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Bush Pioneer Doctors

Bingara's then Hospital. Bush doctors are the forgotten pioneers. These brave people followed in the footsteps of the trail breakers
Bingara's then Hospital

Bush Pioneer Doctors Part 2 – Dr. John Hart

Bush doctors are the forgotten pioneers.

These brave people followed in the footsteps of the trail breakers. They faced enormous challenges, working alone, travelling at all hours and they struggled to get paid.


Many doctors gave it away early.  The more dedicated stayed on for many years and they should be etched in history.

The first permanent doctor into Bingara in Northern NSW was Dr. Gunther Nagel. He stayed 16 years and provided wonderful service for the fledgling town.

Dr. Nagel resigned in 1895.

The next bush pioneer doctors were Dr. Guy Chamberlyn Cory and Dr. George Lathrop Murray. Each stayed about two years.

Dr. John Hart replaced Dr. Murray.

Dr. John Wesley Hart

Bingara historian, the late Harold Batterham said of Dr. Hart:

‘Commencing his practice in Bingara in 1898, Dr. John Hart had many adventurous experiences.

In those days there were very few roads, resulting in many of his patients only being reached by horseback.’

Thinking about it now, doctors riding horses around the countryside sounds like the perfect subject for a television series. However, Harold pointed out the reality.

Bush pioneer doctors, the reality.

Harold continued:

‘On the way home at night, he quite often becomes lost in the bush. However, he was thankful when he saw a fire. He realised it belonged to a drover or swaggie, or sometimes an isolated miner prospecting for gold.

After camping, he would ride home the next morning, sometimes cold and wet. But he was never hungry, the drover, the miner, the farmer, or even the swaggies, shared their food with him.’

Before coming to Bingara, Dr. Hart had practiced at; Gunning, Quirindi, Tamworth, and Barraba.

Sadly, when he departed Bingara he left his seven-year-old son buried in the cemetery.

The following newspaper reports are a sample of Dr. Hart’s experiences and challenges.

Bush pioneer doctors, the experiences

December 1998

The Goulburn Evening Penny Post Thursday 1 December 1998 reported:

Gunning: ‘We are having another change in our medical gentlemen. Dr. Hart, after a stay of only 10 months, is going to Bingara.’

July 1900

 Daily Telegraph Tuesday 31 July 1900:

‘A serious gun accident occurred on Saturday at Keera to John O’Rourke, an employee on Keera Station.

O’Rourke was drawing a loaded gun used for duck-shooting from under his bed when the trigger got caught and the gun exploded.

The full charge of the shot entered O’Rourke’s groin, making a hole as large as a florin (the size of a 20c coin).

Dr. Hart was contacted and on arrival found the sufferer almost dead from internal bleeding.

Under medical treatment, however, he has rallied but he is still in a critical condition. One of his ribs was smashed by the shot and two others splintered. Most of the shot is yet to be extracted.’

July 1901

Warialda Standard and Northern Districts’ Advertiser Tuesday 2 July 1901.

‘Frank Bennett, aged about 10 years, was accidentally shot through the calves of both legs yesterday by another boy.

The boys were wallaby and hare shooting and the 44 Winchester carried by Hill, suddenly went off. It passed through Bennett’s calves and the stock of the rifle he was carrying.

The Hospital Matron Miss Shiells provided first aid until Dr. Hart arrived.

Frank Bennett recovered.’

June 1904

 Inverell Argus Thursday 30th June 1904 reported:

‘The Bingara Telegraph of yesterday said:  

At about 6.15 pm on Monday, the residents of Junction Street were alarmed by frantic screams. They were proceeding from the directions of Tom Reading’s residence.

 Mrs. Reading, the mother of a three-month-old baby, was preparing the evening meal when her dress caught fire. Another child was present, and she was handed the baby and told to run for safety.

Mrs. Reading, aged 33 years, was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. George Connolly.

Dr. Hart was quickly in attendance however she later passed away in hospital.’

August 1905

Inverell Argus Saturday 19 August 1905 reported that:

‘Dr. Hart is re-opening the business (Pharmacy), having secured the services of a first-class chemist, who has already arrived.’

The previous pharmacy had gone into liquidation.

May 1906

 Warialda Standard and Northern Districts Advertiser Tuesday 29 May 1906 reported:

‘A painful accident happened to a drover named E.W. Dennis on Sunday afternoon.

It occurred about eleven miles from town along the Warialda Road, while he was travelling with sheep.

His horse fell on top of him, breaking his thigh badly.

He was brought into the hospital in a van on Sunday night, where the injured limb was set by Dr. Hart.’

July 1906

The Moree Gwydir Examiner and General Advertiser Saturday 14 July 1906 reported:

‘On Monday last, the infant son of Mr. Arthur Borthwick managed to get hold of a jug containing caustic soda which had been put into a solution.

The child attempted to drink some, and its mouth was badly burnt, but very fortunately none had been swallowed.

Dr. Hart was in attendance and saved a serious catastrophe.’

December 1906

Farmer and Settler (Sydney 1906-1955) Tuesday 4 December 1906 reported:

‘The Bingara branch of the Farmers’ and Settlers’ Association has been duly established and promises to be a very active one.’

Dr. Hart was the first president of the association. In 1907, he became the treasurer.

Bundarra and Tingha Advocate (NSW 1900-1906) Saturday 15 December 1906 reported:

‘The death took place under particularly sad circumstances of Mrs. E.J. McManus, on Friday, November 30.

At the time she became seriously ill, her husband was away up at Murwillumbah, where he had taken a draft of cattle to sell. Her eldest sons were also away with their teams so that she only had the younger children at home with her.

Dr. Hart attended, but he found the case a hopeless one.

She was only 42 years of age and leaves a family of nine children, the youngest of whom was only one hour old at the time the mother expired.’

Rev. J.T. Clancy officiated at the funeral.

 October 1912

Tamworth Daily Observer (NSW 1910-1916) Saturday 5 October 1912 reported:

‘Last Friday two residents of Top Bingara George Miller and Tom Hogg were engaged in wallaby shooting out on the Boomi.

They had agreed to stalk in different directions, but it appears that Hogg after a while doubled back and got into his companion’s line of fire.

The latter shot a wallaby, and the bullet from his rifle, a .33 Winchester, went through the animal. It continued its course until finally hitting Hogg in the thick part of his thigh, where it remained embedded.

The injured man was carried to his home, and the next morning Dr. Hart asked to call.

The bullet has not been extracted, but although the wound is painful and the limb is swollen, no serious results are expected.’

July 1914

Warialda Standard and Northern Districts’ Advertiser (NSW 1900-1954) Monday 20 July 1914 reported on Dr. Finselbach.

‘Dr. Finselbach, who has been practicing his profession in Barraba for quite a while, is coming to Bingara in Dr. Hart’s place

The latter gentleman is about to give up the active practice, although we are pleased to state that he is not leaving the district.

 Dr. Finselbach intends to work in conjunction with Dr. Hart.’

Final words

The emerging town of Bingara was very fortunate to have 32 years of permanent medical service.

Both Dr. Hart and Dr. Nagel provided about 16 years of absolute dedication. It certainly would not have been an easy life, however, they stayed on, rather than an easier life in a larger town.

But they were bush pioneer doctors and just got in with the job.

For this, we are always grateful.

Dr. Finselbach settled into the town very well, however, events beyond his control added a shocking jolt.

We will publish his experiences in the future.

SOURCERodney King
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