dr. Thos. Lang having removed to his residence about twelve miles west of Booligal, notifies that he will still retain his practice as heretofore, and will visit the township every Wednesday and Thursday until noon.  [Riverine Grazier, 12 February 1879]

The last years of Thomas Lang’s life were spent on his selection.

Dr. Lang has for some years resided on his property near Booligal… he has been living quietly on his selection, living on its proceeds and his practice.  [Obituary – Thomas Lang (Riverine Grazier, 16 April 1884)]

Dr. Thomas Lang died on 14 April 1884 at the age of 74 years.  He was buried the next day in the Presbyterian section of the Hay cemetery.

WEB-SITES OF INTEREST –  The web-site 'Australian Medical Pioneers Index' (AMPI) http://www.medicalpioneers.com/sources.htm is a useful database of Australia's pioneer doctors, from the 1700s through to 1875.  The site covers Australian medical history, with a database of medical pioneers registered or qualified in Australia and educational background material.  Ships' surgeons, convict doctors, general practitioners and medical specialists are included.  AMPI provides access to information obtained from sources such as medical registers, shipping records, newspapers, pictorial archives, and early medical publications.

For anyone interested in further information about the elusive and enigmatic Robert John Stuart Robertson, you can visit the Yahoo group maintained by descendants of Robertson and other interested persons.  The Stuart-Robertson group is at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/stuart-robertson

© Copyright 2005, Hay Historical Society Inc. All rights reserved.  The material in this newsletter is for personal use only.  Re-publication and re-dissemination is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of the Hay Historical Society Inc.

Return to the top of the page

Back to newsletter list
Home  §   Research Services   §   Sales   §   History Pages   §   Links

This page has been accessed     times since March 2005.