Interview with Mrs Page Crellin about her father, Dr Freshney, conducted at Clayfield at 1 P.M. On 27 January 1999
Dr Freshney was born in Melbourne. His mother’s name was Ann Lawson. She came from England or Ireland. His father was Charles Clarke Freshney. There were many other members of the family but most of his brothers were dead before the age of 30. They were generally drowned or died of other accidents. They were cedar cutters in the Maryborough district.
Dr Freshney went to Maryborough Grammar School. His headmaster was Dame Annabelle Rankin's grandfather & we were great friends later with the Rankin family. She used always to come to us for Sunday dinner when she was at Glennie School.
About 1904, Dr Freshney married Florence Lorraine Carpendale whose family had, before her father died, owned a property called ‘Grantham’. The couple went to New Zealand for their honeymoon. Their wedding reception was held at Alex McPhie’s home, which was called ‘Collinsay' and was in Newtown. The McPhies later rented ‘Finchley’, which belonged to the Roberts family. My mother and Mrs McPhie were very great friends. They were sisters and after our father died Uncle Alex McPhie looked after us.
Dr Freshney specialised in anaesthetics, chloroform and ether. Many people were very sick after ether. Dr Freshney gave it so carefully & well that his patients often used to avoid the awful vomiting that occurred after an operation.
After being at Toowoomba Hospital for a while Dr Freshney went to Brisbane General Hospital and then took up private practice in Brisbane. Dr Aeneas McDonnell was the instigator of his return to Toowoomba as resident medical superintendent. Dr McDonnell said, ‘get Freshney back’. Dr Freshney agreed and stayed as superintendent for the rest of his life. He died in 1929. He wasn’t ill for very long. He died in his own home. A sister from the hospital, Sister Maisy Deignan, looked after him in his last illness. She stopped on with us for a few days afterwards as we were all very young. Ted was only 2.
The hospital building consisted of the main building and a little lodge in West Street where the main gates come in, where Mr Aland, hospital secretary, lived. There was also the doctor’s residence where Dr Freshney lived until married. After marriage, the Freshneys lived briefly in a small cottage opposite St James church which belonged to the Taylor family. After purchasing Dr Nolan’s practice the family moved to the ‘Rosery’ next to St .lames church. It was called the ‘Rosery’ because of roses growing on a great big trellis. It was built by people named Kennard who went back to England. All the doors and skirting boards were made of cedar. It was a beautiful old home. Demolished some years ago, doctors rooms were built there. It was one of those big old fashioned homes with rooms added all over the place. Dad had a big bedroom and Ted slept in a cot beside the bed
Doctor's children caught everything so whatever child was ill slept in Dad’s bedroom. Well he would come in at night with whisky, lemon juice, sugar & hot water. If we were ill he would say, “It may not get you better but at least we’lI both get a good nights sleep”. Not one of us since has ever drunk whisky socially, as we regarded it as a medicine.
Doctors that I remember at the Hospital included Dr Ramsden, who was always a very good friend of ours. He went up to Longreach. His son is a very well known doctor in Albury. Dr Ivan Hooper I always remember but not professionally. He married a friend of mine from Glennie School, Ettie Cox. As for nursing staff, I remember the 2 Deignan sisters: Maisie always remained a friend of ours. I remember Matron Tolmie very well. She was Matron when I had my appendix removed. She was Matron for may years. I also knew Agnes Tolmie. When I knew her she was looking after her brother.
There were a lot of epidemics in our time at the hospital. Diptheria was one of the worst. Patients were nursed in a building up near the railway cutting. It was not a well built building but was built for the time being. It was called the isolation block. Ella Tolmie was very strict and very religious - a good Presbyterian. I’ve got a history of the Tolmie family [that is] well worth reading. The family were left by their father when they were very young, after their mother died. All the children were left in the care of their older brother. Two of the children later trained at the Toowoomba Hospital. James Tolmie was a Member of Parliament. He was the one who brought up his seven other brothers and sisters.
One of the Tolmies married Mr Yeates and their 5 sons all went to the Second World War. The Tolmies lived at ‘Roseneath’ in Hill Street. AII of them were keen gardeners. Mrs Yeates lived in the house next door. Mr Yeates was also a Member of Parliament. One of the Yeates’ sons, Fergus, was a great friend of my brother Ted. They went through medicine together. Dr Derek was a well known surgeon. Dr Derek & Dr Jim were in Tobruk with my husband. After WW1 the appalling Spanish flu went through practically the whole world and in Toowoomba people were very, very ill. My mother got it but she was never very well again. She died soon afterwards when my brother Ted was only 3 years old.
The isolation ward was built at the Hospital, as was the great big open air ward opposite the main building. It had big canvas blinds which pulled up and down. The big ward was divided into men & women. When there was the smallpox scare in Toowoomba they wanted tents. I have all the cuttings if the hospital wants them. They took a big piece of land which they converted into an isolation area. They thought the flu was caused by WW1 bombs. The bombs opened up the land where men had been buried hundreds of years earlier and released a lot of germs. Treatments we were given included iodine for any cut and if we were sick we were given cascara, an awful black medicine. There was a room at the back of our house, full of bottles, called ‘The Dispensary’. For many years dad dispensed his own medicines and did his own testing.
Dr Freshney was Government Medical Officer from 1896. He played golf & cricket and was keen on fishing. He was Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Toowoomba Grammar School for 18 years and Chairman of the Ambulance Brigade for 26 years. He and Mr Aland started the Ambulance Brigade. The ambulance was a sort of cart thing with a cover over it and was wheeled along by two men. The Ambulance Brigade was in Herries Street, opposite the council buildings. Mr Llewellyn was head of the Ambulance Brigade. He was also a Member of Parliament later on.
Dad was Church of England. We went next door to St .lames. We were always friends of the clergyman. I was married there in 1932 and we were all baptised there. My husband was William Wauchope Crellin. He was a permanent soldier who went through Duntroon College. He fought as a young man in WW1 and also fought in WW2. He was commanding officer of the 21st 43rd Battalion from South Australia. The Battalion fought in Tobruk & New Guinea. My husband was never well after New Guinea, suffering from malaria & other tropical diseases.
Because I had gone to Glennie School I made a point of attending the Glennie Annual Meeting. A lady came up to me with a dreadful twisted arm and said “I’ve got to thank your father for this.” She added that she’d been riding her pony at Goondiwindi when a snake suddenly came out and frightened the pony. She was flung down with an arm broken so badly that bones were sticking out. The nearest doctors were at Warwick or Toowoomba. Her parent’s harnessed their horse to a sulky and headed for Toowoomba. It took them 3 days. They used to stop at farmhouses when their horses were tired. Farmers would always lend them a horse to continue their trip. The family would be given something to eat. They would sleep one night in a barn and one night under a tree. They eventually arrived at the Toowoomba Hospital. The young resident doctor said that the arm must be amputated. The parents were so stunned they went from doctor to doctor seeking their opinions. They eventually ended up at our place where Mum gave them a cup of tea and our old gardener took their exhausted horse to our stables for feed & a rubdown. The girl was only 10 years old at the time. When Dr Freshney examined the child he said that he believed that the arm could be saved. She would be able to do up her shoes and she could write on a slate and later on she could look after her own babies & children. She could be put into hospital with her mother then later return to Goondiwindi to ride her pony. Upon hearing this, the girl burst into tears and said, “they’re going to shoot him. It wasn’t his fault.” Dr Freshney said, “I won’t let them shoot your pony. It’ll be well and fat when you return home.” The little girl recovered and when she went home she found her pony there. She rode him later in many local shows and won many prizes. This elderly lady said that after all these years she could still remember almost the exact words the doctor said to her.
We went for holidays at Caloundra. [We] stayed at Tafe’s Hotel. We always went in winter because Toowoomba was so cold. I remember one occasion when a 17 stone woman was knocked over
by a wave, bashed into the sand and broke her leg. D ad and the woman’s husband had to hold her two legs together so that the unbroken one would act as a splint. All we children had to roll the woman out of the surf onto the beach. When it was all over, my young brother Reginald who had to hold her head above the water so that the waves would not drown her; Reg, aged 7, said : “Daddy I was a little bit glad when a large wave came and filled her mouth as it stopped her screaming!” Dad went back to the hotel and got a saw and cut up these packing cases for splints. We also tore up sheets for bandages and took a room door to place the patient on. They built a little tent over the top of her. She had to wait 5 hours for an ambulance to come from Gympie. She never had any trouble from the leg. You can see from the photo: Dr Freshney has a dustcoat over his pyjamas whilst attending the lady. He probably has his swimming gear underneath. 1918 was the year.
Dad used to hold a surgery on the hotel verandah at Caloundra as there were no doctors¬ there. He'd cut fish hooks out of people, mend any breaks, and extract teeth. Every morning a certain crowd of people would come to see him. Dad said he'd be better practising in Caloundra than Toowoomba as more people came to see him there! I can remember a very bad railway accident at Murphys Creek near Toowoomba. The navvies lifted Dr up and pushed him into the carriages. It was when my mother was alive.
A friend had her only daughter seriously ill at Southport and asked Dad to help them out. Dad had to get to Southport so contacted the Toowoomba station. They held up the train called 'The Midnight Horror' for him. He arrived in Brisbane about 6 a.m. and he waited on the railway platform for the train to Southport. Dr Freshney went straight to the Southport Hospital after his trip. Carlie was there with her mother and father and wouldn't eat and wouldn't sleep. So Dr Freshney called nurse and told her to get some beef tea. He then persuaded Carlie to join him in eating the beef tea. She then slept soundly. Dad stayed with Carlie a couple of days before returning. The only war service Dad was involved in was checking recruits. Dad died on 29th September 1929 and mother on 8th July 1918.
My mother was the 2nd daughter of Mrs Carpendale. I think she was her favourite daughter. My grandmother then lived in Taylor Street, Toowoomba. My mother was a quiet sort of woman who worked very hard for Hospital Saturdays. It was always held in the main streets and boxes were taken all over town to collect money. All people like my mother used to make clothes to sell. It was a year long project. Mum used to also support the ambulance. She did a lot of knitting which was sent to the ambulance. They packed it in boxes and the goods were sent over to France in World War 1.
I was born in 1905, the eldest daughter in the family. Page is an old English name which my father liked. Lorraine is after my mother. My third name is Frisknay which is the original name of Freshney. They are supposed to have come over here many years ago and then changed their name. My mother never worked but had plenty to do at home. I went to Glennie Prep - one of the first pupils. It was held at St Luke’s Church by a lady called Miss Sutton. I then went to Glennie Memorial School, run by Miss Lawrance. She was a very strict schoolmistress. I was never a brilliant student. My father wanted me to be a doctor. He believed in lady doctors and one of the things was you had to be good at Latin. I was always kept in on Latin days as I was no good. When Mum died and I finished school I naturally went home to look after the children.
I was the eldest. Delphine trained as a nurse at the Toowoomba Hospital and died about 2 weeks ago but she’s been an invalid for many years. Reginald, the eldest son, always loved the land. He went to Gatton College and died of cancer in the new St Andrews Hospital in Toowoomba. Ted, the youngest, always wanted to be a doctor. He worked hard. After Dad died he was awarded the James Taylor Scholarship at the Grammar School. When he had done his senior he did one year of medicine then broke his kneecap playing football. Ted spent some weeks in the General Hospital before being sent by Dr Connolly to Brisbane to have it operated on by Dr Meehan. Doctors felt it was better not to pursue his studies at that stage so he went out to my cousins the Rutledges at Quilpie as a jackeroo. Everyone said he would never come back to medicine but he did. He never had to sit for any exam twice.
When the war was on he wanted to enlist as 5 of his friends did. I spoke to General Miles at Duntroon about him. General Miles said that it would be a long war and it would be better for him to finish medicine. He lived at St Andrews College where my father graduated. Ted then went into the Navy- onto the .Quickmatch.. Their policy was to get rid of sick patients as quickly as possible but he did one urgent appendix on the mess table with the captain’s shaking hands giving the chloroform! They got rid of that patient quickly too. (This is written up in H.M.A.S.Mark 1V). They were stationed at a place called Trichinopoly in India and to fill in time Ted went to the native hospitals. When he came back to Sydney there was an old doctor , Dr Temple Smith, whose contribution to the war effort was to give a young doctor a start. So he let Ted have all his rooms and use his instruments. So eventually he went to England and passed all the exams for Opthalmy and he’s been in Sydney ever since. He was superintendent of the Eye Hospital for quite a while.
In April 1993 Ted was rung and asked by the Toowoomba Base Hospital to take part in the opening of Freshney House at the Hospital. He was stunned after so long so rung me to ask whether my daughter Lorraine could find out more details. She did, and as many as 1 son, 1 daughter, 3 grandchildren & 4 or 5 great grandchildren were at the opening. Unfortunately, my daughter, Lorraine, was on duty and couldn’t come. We had them all back for dinner that night. It was a lovely day.
I’ve got quite a lot of family records although my father never talked much about his family. His father & father’s brother owned ships and were heavily involved in the timber industry including cedar cutting at Maryborough. In this old photo Dad is driving a 1904 Talbot. It has an acetylene lamp at the front which you used to light with a match. In those days you always had a puncture, changed wheels, or blew up a tyre or something. We always went for a ride on Sunday afternoons. That was the second car we had. The older one you had to climb into the back of.
Private hospitals I can remember include St Denis which belonged to Dr McDonnell & Dr Connolly. Wilga was a private hospital which Dr Faulkner had a lot to do with. He and dad did a lot of operations
There. Alec McPhie was at Finchley for a time. Finchley was a Red Cross Convalescent Hospital in World War 1 and later, I think, a maternity hospital for a while. St Andrews was started by Matron Tolmie in Clifford Street. She ran it for quite a few years.
Doctors I can remember include Dr Marie Barlow who was well known. She did a lot in the smallpox epidemic. She may have had rooms where the doctors had premises down near the Margaret Street Post Office. Dr McKenzie was a resident at the Hospital, then later started a practice in Russell Street opposite where we lived. He was very much liked. Dr McDonnell had his practice opposite the Canberra on the corner of Hume & Margaret Streets. His house was called ‘Rathdonnell’. Dr McDonnell & Dr Connolly had St Dennis for many years. Dad never had a hospital but used Wilga and worked with Dr Faulkner.
Dr Faulkner lived, close to where Myers is now located, in a two storey house. His only daughter, May, was our friend all our lives. She lived most of her life in England. Dr Noel Gutheridge was the first doctor in charge of the Commonwealth Lab. in Toowoomba. Dr Windsor’s son became a very good surgeon & one of his sons operated on my brother when he had this dreadful cancer.
Dad was never friendly with Sisterr Kenny but Dr McDonnell was. She designed a stretcher which the Country Women gave to the Ambulance. My father and I had to go down and accept it from the Country Women. It had everything under the sun: bottles for hot water, etc. It was so heavy it was never used. The stretcher hung up in the ambulance centre for years and years. Dad used to give a lot of lectures on first aid at the ambulance. I liked to go and listen and just before 2nd World War organised first aid lectures at Duntroon.
Dad used to tell us about Buckland Taylor. He had a great big home in West Street just beyond the Hospital. Dad attended the Taylors when they were sick. Buckland also had a boat called, The Merry Widow, down at Southport. That was where we went fishing.
In August 1909 Dad had a famous patient: Dame Nellie Melba. He said that he had to talk to her for quite a while as she was thinking of cancelling her Toowoomba concert because of vocal chord problems. He convinced her to sing, as many people had come a long distance and it would be a pity to disappoint them. The charge was 2 guineas for his services but I don’t know if he ever sent her an account. The medical record was damaged in the 1974 Brisbane flood.
Dr Freshney was a very quiet man and I only saw him upset once. We always wore red flannelette dressing gowns and were always told not to remove the guard from in front of the fire. Ted, my youngest brother did and his dressing gown caught in the fire. Reg, aged about 9 years, caught him and rolled him up in a rug. There was smoke coming out of the rug. All of us were screaming. My father was holding surgery in front of the house. He came in. The patient & others who were waiting & the cook came in. Dad saw his youngest son being smoked as if he were on fire & his eldest son hitting him. He gave Reg a clip on the ear & sent him flying across the room. Reg was crying and said, “The next time he’s on fire I won’t put him out, I won’t put him out.’ Ted came out of it alright but his dressing gown was all burned & the rug had to be thrown away. When it was over, Dad quietly took Reg into the surgery and apologised to him. He’d made a terrible mistake, he said, & all his life Reg remembered that Dad had apologised to him.
There is an interesting article written by Betty Mair about Dr Freshney. Betty was the daughter of one of my father’s nieces, who brought us up. The Duke of Connaught conferred on him the honour of Officer of the Venerable Order of Hospital of St John of Jerusalem. This was in recognition of his work. The medal was given to the Hospital as there’ll be no one here sufficiently interested later on.
The book on Hinchinbrook Island says that Freshney & Co. were cedar cutters and timber merchants from Clump Point north of Cardwell. The ‘Rebecca Jane’ with a cargo of their cedar also from Daintree Forest was wrecked on Bramble Reef in August 1918. The crew reached Dungs Nest on the mainland safely in a lifeboat.
Dr Frshney is buried in the old Church of England section of the Drayton & Toowoomba cemetery. His tombstone was erected by the Downs Club and I have been given permission to place my sister’s ashes in the same place. There used to be a chapel there and you walked straight down to Dr Freshney’s grave. His brothers grave is on a corner.
FURTHER WRITTEN MATERIAL PROVIDED BY MRS CRELLIN
This was told to me many years later by Mrs McDougall who was the very young daughter of the family the Freshneys visited that Sunday. Dad’s father Charles, his eldest son & his young English wife left their own coastal steamer on which they were travelling on business & went to lunch with Mrs W. McDougall’s family on Hinchinbrook Island. In the afternoon a fierce storm developed & it was decided that they should return to their own big ship. They were being rowed across the channel in a small boat by a kanaka when a big wave hit the small boat & swamped it. They were all flung into the water & swept away by the strong current. Only the kanaka got ashore and it was thought that the 2 Freshney men who were both strong swimmers were drowned trying to save the young English bride who couldn8t swim & would have been hampered by petticoats & a long skirt. None of the bodies were ever recovered.
Dr Freshney was 12 years old when his father was drowned. I was about 12 when my mother died and Ted was 12 when Dad died.
Dr Freshney must have spent a great deal of time at Tiaro with his eldest sister Mrs Ponting who was with him years later for some time at the Docto'-s cottage when she was very ill with some form of cancer.
As a young man he lived at St Andrew’s College & shared a room with Dr Bradfield (Sydney Harbour Bridge) who came from Sandgate & was educated at Ipswich Grammar. No doubt the two young men from small towns in Queensland had a lot in common. Dad won the University 100 yards race in the record time of 10 seconds & the record stood for many years. We still have the prize - a large silver cup.
Dad owned the third car in Toowoomba and I can still remember my mother saying in an exasperated voice: ''There is your father dragged home again”. The car had broken down at some farm where dad was seeing a patient & was being pulled home by two big plough horses. The car was a Talbot.
Most of our holidays were spent at the Grand Hotel, Southport. When dad bought the Overland we used to drive down. It would take two days, stopping one night at Lennons Hotel, Brisbane. Going home all we children had to get out to lighten the load in the car and walk up while dad drove up backwards as reverse was the strongest gear. The two Miss Pontings, dad's nieces, came to look after us after our mother died. Amy, later Mrs Brodie, developed a gastric ulcer, I think, and was for many weeks a patient in the big new open air ward. Alice May, dad’s oldest niece came, when she was young, to housekeep for him when he was living in the doctor’s cottage & help take care of Uncle Edward. When Dad got married, she returned to Tiaro to look after her aged parents. When our mother died, she came to Toowoomba to look after his house again and help him with his young children. She stayed with us until I grew up and left school. She then returned to Tiaro to look after her two brothers, one very deaf , & one badly wounded in the first World War. She was a truly wonderful person.
'The Doctor's Dog’, as Robin his Scotch terrier was known in Toowoomba, accompanied him everywhere. When at the hospital he would make straight for the kitchen where he was a friend of the cook. Sometimes he didn't heed dad blowing the horn for his return to the car & Dad would go off without him. Then the hospital would ring up very worried & say, "Doctor you have forgotten your little dog" and Dad would reply "Go out and say, 'Robin go home at once!'" and up Robin would get & start the long walk back to Russell Street.
Christmas morning we always spent at the hospital going round every ward & looking at the beautiful decorations all done by the nursing staff. I understand that in those long ago days in many wards these decorations had to be taken down at midnight because of infection. There must be many accounts of Hospital Saturdays in the hospital records. Dr Freshney as Medical Superintendent of the hospital received a salary but most doctors attended the hospital in an honorary capacity.