A Good Kind Doctor

Dr Ebenezer Halley was only 25 years old when he arrived on the goldfields of Tuapeka. He was destined to virtually kill himself in the service of the people within the next 14 years. Dr Halley was educated in Manchester and London before emigrating to Australia in the late 1850s where he spent a year working as a locum at the Melbourne Hospital before coming to Lawrence, after gold was discovered in 1861. He was a grand nephew of Edmond Halley, the astronomer, of Halley’s Comet fame.

Photos taken in the town of Lawrence, Otago, New Zealand on Sept 21.


Dr Ebenezer Halley

Lawrence, Otago, New Zealand.
Died aged 39, on 20 November 1875.

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During Dr Halley’s time in the Lawrence area he took a leading part in the social and municipal life. Although apparently a grave and reserved man he was at heart a most good-natured individual, fond of jokes of all kinds, and immensely popular with all classes. He was well educated and a very skilled doctor and surgeon. Patients down on their luck seldom received an account for services. Money meant very little – to him, the welfare of his patients everything.

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Dr Halley often visited patients up to 80 miles distant over the roughest country one can imagine with swollen rivers to cross. Once crossing the Pomahaka River he was swept off his horse but being a strong swimmer he was able to save himself and his horse. He had to deal with all kinds of injury from fractures of the skull, broken bones, crushed limbs and of course childbirth. He was determined to build a hospital since accidents, sickness, frostbite, etc were leaving a heavy toll. At that time there was considerable blasting and tunnelling which caused injury that needed urgent treatment. That first hospital, although very basic, was in use by 1862.

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While dressing a wound at the hospital he became infected with poisoning and being in an indifferent state of health, due to extreme overwork, he died on 20 November 1875 at the age of 39. People gathered from all parts of the District to attend what was the largest funeral procession known in Lawrence at that time. No one was more generally known and few more generally liked. Dr Halley’s death fell like a chill on every family in the area. The inscription on his tombstone in the Lawrence Cemetery reads, “Erected by the numerous friends of Ebenezer Halley M.R.C.S. in affectionate remembrance of his many kind acts during a long residence in Tuapeka District”.

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All of the text about Dr Halley, and his photo, are copied from the information displayed alongside him in Lawrence, via a photograph taken by Nigel.

First two photos by Nigel/edited by Liz. Last two photos by Liz.


Text by Liz, photos by Nigel and Liz; Exploring Colour (2019)

11 thoughts on “A Good Kind Doctor

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    1. I was amazed by the photo of pedestrian bridge with a roof shown in that article! Beautiful bridge. Re the difference in beard.. yes. They may or may not have worked from that photo when painting the pole. My hubbie has a beard and it looks different all the time depending on whether he’s overdue on a barber visit or not!

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    1. The story really struck a chord with me. And especially so because there is currently a neurosurgeon in Dunedin who struggles onwards in his work, on call 24/7. Supposed to be three of them but the bosses are finding it difficult to fill the other two positions. Once when he was away, a woman died while being transported to Christchurch for neurosurgery. We’ve been told she would have died anyway but they would say that wouldn’t they? [Background story: the health authorities tried to shut down neurosurgery in Dunedin a few years back but there was a huge outcry from the public, and rightly so.]

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      1. That kind of story is familiar. Usually at a more mundane level though, babies dying, miscarriages, occasionally a mother dying, because maternity hospitals have been closed down. So sad. As if it’s possible to predict when a baby’s coming so you can get to the hospital two hour’s car drive away before labour starts, or you have a miscarriage!

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        1. Happening down here in the south right now at a place called Lumsden that used to have a Maternity Centre but in April was downgraded to a ‘maternal and child hub’ with messages to the public about how women “must plan ahead”. The debate rages on and got intensely politicised. Very sad for the local rural populace to lose their proper birthing facility and only have a support hub instead.

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            1. Apart from the mothers I feel sorry for the midwives caught up in all the turmoil. Not easy for them. I’m not sure they even get paid as much as the city midwives, perhaps that was fixed recently.. I’m hazy on the detail now.

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