Friday, September 28, 2018

Scarlet Fever - Diphtheria - The Deaths of Children

The whole reason there is a Family Reunion, stems from the death of 7 children in a 6 week period in Oatlands, between January and February 1859.  Grandchildren of Robert and Elizabeth Jillett, who never had a chance to live.

Killed by an epidemic.  Scarlet fever raged across Tasmania and other places and in the period 1850 to 1859, over 6,900 children died.  An enormous number of deaths, never recorded anywhere, that was until the descendants of Thomas Jillett found the family crypt nothing but a piece of rubble in St Peter's Cemetery at Oatlands.  Next to his was his brother's crypt John and his wife lost 4 children in 1859, and another in 1854.

A terrible tragedy, for a family, who brought their children to Hobart for treatment, and were ostracised by the local medical folk for doing so.  There is every possibility that they sought the assistance of Dr Richard Bright or his son Dr Richard Bright Junior.  Little did we know that we would be staying at his home in Hobart! 

What would be the connection?  In 1868, John Jillett died of diphtheria, in Hobart at the house of his sister in Liverpool Street.  Just around the corner from Dr Bright, and the second house of Robert and Elizabeth Jillett.

John passed away, and less than 6 weeks later so did his wife Phoebe.  It is 150 years since those deaths.

Thomas's family,  contributed significantly to the restoration of the Thomas Jillett Family Crypt. 

We are very proud of that achievement, and on the crypt we recognise it as a Memorial to those other 6,900 children.

Restoring a Heritage Listed Crypt in a Heritage Listed Cemetery was not easy, however we were fortunate to obtain 50% funding from the Historic Sites Programme from the Federal Government, and the help and assistance from the people of Oatlands and the Council.   Our restoration is the only one ever done in Tasmania in a Heritage Listed Cemetery.

$25K was only part of the cost of the restoration, and as family, none of us even knew each other.  To find them and then ask them for a huge commitment for the restoration was not easy.

Over those 8 years so many of the descendants are now connected, something that is fantastic to achieve.   It is vitally important to preserve history, and just as vitally important to ensure that historical facts are correct.

Not only were John and Thomas Jillett criticised for taking their sick babies to Hobart, but so to was Dr Richard Bright

To the Inhabitants of Tasmania.

There is a time for all things, and I believe now is the time for every-one to speak his mind.

I am from circumstances placed in a different situation to any other medical man in the colony, forever since I have been in this colony my character has been attacked; for what? Is it that some p '-. ties took a dislike to me on my arrival, or that f would not fall into a net or belong to a clique, or that I possessed more credentials than many others, remembering that produced testimonials that I was ti Phj aldan, Member of the Royal College of Surgeons, London, and a Licentiate of the Apothecaries Company, and, I might have added, I was sworn in , a Chemist before the Lord Mayor of London  Now, him, for what has my character been attacked? Is it that I have been more unsuccessful than some, or is it that I interfered with their practice, or is it that  have been more successful and have never interfered with them, except in defence? The latter I believe to be the cause.
It is my duty to state facts, and what can be proved. It is well known that for many years I attended the late Mia, Wilson, and why? Because nearly fifteen years since other medical men then said more than once she could not survive 21 or 48 hours.

Yet, wither tho assistance of the Almighty, she lived, solely under my care, between 14 and 15 years, such or friends can testify to the truth of. I shall mention another case of a similar nature, where a child was dangerously ill and insensible, and when the distressed mother repeatedly asked him other medical gentleman, if her daughter lived, would she regain her senses, his repeated answer was "Don't distress your mind about her senses, no power on earth can save her." My opinion was totally different through the whole of her illness, and I am happy to say she is now in the full enjoyment of health and senses.

I extract the following from a letter before me from Mrs. Walker, of Moreton Bay, formerly of this colony :
" Gratitude compels me to make a public acknowledgment of the blessings that I have received at your hands, as I could not express to you what I had suffered, having been treated by four medical practitioners, and regret to say I always found myself worse than before. My dear sir, I can assert that I was not undergoing your treatment a week before I was much relieved, and ultimately you entirely removed not only tho disease but the cause, as I have never felt the slightest symptoms up to the present time."-For the truth of this I am authorized to give references.

A great many similar cases I could mention?

We have had of late years epidemics. What has been the result Why, two, three, four, and in one instance five were cut off in a family. A father and mother lost every child. I proposed a plan of treatment which I had adopted and watched very closely before l promulgated it. It was ridiculed and sneered at. I persevered in that treatment and only lost one patient during the last epidemic, that I was called to as tho first Medical Man. We are now visited with another fatal disease which has carried off two in two different families. 

I have been called to severe cases of Diphtheria (in one that had boon given over) ; my treatment has been as it always is in dangerous cases, active from the first ; the result has been that I have not lost a single case up to the present time.

I shall only add that with all the fractures or dislocations,  I have been called to attend in this Colony, how few have terminated otherwise than favourable to the patient, many are living at the present time to speak for themselves.

53 Collins-street. Hobart Town,
November 7th, 1859.

There a many similar stories to be found in the newspapers of the day.

Tasmanian News (Hobart, Tas. : 1883 - 1911), Monday 28 October 1901, page 4

There passed away at 9 o’clock this morning one of the most widely-known and respected medical practitioners in the community. Dr. Richard Stonehewer Bright, M.R.C.S., England, L.M . and L.S.A., was born in South Audley street, London, in 1835. His father, the late Dr. Richard Bright, who was then a medical practitioner in London, came to Tasmania in 1842 and practised his profession here for 20 years, dying in 1862. The deceased was educated at Christ’s Hospital and King’s College, London, and served his apprenticeship with Mr Fram, surgeon, in the city of Derby. In 1857 he passed his examination for a member of the Royal College of Surgeons and L.M ., and in the following year that of L.S.A ., London, having been four years previously, from 1854 to 1858, pursuing his studies at King’s College and Hospital, London. Coming to Tasmania in December of the latter year Dr. Bright began the practice of his profession in Hobart in 1859, and was practising up to the time of his death.

He was one of the honorary surgeons to the General Hospital, Hobart, since 1860, and was senior member of the medical branch of the Hospital. He was a member of the Hospital Board, and only resigned a few weeks ago owing to ill health. He was president of the medical section of the Royal Society of Tasmania, president of the Court of Medical Examiners, and Chief Medical Officer of the A.M.P. Society since the society opened a branch in Hobart in August, 1877.

He was appointed president of the Intercolonial Medical Conference, which was to meet in Hobart in February of next year, and he worked hard to ensure the success of this gathering. Dr. Bright was director of the Alliance Insurance Company, a member of the Council of the Museum, and a warm supporter of its usefulness to the state. He had under a stern manner a kind and warm heart, and on all sides he is spoken of as one that was looked up to as an honourable man, and in his profession he commanded the respect of all. His death came as a shock to the community.

On Saturday evening he was quite cheerful, and yesterday he was in his usual health, and when he retired to rest last evening he seemed to be quite himself, and not the slightest sign of illness. For some time past the doctor has suffered from shortness of breath, supervening on a severe attack of influenza contracted some months ago. This accounted largely for his retirement from the Legislative Council election contest.

This morning at 7 o ’clock, when Mrs Bright rose Dr Bright was then sleeping placidly. At a quarter to 9 o’clock, on his not coming down-stairs, she went to call him and found him dead, he having passed away peacefully in his sleep. There was not the slightest sign of his having suffered or moved in his bed. He had simply passed away while asleep.

Drs. Sprott and Butler were called in, but the deceased had breathed his last, the immediate cause of death being attributed to heart trouble. The subject of this notice was married in 1863 to Miss Nicholas, of Meadsfield, near Bothwell, and had issue one daughter, who was married to Mr L. Macleod, of the Union Bank. The death of Dr Bright will cause a void in medical and social circles which will not easily be filled.

Campbell Street, Hobart at the time was home to some worthy occupants.

In 1842   On Sunday, 1st May, Mrs. W. L. Crowther, 33, Campbell-street, Hobart Town, of a son.
Mr Crowther is well known and recognised in early Hobart History, as was his son, and later a grandson, who became Premier.

In 1845, Mr Giblin had a school operating from 33 Campbell Street.

Unfortunately many of the papers of William Lodewyk Crowther were destroyed so there is relatively less primary documentary material relating to him than for succeeding generations. However, items of particular interest include:

- newspaper cuttings on the political, medical and scientific activities of William Lodewyk Crowther
- articles written by W.E.L.H. Crowther on William Lodewyk’s life,
- obituary notices (1885)
- Handwritten notes and memories on William Lodewyk by his son, Edward Lodewyk Crowther, including whaling, guano and timber industries, early schooling, voyages, trade, encounters with Aborigines and bushrangers etc.
- Cash book (1840s-1850s)
- Typescript copy of journal kept from Van Diemens Land to England on board the barque Emu (1839)


- newspaper cuttings relating to the medical, political and defence related contributions of Edward Lodewyk Crowther
- handwritten notes by him on his life and that of his father (W.L.)
- handwritten journal of Edward Lodewyk Crowther of his voyage on the Royal Alfred from Sydney to England (1864-1865) and typescript copy
- a large collection of letters, reports, and ephemera relating to his involvement in the Southern Tasmanian Volunteer Artillery Corps (STVA)
- book of medical case reports (1850s-1880s)
- misc. correspondence relating to personal and professional matters
- correspondence, reports, lists of shares and ephemera relating to mining activities.

William Crowther (1788-1839) arrived in Hobart with his young family in 1825. Unable to secure an official post, he established a private medical practice and was involved in the early stages of the movement to end the transportation of convicts to Van Diemen's Land.

Successive generations of Crowthers - William Lodewyk (1817-1885), Edward Lodewyk (1843-1931), and William Edward Lodewyk Hamilton (1887-1981) - practised medicine. W.L. and E.L. Crowther both entered politics: W.L. was Premier 1878-9. W.E.L.H. Crowther served at Gallipoli and on the Western Front during the First World War. Knighted in 1964, he donated a large collection of books, manuscripts, pictures and other artefacts to the State Library of Tasmania.

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