Old Bega Hospital History - Chapter 3

Hospital opened

The Bega District Hospital was opened on Thursday, April 18, 1889, with Robert Lucas Tooth officiating, which was a huge coup. He had not only donated the largest sum to the building fund - £100 - ten times more than anyone else, but he was one of the richest men in the colony. It was a real honour for such an important man to take time from his very busy schedule to perform this task.

The British social class system had been imported to the colony. All the Bega Hospital committee was middle class, and many were in that class through their own efforts. The Mayor, Thomas Rawlinson's father, had been a stonemason who brought his family out to Australia when Thomas was a child. He was educated at Sydney Grammar and then Sydney University and was a solicitor. Some of the most respected gentleman in town and in the district had convict ancestry but this was very carefully kept a secret for the next 100 years or so. However, Robert Lucas Tooth was a cut above these locals. He was born in Sydney but sent back to England to be educated at the most prestigious school there – Eton. Returning to Australia he joined the merchant firm of R and Tooth and Company and became active in the management of the Kent brewery, and in 1868 became a partner. He bought the estate of Kameruka, 13 and a half miles north-west from Bega from his uncle Frederick in 1864. Both a social humanitarian and a philanthropist, Robert Lucas Tooth provided his tenant farmers at Kameruka with six-roomed cottages, a school, a church designed by Edmund Blacket, a meeting hall, store and post office. He planted English trees, built an ornamental lake, kept an aviary of golden pheasants and liberated all sorts of game – pheasants, quails, hares and foxes. (Unhappily those foxes have multiplied over the years and are a real pest, especially to those in the district who breed chickens). Tooth changed from grazing cattle to dairying, and from imported stock he founded a Jersey herd, made a mature cheddar cheese and was the first in the colony to make Edam cheeses. Not long after he presided at the opening, he left Australia for England so that his children could be educated there. He occasionally came back to Kameruka to visit, but he never lived in Australia again. He was knighted by Queen Victoria for his services to the Empire.

The Bega Standard reported that at the opening that:

Everyone seemed agreed as to the splendid building that had been erected, and spoke highly of the beauty of the site on which it stands; and when a garden is laid out and trees planted about the enclosure, it would be hard to find a more beautiful or salubrious spot in the colony than that occupied by the Bega District Hospital. Work has already been commenced in making the garden. And before long we may expect to see a great improvement there. The officers and committee deserve the greatest credit for their work and it now rests with the public to support and carry on the institution, and we have no doubt that throughout the whole of the district there will be enough raised annually to help the sick and the suffering. The honorary medical offices are Dr Evershed and Marshall of Bega, and Dr Meeks of Candelo, and the hospital will now do away with cases of affliction falling on a few persons.

At four o'clock the ceremony began with the hospital committee president, Mr Charles Tarlton Stiles, presiding. He said "he had very little doubt of the success of the hospital when he saw so many ladies present, and if they continued to take an interest in the hospital the committee would have no fear". Mr Stiles reminded everyone that it had taken some years to get the hospital to its present state. He said some difficulty with the site had arisen, some wanting the hospital in town and some out of it, until the matter was set at rest by the Government giving them land on which the building now stood, and he thought everyone would agree that it was a pretty one. He hoped "it would soon be connected with the town by telephone, when all objections to the distance would be overcome. He would have to speak about money for without it they could not keep on. The treasurer would give them an outline on how money matters stood. At present they were not in debt, but they would have to get things necessary at the cost of £300." He then called on Mr Tooth to formally open the building.

Mr Tooth, who was received with applause, said it was most gratifying to him to receive the invitation to formally open the building. "On an occasion such as this, one had a lot to say and yet hardly knew how to express one's thoughts. The building before them represented the liberality of the people of the district, and the sympathy they felt for the suffering they saw around them. The hospital was only an offshoot of those big institutions which in the old country received such splendid support, and which were such a comfort to the afflicted. In speaking of hospitals, the name of Florence Nightingale came to one's mind; a name that was known wherever the English language was spoken, and which would be handed down in history for her kindness to our soldiers in the Crimea. He related an anecdote of Florence Nightingale, who on a pressing occasion went to an officer for things necessary for the suffering soldiers, and was told it would take three days to do what she required. She asked the officer if he would take his orders from her, and on his answering yes, said 'Break down the doors, and take out the things'. And her actions were condoned and praised, even though it broke through one of the traditions of the English army. He hoped patients in the hospital would receive comfort and assistance in its walls. The people should now take this opportunity of helping the committee in their good work, and he begged to hand a small contribution to the president." He then said "'I now declare this hospital open for the whole of the Bega district".

The audience cheered. The president then announced that Mr Tooth had handed him a cheque for fifty pounds, and three cheers were then given for Mr Tooth. The honorary treasurer, Mr Scott read a few figures. The total receipts to date were £2,041 17s 8d. Against this the expenses of the building were £1,775; plans etc £81 11s; incidental £87 11s 2d: a total of £1,941 2s 2d, leaving a credit balance of £97 15s 6d. Sundry liabilities, fencing etc, would come to £316, and with the subsidy due from Government of about £151, this would leave £150 wanted for urgent necessities. The sum of about £70 was given, including Mr Tooth's cheque, £10 10s from Mr Lingen, barrister-at-law, and his wife, the latter a sister of Mr Tooth, both of whom were present.

Champagne, liquors and light refreshments were then partaken of by those present, and success drank to the institution. After this the buildings were viewed and admired, and towards five o'clock a start was made for home, everyone pleased with the pleasant and unostentatious little ceremony of opening the Bega District Hospital.

The reporter from the Bega Standard described the hospital:

The main building is of brick, with wings of wood, and faces the north. It is a neat comfortable looking edifice and has the appearance of a villa, except for the four boxes at each of the four corners. The dimensions are 96 x 42 [feet]. In front of the main building is a verandah, projecting five feet, its width, from the line, and a hall six feet wide leads right through. On the right as you enter is the waiting room, then another hall six-feet wide intersecting the main one at right angles divides that from the board room. Opposite to them are a private ward and the operating room. The left wing opens on to a verandah eight foot wide, and is the male ward 25 x 21, a verandah eight feet wide being also at the back. This will accommodate six beds. There is a good fireplace in it, and in the hot weather there will be ample ventilation, splendid provision being made for both this and the female ward. In the front at the end of the verandah are two earth closets and at the back a bathroom both 7ft 6ft square, and a lobby leading into each. At the door is a linen press opening on to the hall. The hall running through leads to the female ward, 21 x 15, it being built the same as the male ward and large enough for four beds. Opening on the hall on the front side is a linen room, and directly opposite the nurse's room. A covered way of 20 feet leads to the kitchen at the rear, and it has a five-foot verandah. A door from this opens into the kitchen 15 x 12, behind which is a bedroom, 15 x 10, opening into a bathroom 10 x 7. A grand range has been fitted up in the kitchen. A door opens from the kitchen to the wash house 15 x 12, which also opens on to a verandah, and behind this room is a store room, 15 x 10. The washroom has a set of tubs, a copper, and a sink built in, and is most convenient. A large underground tank is situated between the main building and the kitchen, and its capacity is some thousands of gallons, enough when full to last the institution some months. Pipes lead from the whole of the roof into it, and but little rain will suffice to fill it from such a large scope of roof. At the back door of the main building is a powerful force pump, with pipes leading up to supply the tanks situated over the two bathrooms in that building, and also to the tanks connected to the bathroom, tubs and scullery in the rear building. Over a chain away, on the eastern side, at the back of the kitchen is the infectious ward 12 x 12, of weatherboard, roofed with iron to hold two beds, whilst on the opposite side on the same line and equidistant from the south-west corner, is the dead house 10 x 8, and behind it under the same roof, the swag room 8 x 5. This is, like the infectious ward, of wood and iron. In each room and ward in the main building, except of course the linen room, is a register grate. The walls are 14 ft high through the main building and with ceilings all plastered. The walls of the wings are the same height, and they are all covered with sheet iron and ceilinged with pine.

Ellen Clarke was appointed matron, "her lack of training provided no obstacle in those days of 'natural' nurses', when training had not been commenced".[i] Not long after opening, the need for necessities were such that the community was called on to support the hospital. The secretary requested the Bega Standard to ask its readers for contributions of pieces of old, but clean linen or calico, which would be gratefully received. Donations of cash, vegetables, flowers, preserves and cows for milking were sought and received. The first patient at the hospital was Janet Clarke. The hospital committee visited the hospital before its July meeting with the Bega Standard reporting that they:

…spoke highly of the splendid accommodation afforded in the institution, and that such existed in the district to yield relief to the sick and the suffering as in the case of James Whelan who recently died there. They were pleased to find the place was beautifully clean and was gradually getting into working order. Since its opening six patients had been admitted, and there are at present three patients. In the last case admitted, that of a woman suffering from pneumonia, the benefit is shown of having such an institution. This complaint requires careful nursing even more than physic, and the sufferer's house, although comfortable, was subject to draughts. She was advised to go to hospital, and entered as a paying patient, and has rapidly improved since her admission, whereas had she remained at home death was likely to ensue. For paying patients the scale of charges has been fixed from £1 to £3 3s, exclusive of medical attention.

In July 1889 Dr Evershed resigned as one of the medical officers because he felt he could not give the time and attention necessary for the care of the patients, but he was always willing to assist in operations or an emergency. Now the onus for care of the patients had to be mostly met by Dr Marshall. Dr Meeke, who was also one of the medical officers, would do his bit, but he resided in Candelo, 15 miles away. The fact that Dr Evershed was so busy with his practice in Bega showed that those who had worked so hard to fundraise and have the hospital built did it a charitable gesture for those who were poor and needy. They, as they had always done, called on Dr Evershed and the other local doctors to treat them and their family in their homes.

Money for the ongoing expense of the hospital was still a problem so the position of collector was advertised and Mr Crommelin was appointed. In August flowers, shrubs and trees donated by Messrs Gowing and Wren were planted and £20 11s was added to the hospital fund from a ball at Candelo.

There were three patients in the hospital early September and there had been another death, that of Mrs Ross of Wolumla who had been ailing for some time. Money was badly needed before the end of the year to secure a Government endowment, and a way to raise that money came about through the good offices of Daniel Gowing, JP, of the Garden of Eden, Jellat Jellat. Gowing was one of the largest landed proprietors in the Bega district. He came to the colony from Norfolk, England, in 1841, first at Bung Bung, then at Sutton Forrest.

There for six years he carried on a business as a gardener and nurseryman. He followed similar pursuits at Glenfield for a number of years when he purchased about 500 acres of land in the Bega district from the Government, being one of the first purchasers for cash. He had increased this from time to time, and in 1888 owned about 3000 acres, 500 of which are under cultivation and the remainder used for grazing purposes. Mr Gowing has been a JP for many years and is the admitted father of Tathra having, with his own hands, cleared the road from Bega to the port. He used machinery forty years ago, and is one of our best and most successful farmers.[ii]

A large advertisement in the Bega Standard of 18th October tells that there will be a Garden Party on November 8, at Jellat Jellat to benefit the hospital and Mr Gowing has kindly placed his spacious grounds at the disposal of the hospital committee and a day of General Rejoicing will be experienced. It was also declared a district public holiday and, although it was a Saturday, in this rural area it meant many employers would allow their farm workers the day off.

The paper's copy setters were busy with exclamation marks in this ad.

There will be amusement for the young!
Recreation for all!
Money for the hospital!
Provision will be made for Music!
Dancing on the lawn!
Cricket! Croquet! Aunt Sally! Coconut throwing! Footracing! Trips in the River Steamer! Lovely Walks! Flowers! Hothouse! Conservatory! General Enjoyment!
The sports will include:-
Grand Handicap, 150 yards, for all comers.
Flying Handicap, and races for Youth and Boys.
Refreshments at popular prices.
Large Marquee Specially Built for the Day
Tickets of admission at the gate are now in the hands of friends all over the district.
Come if You Can!
If you cannot be with us please buy a ticket.

Before the big day there was a problem as the cow used by hospital had gone dry. Mr Allen had donated the cow and "he purchased her back and giving full market value for her, the institution benefiting from his generosity in having the use of her and afterwards buying her. Mr Henry Otton, with his usual generosity, has now lent one of his best cows to the committee, and we hear that other gentlemen offered to do likewise".[iii]

Naturally the garden party, believed to be the first of its kind in any town south of Sydney, was reported at length in the Bega Standard:

The hospital funds having gone down to a somewhat low ebb, the committee was put to straits as to what entertainment they should set forth, to place the finances on a better footing, when Mr Gowing offered them the use of his garden and grounds, for a picnic or garden party. The committee availed themselves of the offer, and a meeting of ladies in the district was called to provide for a picnic, and the fete duly advertised, the ladies providing the tables, and the proprietor of the grounds in the erection of the marquee and such-like details." There were a few problems in that the committee hadn't made it clear that the only charge would be for the luncheon, and gossip had it that visitors would be charged to see the hot-house and the conservatory and police would be there to make sure no flowers were stolen. "These reports had the effect of keeping many away. In spite of this, however, there must have been fully 400 persons in the grounds, including a few visitors, but very few from Wolumla, Pambula and Candelo. The ladies of the latter place, however sent in a cash contribution of £7 11s 6d, per Mr Levy and the same gentleman handed in a donation of £5 5s 6d, so if the fete had not the presence of the Candelo folk in numbers, they at least helped to swell substantially the takings of the entertainment.

The Garden of Eden is a magnificent estate some four miles from Bega, on the Tathra road, embracing an area of about 2000 acres, with a frontage to both sides of the road and both sides of the river. A very large proportion of it, that on the river frontage, is alluvial flat, yielding on an average from 75 to 80 bushels of corn, and this without a shilling's outlay, during the number of years the land had been tilled, in fertilising it. On it Mr Gowing has erected a commodious and comfortable homestead, a two-storey brick building, which is encircled by a flower garden, plantation containing the finest ornamental trees, and orchard of the finest fruit trees of all descriptions, the whole over eight acres is extent, surrounded by a privet hedge, the growth and density of which excited general admiration. [The house still stands and can been seen on the left side of the Tathra Road for those driving from Bega.] Besides this, there is also outside a cherry orchard, covering an area of some two acres; and of the quality of the fruit produced on the estate all have an ocular demonstration. Mr Gowing has a hobby, and it is his garden; and while going in for the useful he also indulges in the beautiful. A carriage drive fringed with ornamental trees leads from the gate to the house, past the hothouse, contiguous to which is a splendid lawn; and the west balcony of the house has been turned into a conservatory. The walks between the garden and orchard are well laid out, umbrageous trees being tastefully set out in every direction. The present is rather a disadvantageous time for an inspection of the conservatory and hothouse. Many of the choicest varieties of flowers being out of bloom, still both looked bright and gay with beautiful flowers. In the former we noticed good specimens cinerarias, pelargoniums (the blooms of which are especially fine), gloxinias, primulas, fuchsias, good specimens ferns, and other plants it would prove too great a tax on me to enumerate, the whole showing good growth and the bestowal of much care on the part of the gardener, Mr George Pethers, from Guernsey. The same may be said for the contents of the hothouse, a building of 40 x 12, and heated when required by means of what is known as the Halifax boiler, which sends a stream of hot water through iron pipes round to the building and back to the boiler again. In this building were to seen some single and double hibiscus, coleus, primulas, cyclamens, bouvardia, double scarlet geraniums, maiden-hair fern, etc, etc.

Engaging in conversation with Mr Gowing, our reporter learned from him that he had been in the colony a great number of years, having first come from Sydney to Monaro, where he intended to go in for a station, and dropped kellick in the vicinity of Buckley's Crossing, but the cattle and general outlook not pleasing him, he determined, on the strength of what a friend, who knew he was an agricultural man, told him to come down to Bega. This determination he acted on, and pitched his tent near where his home now stands, awaiting the first land sale, at which he was present. To cut as long story short, he secured a good slice of land at a very low price, and in the early years, by dint of industry and thrift, managed to secure the magnificent holding he now occupies, which stands as an example to other equally fortunate landowners, who by exercise of care and patience, could have just as good or better gardens than Mr Gowing has. It would take too much time and space to detail Mr Gowing's experience as a wheat grower, and a miller (and the mill-stones are in place now, though silent), his trouble in shipping produce to Sydney, and the opening up of Tathra, of which he is the acknowledged founder, and of other experiences. Beside his hobby of floriculture, Mr Gowing has another hobbyhorse, that of using machinery whereas practicable, and in use and rusting he has machinery the cost of which would mean a considerable fortune. We might hear mention that all the ploughing is done by means of the steam plough, the only one south of Sydney we believe.

Mr Gowing erected a marquee for the ladies of the district who catered for the garden party. Eight tables were erected in this pavilion from which 'excellent combustibles' were set out. The food was donated. In attendance at the tables were a number of young ladies as waitresses. To them much credit is due for the solicitous care of all who partook of the luncheon. The general verdict was that the tariff – a modest 'colonial robert' - was all too small for the repast set forth by the caterers, who were kept busily employed for a very long time, the tables being filled over and over again. In spite of this great tax on their resources, however, there was enough and to spare (after the energies of the ladies had been we consider rather unfairly taxed) for serving up tea also. Although the ladies must have been tired out in their efforts in the good cause, they have the satisfaction of knowing their efforts were heartily appreciated by one and all. Passing from the marquee, where so much pleasure was to be obtained at such a moderate cost, people old and young could be seen, evidently in the height of enjoyment, strolling through the grounds or engaging in amusements of some kind – lawn tennis, croquet, dancing, chatting, listening to music etc. Frequently and often were to be seen the visitors wending their way to the summer house, and they had very good reason to go there, for in command of it were two nice young ladies – Miss Dollie Underhill and Miss Minnie Holland – serving out luscious strawberries and the sweetness of sweet cream to all who favoured them with their patronage. To these young ladies the greatest credit is due for their industry, as they gave up the whole of their day for the cause, and netted between them the sum of £5 2s 6d in sixpenny plates of delicacies they dispensed. Mr Row catered for the amusement of the male portion of those present, and ran a shooting gallery and what he termed 'a doodle-em-buck, aunt sally, etc, 'as to the manor born', even inducing 'the cloth' to participate in the games, and he got together £5 15s 6d. By means of the games he was running, altho had the cleric stuck with him the bank would have been broken and the committee could then have looked for a 'row'. Throwing at the coconuts caused some amusement it being successfully run by Mr Maples, and by the irony of fate a gentleman who has to do with tree planting got a coconut for every stick, so we will doubtless see coconut palms growing on many of the reserves hereabout! Mr Fenner also rendered good service, as did many members of the committee, whilst the honorary secretary Mr Braine, was most careful to see all arrangements carry out. The sports were not a success, but with the cricket and other amusements they were not missed. The trips in the steam launch, through some unforeseen circumstances, did not come off, which was a disappointment.

Splendid music was gratuitously rendered by the Concordia Band, consisting of Messrs O R and A Mueller, G Ellis, Brock, Blanchard, R Millar, McDonald, Hardaker, and Zingel;; whilst that by the string band – Messrs A J Wilson, A Mueller and H J Blanchford (first violins), Short and R Millar (second violins) Brook (clarinetist), Zingel and Hardaker (cornet), McDonald (saxhorn), Ellis (trombone), and O R Mueller (double bass) – was simply excellent, and we look forward with pleasure to a repetition of it. We were glad to see the services of the musicians so well appreciated by the committee and the public.  In the afternoon, the president of the hospital, Mr Stiles, proposed the health of Mr and Mrs Gowing, who had thrown open their grounds to the pleasure of all who attended. This was seconded by the Mayor, and responded to by three hearty cheers. Cheers were also given for the ladies who catered, and the band. We will not go into any description of the ladies' dresses, but content ourselves with saying they were all prettily and becomingly attired. In conclusion, we must say that everyone present seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves. High eulogiums are passed on the promoters of the affair, and the garden party will be remembered with pleasure by all who attended it. The total received will reach about £75, the gate showing £31 10s, and luncheon £16 13s 6d. An annual affair of the sort would materially help the institution.

[i] Bayley's History of Bega

[ii] Aldine's Centennial History of New South Wales

[iii] Bega Standard

Chapter 4