Queensland’s German Connections – Dr Ernst Wuth

Born in 1833 in Hannover, Ernst Magnus Wuth graduated from the University of Giessen in Hessen, and responded to an advertisement in the Weser-Zeitung offering free passage for a working ship’s doctor on an imminent voyage to the fifth continent. So Wuth joined the 37.6m (123ft) barque Solon in Bremen, sailed from there on 15 December 1858, and worked an eventful passage, electing to disembark at Moreton Bay.

Realising that staying in Brisbane would be too costly, and besides, there were already too many doctors there, Dr Wuth ventured onto the Darling Downs to a little town of Dalby on a borrowed horse and with nothing in his pockets. After six months he had paid his credit, which was very high because of the rent he had to pay. He lived very poorly, never wasting money for brandy or other things, but using every penny earned during this time to pay off his debts. His credibility was so good that he could buy a new house in one of the better parts of the city for 312 Pounds Sterling. He arranged the purchase that way, so that he had to pay the whole amount within two years, every 6 months a quarter of the price. 

But in the meantime, he had made some other speculations. He bought 80 acres farmland partly in the city, partly outside. He also bought 1⁄2 acre land for £6, and sold the same three months later to one of his handymen for £18. Also, if he had nothing to do in his practice Dr Wuth would ride to the auctions and buy wild horses, which he rode himself till they were good riding horses and then he’d sell them for double the amount. 

Some of his observations at that time reveal an independent, at times feisty, personality which speaks volumes about this quick-thinker and the challenges and attitudes of the time: 

On Aborigines:

‘The Aboriginals (sic) are friendly people as long as we are peaceful towards them. Once I got lost in the bush for five days and I did not see one Aboriginal (sic) – and how much I wished I had found one, for they are good hunters and know how to survive in the bush. 

‘My only food was ‘Blakmussels’, as you know them at home. If you see Aboriginals (sic) you only see them in groups. Sometimes they arrive or come to our city to do little jobs for a glass of brandy or tobacco. I am known amongst them like a brother because my practice takes in patients from a distance as far as 100 miles. They never stay in one place for a long time, they don’t want to try. 

On Work Ethics:

‘If one is healthy, has an iron will and determination and is not afraid of the devil (it is not necessary to be a devil oneself) one can make as much money in one day as you can make it in Germany in one week.  One can do what one likes, as long as one has the above-mentioned qualities, then it will be enough to get lucky in Australia. Free travel is gladly arranged through the Gentlemen Heussler and Francksen. Every newcomer to our new Colony (Queensland) as from the 1st of January receives £2. 

On Marriage:

‘Generally speaking, getting married is not good in this country, because they do not import the right kind of women; besides, women drink here like the plague. To marry an English woman is only wise if she has three times as much money as oneself, because she is spending three times more than a German woman. If I encounter such an opportunity, I will think about marriage, but these chances are rare – very very rare – and because of this it is perhaps better to wait until somebody right arrives from Germany.’

In spite of his previous comments about marriage, Dr Wuth married Eliza Watson (of Greek birth, incidentally) in November 1861 at Dalby. They had seven children. 

Dr. Wuth’s medical practice was interrupted when the new Medical Board of Queensland declined to recognise his qualification, which had not been endorsed by local registration. After a two-year hiatus, formal recognition of his German degree by the University of Melbourne confirmed his practice in Queensland, and he worked in Springsure, Tambo and Townsville. 

The Wuths selected land at Springsure in 1868 where he worked at Springsure Hospital.

Eliza collected MEL specimens at Springsure Mountains. Her husband also collected MEL specimens, including the type of Tetracera wuthiana F.Muell. (1876), named for him. (MEL is the Herbariorum code of the National Herbarium of Victoria)

The original Springsure Hospital (now its museum)

Eliza and her husband seem to have become estranged, and he disappears from records after resigning as resident surgeon of the Townsville Hospital in 1882. 

While overseas in December 1885, Dr Wuth died in a Philadelphia hospital, apparently after a very, very big night out. His death certificate from Philadelphia indicates opium poisoning. Opium addiction was not uncommon for Doctors of that era.

Eliza and her children remained in Springsure, and she died in 1925 aged 84.

(Extracted from ‘Queensland’s German Connections’)

First Steam Trains to Cleveland (submitted by Ian Kirk)

Thomas Kirk was born on 30 September 1858 in Osnaburgh, parish of Dairsie, Fifeshire, Scotland. He sailed on the “Maulesden” from the Tail o’the Bank, Glasgow on 1 march 1883 and landed at white cliffs, Fraser Island (near where Kingfisher Bay resort now stands) via River Heads near Maryborough, Queensland on 12 May 1883 this was, at that time, the fastest voyage by a sailing vessel from Glasgow to Queensland.

After the death of his first wife, Marjorie in 1886, Thomas at 36 years old married Annie Marian Chappell, 31 years old from Sheffield, England. Annie had arrived in Queensland on the RSM “Jumna” on 6 April 1887. They were married in Brisbane on 17 March 1890. 

Thomas Kirk was employed as an engine driver for the Queensland Railways, and when the railway line to Cleveland was opened on 1 November, 1889, Thomas Kirk was the first engine driver. 

Thomas Kirk and fireman with their steam engine (photo courtesy Ian Kirk)

Thomas and Annie Kirk lived at 151 Shore Street, Cleveland.   This house still stands next to the old courthouse (now a restaurant). The Kirks had six children.

The Kirk’s house “Craigie Lea” next to today’s Court House restaurant c.1890

(Editor: The name “Craigie Lea” was probably derived from the popular Scottish song of the 19th century “Thou Bonnie Wood of Craigie-Lea”)

Accident on the Cleveland line – a narrow escape!

‘An engine drawing the 9.15am train from Melbourne Street broke down badly near Wellington Point at about 10.40am today (writes our Cleveland correspondent under Saturday’s date). Both driving rods are broken, and the boiler is much injured by the revolving of the broken rods at a great rate. Driver Kirk and fireman Smith were uninjured. Later further inquiries and inspection show that in the breakdown of the engine on the Cleveland railway line on Saturday morning there was but a very narrow escape from a most serious accident which could scarcely have failed to be attended by loss of life. The first driving rod broke at the top of a down grade of 1 in 70, a t the bottom of which there is a wooden bridge, a waterway over 20ft deep, approached by an embankment. Down this grade for about 200 yards the train raced, as for some moments the brakes were useless, owing to the escaping steam and water rendering the rails asslippery as ice. The guard B.Finaldi, however, stuck to his brake expecting the engine and tender to be derailed every moment, as did also driver Kirk.

‘As at every revolution of the wheels the two pieces of broken shaft struck everything within their compass, at the same time propping on the sleepers, fairly lifting the engine on that side. So that it was almost certain to topple over on one side down the embankment. Just as the train was slowing, through the brakes beginning to act, the second driving rod broke, but did not do much damage on that side. The fireman Smith, received a knock on the head from a piece of wood, a portion of the cab, and was knocked back into the tender on to the coals. Kirk’s pluck in sticking to his post at the risk of his life is beyond all praise, and can quickly be realised on an inspection of the engine. By the time the relieving engine arrived from town, the broken shafts had been removed by Kirk, and the disabled engine was shunted at Wellington Point, and later in the day drawn up to Brisbane.  There were only eight or ten passengers in the train at the time of the breakdown, and they received a considerable fright.  This is the third engine that has broken down on the Cleveland line this month.

‘In the first case, after the arrival of the 5.30pm train at Cleveland, and as the engine was being shunted into the shed for the night, she sprang a leak in the firebox, and in a few moments all the water was out into the fire. In the second case, an engine broke down at Manly station on the Prince of Wales birthday holiday, and disarranged the traffic for the day.’

Cleveland railway station 1950 (Raby Bay and Ormiston are in the background)

Cleveland newspaper report-June 1910

‘Cleveland school of arts on Saturday night, the 16 June 1910, a very pleasant evening was spent, the occasion being a gathering of the residents to bid farewell to Mr. and Mrs. T. Kirk, the first railway people stationed there; Mr. Kirk having driven the first engine to Cleveland in 1889, where he had resided up to the present date. Between two and three hundred people were present to meet them and their family. During the evening Mr.L.Hugonin, speaking on behalf of the residents, and with much pride, presented Mr. Kirk with a most handsome clock, on which was inscribed: “presented to T.Kirk from the well-wishers and friends of Cleveland 16.7.10”, remarking that he hoped it would keep as good time as he (Mr. Kirk) had always done. He likened his leaving to a tree losing one of its best branches and said that although new branches might come in its place, they would never be like the old one. Mr. Hugonin brought in a touch of humour bysaying that he had always found that Mr. Kirk was a very conscientious worker, taking for example the time of political excitement – he carried both friends and foes alike to town in his train instead of dumping his foes in some lonely spot on the way -but instead of that he was glad to say there had never been one single accident on the Cleveland line during Mr. Kirk’s 21 years running. Mrs. Kirk was presented with a beautiful silver tea and coffee service with her initials engraved on, in token of the high esteem in which she had been held amongst them all. Mr. Danaber, head station master, spoke on behalf of the railway, saying thathe felt that it was with regret that the occasion had arisen to part with his fellow workman, as both in his public capacities and as a private citizen he had never met with a more valued and esteemed friend, and on resuming his seat he wished Mr. and Mrs. Kirk and family all god speed. In replying, Mr. Kirk said he could not find words to express his appreciation of the great honour done to him at this great event of his life as he had only tried to do his duty and was quite overcome at the extent of their generosity both to himself, his wife and family, and heartily thanked them all. He said that what gave him most pleasure was to see the great gathering of fellow residents to do him so great an honour on his leaving them, stating that it was not for any gain or advancement for himself that he had taken this step, but having a young family to bring forward, their interests had to be put before his own. Both he and his wife, for their parts, would prefer to have remained where they were, having a great affection for Cleveland and its people. He said he did not need the clock to remind him of the days gone by but it would always remind him of a milestone passed on the way. He then thanked them on behalf of his wife, for the valuable present given to her, and said he knew for a fact that no-one could make better tea, but even hers might be the better for coming out of agood silver pot and he hoped that one and all would visit them in their new home, “Clevedene ” at Gladstone Road, Highgate Hill, and sample it.

‘A splendid programme was carried through including several songs, a recitation good music and dancing, and refreshments served, which reflected great credit on the working committee chosen for the occasion. At the conclusion of the evening all hands were clasped and voices joined in singing the favourite song of “Auld Lang Syne”.’

Annie Kirk died in Goodna Mental Hospital on 30 July 1922 aged 58 years old. Thomas Kirk died in Brisbane on 14 September 1942, 84 years old. The old Cleveland rail line closed in 1963.

Ian Kirk, October 2006

(Extract from ‘Moreton Bay Reflections

The Kirk’s former home “Craigie Lea” as it appeared in 2014

‘Thou Bonnie Wood of Craigie-Lea

Thou Bonnie Wood of Craigie-Lea

Near thee I pass’d life’s early day,

And won my Mary’s heart in thee…’

People of Peel Island – 4 – Biochemist, Dorothy Herbert 

In January 1947 Promin therapy was introduced to treat the leprosy patients at Peel Island lazaret. Its daily intravenous administration necessitated Doctor Eric Reye remaining full time on the island. Thus, he became Peel’s first Resident Medical Officer, and his wife, Mardi, was appointed a temporary laboratory assistant, because no one was available at the time, and because the nurses were fully occupied. By the end of 1947, the services of a science graduate, Miss Dorothy Herbert, had been obtained, and Mardi was no longer needed. 

Because of the possible haematological effects of the sulphones on the body, a laboratory was set up on Peel for blood counting and urine examination

For a start, the laboratory was set up in a disused hut down in the bush, but because of its distance, dilapidation, and lack of water, Dr Reye asked the Padre if he could use the Church as a laboratory.  All would have been well but for the Roman Catholic patients who refused to enter the church because it had been consecrated “Anglican”. The best Dr Reye could do was to coax them into the church’s tiny vestibule where staff took the necessary samples from them. Clearly, this was not a satisfactory arrangement, and new premises again had to be found for the laboratory. The choice fell to the library cum billiard room, which belonged to the male patients. 1

Dorothy Herbert outside the laboratory at Peel Island lazaret in 1948

Dorothy worked as a biochemist at the Peel Island lazaret during 1948. She then moved to Tasmania in 1949 and worked as a biochemist at Royal Hobart Hospital.

After a year in the United Kingdom, she returned to Brisbane to study medicine at the University of Queensland. After graduating in 1958, she spent 2 years as a resident medical officer at Brisbane General Hospital.

In 1961, she moved to Charleville to work as a locum for the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) for 3 months. She remained in Charleville in private practice until 1981.

In 1963, Dorothy bought her first aircraft — a 1957 single-engine Cessna, which she used to fly to emergencies of her own patients, medical conferences and remote properties. She was a member of a flying surgeon team and would stand in for the flying doctor as required. At a time when there were few women doctors and fewer women pilots, Dorothy made quite an impression flying to remote communities with her three corgis in tow.

Cessna 172 of a type similar to Dorothy’s plane

In 1981, Dorothy left Charleville and semiretired to the Sunshine Coast (with her Major Mitchell cockatoo, Linda). She continued to work in general practice, specialising in acupuncture and aviation medicine. She fully retired in 1996, when she also flew her final flight. Her flying record at this time totalled 2200 hours.

She was awarded the Nancy Bird Walton Trophy for services to aviation in Australasia in 1972. In 1997, she was made an honorary life member of the Aviation Medicine Society of Australia and New Zealand for her contribution as a designated examiner for 35 years. She was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1999 for her service to rural medicine through the RFDS and to aviation through the AWPA. She also received a Centenary Medal in 2001 for her distinguished service to the RFDS.2

References: 1. Peel Island History – A Personal Quest

                     2. Medical Journal of Australia, vol 202, no 7, 2015, p 391

People of Peel Island – 3 – Doctor Morgan Gabriel 

Morgan Gabriel’s school education had been completed at Brisbane Grammar, which he left after completing his Junior Certificate. For a time, he had worked in the Taxation Department which he disliked, and then as a Cadet in the Laboratory of the State Health Department. He remained there for some eleven years as a Government Analyst, and it was during this time that he also resumed his schooling and, by studying at night, finally obtained his Senior School Certificate. This was followed by study for a Science Degree, which he obtained as an external student studying over six years. In 1944 he was one of a group of students to be awarded the first State Government Bonded Fellowships to the University of Queensland. Thus, he was finally able to afford a long-held ambition to study for his Degree in Medicine which he finally obtained in 1950. His aim was to specialize in Gynaecology but part of his Fellowship Bond was that he had to repay the years spent in study with an equal time in an area of the Government’s choosing. To Dr Fryberg’s mind, he was the answer to Peel’s problems, and Dr Gabriel was duly appointed the island’s first Resident Medical Superintendent, having full control over the island’s affairs. 

Dr Morgan Gabriel and Matron Marie Ahlberg at Peel Island

Peel Island could not have been further from Dr Gabriel’s plans, especially when he was also planning to marry, and he hated the whole idea, but because of his contract with the Government, he could do little but accept. His first months there were stormy, and he clashed with both staff and patients to enforce both more responsible policies for the running of the settlement. Firstly, he reduced alcohol consumption on the island by limiting its consumption to one bottle of beer per week. Any staff members found drunk on duty would be immediately sent to the Health Department for dismissal. As can be expected his popularity was not high amongst the inhabitants of Peel. 

It says much for Dr Gabriel that he weathered the storm, for his character was of such strength that he would not compromise a principle he believed in. As well as his strength, he was also fortunate in being a caring and kind-hearted man who could sympathize with the patients’ condition. These two qualities were to prove ideal and necessary for the newly created position.

One of the first improvements he made at Peel was that of the meals, and it was one to which the patients responded readily. Many more were to follow, and when it became obvious that the new doctor had their welfare at heart, the patients quickly warmed to him and it wasn’t long before they were to look on him as a true friend and confidant to whom they could turn and discuss their problems. Indeed, for Dr Gabriel’s wedding, the patients all chipped in and bought a present for him and his new wife, soon to be affectionately known by all as “Johnny”.  With Peel’s past reputation, it must have been difficult for her to set up house there, but she settled into her new surroundings and quickly made friends with the patients. When their two children, Bill and Ruth, were born, they, too, lived with their parents in the doctor’s residence to the east of the men’s compound. This fact alone would have done much to dispel the stigma associated with the dangers of Hansen’s Disease and young children.

Doctor’s house at the Lazaret in 1950s (Photo courtesy Dr Morgan Gabriel)

When Morgan Gabriel first arrived at Peel, he knew little about Hansen’s Disease. But because he was not the sort of man to engage in any activity without a thorough knowledge of his subject, he set about learning as much as possible about the latest developments in Hansen’s Disease and its treatment. This knowledge he also passed on to the many of his patients who were interested in new treatments for their disease, and over the next decade, he would introduce many new drugs at Peel in a constant search for more effective results. 

As well as educating himself and the patients about Hansen’s Disease, Dr Gabriel also missed no opportunity in encouraging medical students to visit Peel and familiarise themselves with the disease and its early symptoms. 

Dr Gabriel was also of the belief that it was necessary to keep his patients’ hands and muscles working and minds occupied. Towards this end he encouraged them to engage in as many activities as possible. Occupational therapy was available in the form of leather, plastic, and cane work, and many patients were put on the payroll in positions that included truck driver, barber, painter, handyman, groundsman, and seamstress. In 1952 a new patients’ dining room was constructed, mainly by the work of the patients themselves. One patient undertook the school Junior Certificate course, and one of the blind patients who retained full sensitivity in the fingertips learnt braille. In September 1956 a naturalisation ceremony was conducted at the hospital when one of the patients became an Australian citizen. 

Dr Morgan Gabriel was Peel’s last resident doctor from 1951 until the Lazaret’s closure in 1959.

(Extract from ‘Peel Island History – A Personal Quest’)