Sunday, May 31, 2009

Dr. Thomas Francis McGauran, of Auckland and Melbourne

An article in the April 1973 issue of the Auckland-Waikato Historical Journal caught my eye a couple of weeks ago, entitled, "The Early History of the Auckland Hospital". It was compiled by the then-editor, Mrs. E. Macdonald. One paragraph is the reason why I post this:
"In 1856 Dr. McGauren [sic] was appointed in charge. He reported the most prevalent diseases among Europeans were 'those of the heart, kidneys and liver, the outcome of excessive indulgence in ardent spirits.' In 1858 the provincial surgeon was given authority to admit urgent cases direct to the hospital. In 1859 Dr. McGauren was asked to resign on a charge of incompetancy but, despite protests, no investigations were allowed."
I wondered what on earth lay behind that last sentence. So, I picked up the digital shovel and started to dig.

Thomas Francis McGauran is said to have qualified at the Royal College of Surgeons in England in 1843, and came out to New Zealand, settling in Auckland. McGauran seemed to be ahead of the play with medical practice, importing “a quantity of Vaccine Lymph” for smallpox into the country early in 1844. By then, he’d set himself up in Queen Street, with Dr. O’Neill. (New Zealand Gazette and Wellington Spectator, 2 March 1844) By 1849, he was Assistant Colonial Surgeon, and by July 1851 he worked at the Colonial Hospital at the Domain, Auckland’s first hospital. It appears by June 1853, he was out of a job, possibly for political reasons between Lt.-Col. Wynyard and the Coroner, Dr. Davies. (Southern Cross, 10 June 1953)

By 1855, Dr. McGauran was resident in Otahuhu, and by April that year he was a licensed land dealer and auctioneer. (SC, 27 April 1855) In June, he moved to Newmarket. He continued in the business until 26 July 1856, when he was appointed Provincial Surgeon for the Lunatic Asylum, hospital and stockade after the death of William Davies five days before. (SC, 29 July 1856) There had already been letters to newspaper editors complaining that the Provincial Surgeon (Dr. Davies at the time) had too many positions to give either of them enough of his time. Now, Dr. McGauran faced the same situation.
“The duties of the provincial Surgeon are, we believe, to take charge of or attend upon
1 The Hospital
2 The Lunatic Asylum
3 The Stockade
4 The Gaol
5 The Lock Up
6 The Police station and Police cases; also
7 To board the Emigrant ships.”
(SC, 4 December 1857)

And for all this responsibility, McGauran was paid £300 per annum, around $30,290 in today’s money. (Estimate of the Expenditure of the Province of Auckland, for the Year 1858, from SC, 23 February 1858) From the end of that year, the salary rose to £350, or around $35,300. (SC, 26 November 1858)

He was the first to publicly appeal for the creation of a library for the lunatic asylum, then in a building on the Domain beside the provincial hospital. (SC, 14 October 1856)

By April 1859, he was president of the Auckland Medical and Surgical Society, and ran his own practice from Auckland, having been replaced as Provincial Surgeon by Dr. Philson. At the time it was put to the public that he had officially been dismissed from the post of Provincial Surgeon due to an absence of some hours from the hospital. (SC, 25 October 1859) However, it turned out that he had been accused of being “of too great intimacy with a female patient” (SC, 2 March 1860) named Pemberton. (SC, 24 February 1860) The Provincial Council members heard and read testimony against Dr. McGauran behind closed doors, in “Star Chamber” as one member later put in the 1860, and decided to dismiss McGauran based on the charges, one of which Dr. Daniel Pollen refused to disclose or divulge due to confidentiality, despite councillor’s protests when the decision was reviewed in 1860. “The impression given by Dr. Pollen would be that there was lewdness which made it unfit for public gaze,” according to one councillor. General feeling in Auckland seems to have been divided between McGauran’s exoneration of character or whether he had indeed committed some form of indiscretion. He still remained within the medical profession, apparently.

In July 1859, soon after his sacking, he was the Surgeon Superintendent for the Metropolitan Infirmary and Dispensary, where “the sick poor and others can obtain medical and surgical relief.” This was set up at a meeting at the Victoria Hotel on 6 July 1859, with a who’s-who for a committee: J. F. Boylan, Patrick Dignan, Reader Wood, Daniel Lynch, F. McMillan, Joseph May, H. Hardington, W. Britton, Thomas Poynton, James George, M Fahy, J. O’Neill, and McGauran himself. (SC, 12 July 1859) This venture didn’t last beyond that year.

In early 1862, he undertook a three week tour of the Lakes District of the North Island, and is said to have met Potatau II, the Maori King, there. (SC, 9 May 1862; Otago Witness, 14 June 1862) At that point, he announced that he was leaving the country. (Advertisement, SC, 4 April 1862)

Then, the Australian part of his career began. This isn't known in much detail, except for the following:
"(New South Wales) THE MAORI CHIEFS.-We understand that, by the desire of his Excellency the Governor, the Maori Chiefs now sojourning in this city were taken yesterday morning to Government House, accompanied by Dr. McGauran, where they were introduced to his Excellency"
Courier (Brisbane, Qld.) Thursday 17 July 1862

"The "New Zealand Warriors" who have been performing here at the Lyceum Theatre have had a disagreement with their padrone, Dr. McGauran, and have summoned him to appear at the Police Office to-morrow for breach of agreement. One of these Maories, I see, signs himself Tamati Hopimaua-a name, if I mistake not, rather famous during the late operations in the Taranaki district.

"The dispute between Dr. McGauran and his " New Zealand Warriors " has been thus far settled by the bench ordering each party to give up the goods they held belonging to the other."
Courier (Brisbane, Qld.) Wednesday 20 August 1862

By October, although the show was successful in Sydney, it apparently bombed in Melbourne. (Otago Witness, 18 October 1862)

(Update, 4 June 2009: Jayne has found in the Victorian Gazettes online that T. F. McGauran passed a civil service exam in Melbourne in September 1863, for work at the Immigration Hospital, gazetted 17th September of that year. Thanks, Jayne!)

In 1874 comes the Gunner Dagwell case, apparently where a Dr. McGauran in Melbourne mis-diagnosed typhoid fever as delirium tremens. Dagwell committed suicide and was buried with full military honours. The doctors connected with the case were exonerated. (Brisbane Courier, 13 August 1874)

There's nothing further, until a death notice for one Thomas Francis McGauran, son of Thomas Francis McGauran, appearing in the Argus in 1916.
On the 18th August, 1916, at "Hazelmere” 250 Glebe Road, Glebe Point, Sydney NSW. Thomas Francis McGauran (late of Lands Dept., Melbourne), dearly loved husband of Kathleen; beloved father of Mary and Thomas, eldest son of the late Dr. T. F. McGauran assistant medical officer of Melbourne); 71 years. May his soul rest in peace.
(Argus, 21 August 1916)

Some of T. F. McGauran junior’s maps can be found today on the National Library of Australia website, like this one.

If anyone from Melbourne would like to help fill in more of the story, feel free.

(Update 23 October 2012) Stew Barr from Melbourne has pointed out a link to the database for the Public Record Office in Victoria. A probate entry is there for a surgeon, Thomas F McGauran, dying on 27 September 1875. He had resided at Bunya Bunya cottage, Acland Street in St Kilda.


  1. I'd be happy to go have a hunt but it may be a few weeks before I'm free as FB is beginning his open book exam tomorrow.

  2. Hi Jayne -- no rush or hurry. If/when you do come across more info on Dr. McGauran, that'd be great. His son obviously did well for himself over your way.