James Stewart

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Samuel Thomas Gill, The Invalid Digger, c1852, watercolour and gum arabic on paper.
Art Gallery of Ballarat, gift of Mr. Tony Hamilton and Miss. S.E. Hamilton, 1967.


Dr James Stewart was from Northern Ireland.[1] He arrived on the Victorian goldfields a young man of 22 in 1853. [2]

In partnership with Dr James Sutherland Dr James Stewart set up on of two early private hospitals in 1854 – a 12 bed tent hospital which was situated on the corner of Wills and Humffray streets, Bakery Hill. This hospital, and another at Red Hill, served sick and injured miners until the Ballarat Miners Hospital was opened in 1856. According to the Ballarat Star newspaper of 12 July 1856, he applied for the position of Honorary Surgeon to the Ballarat Hospital. He was a qualified medical practitioner who had arrived in Ballarat around 1852. He held the appointments of Government vaccinator and surgeon in charge of Her Majesty’s Troops stationed at Ballarat. [3]

Goldfields Involvement, 1854

Stewart performed the post mortem on James Scobie in 1854. He was witness number eleven in the Board of Enquiry into James Scobie’s death and gave evidence at the enquiry into the burning of James Bentley’s Eureka Hotel. He witnessed the burning of licences of Bakery Hill. He also attended Peter Lalor at Fr Patrick Smyth’s house after the Eureka battle, and amputated Lalor's arm. [4]

Dr Stewart was a witness examined during the report of the Board appointed to enquire into circumstances connected with the riot at Ballarat, and the burning of James Bentley's Eureka Hotel. [5]

A James Stewart signed the 1853 Bendigo Goldfields Petition.

St Paul's Ballarat, University of Ballarat Historical Collection.

Post 1854 Experiences

In 1855 Dr Stewart was involved with St Paul’s Ballarat. He listed himself as a physician and surgeon when he signed the Benden Sherritt Hassell Compensation Case Petition in 1855. He also signed a petition of householders of Ballaarat requesting the establishment of a Municipality in 1855. He was a member of the first Ballarat Council in 1856, and was elected as Honorary Surgeon to the Ballarat Hospital on 16 July 1856. Dr Stewart was Chairman of the Ballarat West Municipality in 1858 and 1859. He was also a trustee of the Ballaarat Mechanics’ Institute, and Director of both the Gas Company and the Bank of Victoria.

Dr Stewart returned to London in 1869, practising medicine there. He died in England in 1906, leaving large bequests to several Ballarat institutions.[6]


THE LATE DR. JAMES STEWART. A PICTURESQUE CAREER. The death of Dr. James Stewart, late of Bal larat, with the splendid bequests made by him to the University and hospital in Melbourne and charitable institutions in the city of Ballarat, lately announced by cablegram, calls to memory the early gold-digging days of Ballarat. The late Dr. Stewart was a North of Ireland man, and, like many other young fellows at that time, left home at the early age of five and twenty to seek his fortune on the gold fields of Victoria. He worked as a miner on the fields of Ballarat during the rush, but not for long. It soon came to the knowledge of the miners that young Jim Stewart was a medico, and they commenced to consult him with reference to their ailments. Young Stewart found that there was more important work at hand than handling the shovel or rocking a cradle, so he commenced the practice of his profession in earnest. His large round white tent, which the erected on the gold-field for the purpose of a surgery, will still be remembered, no doubt, by some of the old miners who worked on the field at that time. Dr. Stewart afterwards became the leading medical man in Ballarat, and up to 1866 followed his profession, when owing to ill health he disposed of his practice and returned to the old country. At the meeting of the miners at Bakery Hill, when the obnoxious mining Licenses were burnt, which led to the Eureka Stockade riots in 1854, Dr. Stewart was appointed by the miners as a sort of referee. Dr. Stewart has related the story of how Peter Lalor, the leader of the riots, and who after wards became speaker of the Legislative As sembly of Victoria, lost his arm. The doctor was called by his excited man servant the night after the riots and informed that there were two men outside who demanded at once to see him. Hastily coming out he found two miners supporting a third, whom by the aid of the lan tern he recognized as Lalor, the leader of the riots. Making a hasty examination the doctor realized that the case was urgent, as Lalor's arm was shattered by a musket ball. There and then, so to speak, in a coach-house and by the light of a lantern, the arm was amputated. At that time a reward of £500 was being offer ed by the Government for the apprehension of Peter Lalor. How Lalor and his brother miners were tried and acquitted is a matter of ancient history. The fee received by the doctor for the above surgical operation was £1000, which was enclosed in a packet and forwarded to the doc tor anonymously. The death of Dr. Stewart has removed one, if not the last, of those identified with the early history of Ballarat. We are favoured with the above particulars by Mr. H. Fynmore, of this city, who is a nephew of the late Dr. Stewart.[7]

The death is announced of Dr. James Stewart, of Ballarat. The estate here is worth fully £200,000 sterling.
The deceased gentleman, in his will, made many bequests to charitable, educational, and religious institutions in Melbourne and Ballarat.
[Wiring last night, our Ballarat correspondent reported:— A telegram received to-night announced the death in London of Dr. James Stewart, a pioneer medical man, of Ballarat, who attended the late Mr. Peter Lalor after the Eureka Stockade affair. He was one of seven members of the first municipal council here, elected in 1856, and was second Mayor of the municipality, occupying the chair from 1858 to 1859. He was one of the first three medical officers of the Ballarat Hospital, opened in 1856, and prior to that he conducted a tent hospital at Ballarat East. Dr. Stewart returned to England many years ago. He held much property. In the early days of Ballarat he was a most active worker for the city's advancement. Of the seven members of the first municipal council of Ballarat, only Messrs James Oddie and William Tulloch, both residents here, now survive. [8]

LONDON, June 13.
The death is announced of Dr. James Stewart, of Ballarat. The estate of Dr. Stewart in England is fully £200,000. Many bequests are made to charitable, educational, and religious institutions in Melbourne and Ballarat.
Dr. Stewart arrived on the goldfields a young man of 22 In 1853, and his tent hospital at Black Hill is well remembered by the old pioneers. He was lucky in mining investments, particularly in the New North Clunes Company, from which he drew £40,000 after he settled in London. He was chairman of Ballarat Municipality in 1858-59.[9]

In The News

By W.L.
Old Ballaratians scattered all over the Commonwealth, and, indeed, over the English-speaking world, are turning their eyes and their thoughts back to Ballarat. To them has come the call for a home reunion during Easter week. A general committee, with several sub-committees, is making extensive arrangements for a grand reunion extending from Tuesday, April 3, over Monday, April 10, and it is expected that many hundreds will avail themselves of the opportunity of revisiting the scenes of their early life.
Of the people who have left Ballarat during the last 30 years, there are estimated to he about 11,000 abroad. The figure is arrived at by taking the population in that period, the excels of the birth rate over the mortality rate, and the average death rate among those who left the place. Whilst Ballarat people are to be found all over the world, the vast majority of those who have left the city are settled somewhere in the metropolitan area of Victoria. From them the call home is meeting with a splendid response. Intimations have also been received of dwellers far distant returning home for Easter-week. Unfortunately, many brave young men who a few months ago thrilled at the sound of the name of their native city will not even hear the call home. They lie in their eternal sleep in Gallipolian Valleys or on French farms in the vicinity of the Somme. In the midst of its rejoicing, Ballarat will not forget its noble dead, nor its proud sons who are still fighting Freedom's battle.
Drawn generally from England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, the men of the early Ballarat days were of a resolute and progressive type. Very few of them went to the goldfields intending to remain there, but the freedom of their environment accorded with their disposition, and they settled down to fashion the bushcountry around them into the beautiful city that Ballarat now is. The late Mr. Duncan Gillies was typical of the first residents of Ballarat. Digger at first, he became a member of the Legislative Assembly for Ballarat West in 1860, but lost his seat in 1868, when he first accepted office as Minister for Lands in the Sladen Ministry. Subsequently he was Premier of Victoria. An earlier pioneer of Ballarat, who also became a legislator, was Mr. Peter Lalor, one of the leaders of the Eureka Stockade riot against the Government authorities in 1854. Mr. J.B. Humffray and he were the first representatives of Ballarat in the old Legislative Council before the Constitution Act came into force. While representing the electorate of Grant in the Legislative Assembly Mr Lalor was elected Speaker of the House. Colonel W. C. Smith, or, as he was more familiarly known during the greater part of his Parliamentary career, "the Major," was another Ballarat man of some note who attained Ministerial rank. The late Mr. W.M.K. Vale, a former Attorney-General, was a Ballarat man of those stirring political times, while the late Sir Henry Cuthbert and the late James Campbell, M.L.C.'s. were typical Ballarat men who also became Ministers of the Crown. Turning to the municipal life of Ballarat - speaking collectively of the city and the town-the services of such men as James Oddie (the first chairman of the municipal council), Dr. James Stewart, Robert Lewis - (of Rowlands and Lewis), Daniel Brophy, John Whiteman Gray, J. Noble Wilson, Frederick M. Claxton, John Hickman, E. Morey, James McDowall, John G. McDonald, Charles C. Shoppee (city), W. B. Rodier. Dr. Clendinning, William Scott, Emanuel Steinfeld, James Russell, James Long, Theophidus Williams, and John Ferguson stand out. They were men of broad minds and high ideals. Ballarat's interests were supreme with them.
Among other men who influenced the life of Ballarat considerably in its earlier years were Mr. John Russell Thomson, whose magnificent bequest of statuary in the pavilion at the botanic gardens has attracted notice in world art centres; Mr. Thomas Stoddart, who made the first gift of statuary to the botanic gardens. Mr David Ham, a member of-the Legislative Council; Judge Rogers, Judge Trench, and Judge Gaunt, Mr. R. Walsh, Q.C., Mr. C.B. Finlayson, Q.C. (formerly Crown prosecutor), Mr. R. M. Serjeant (member of 'the Legislative, Assembly in I860), Mr., Andrew Anderson, Mr. R.T. Vale (a former member of Parliament for Ballarat West, who died recently), Mr. E. J. Bateman, one of the founders of the Ballarat "Star".
Public men of note who are still living include Mr Agar Wynne (who attained Ministerial- rank in both Stale and Commonwealth), Mr. J. Y. McDonald (who within the last few weeks resigned from the Legislative Council), Mr. T. D. Wanliss (formerly n member of the Legislative Council, and now a resident of Scotland), Mr. W. M. Achesoon, Mr. A.M. Greenfield, and Mr. J.M. Bickett.
Among the old Ballaratians residing in various parts of the Commonwealth are men prominent in legislation, law, art, science, and business. Legislators are found in the Minister for Customs (Mr. Jensen), the Victorian Minister for Agriculture (Mr. Hagelthorn), Mr. Membrey (honorary State Minister), Mr. McWhae, M.L.C., and Mr. Menzies, M.L.A. The Chief Justice of Tasmania (Mr. Justice Nicholls), Judge Eagleson, and Judge Wasley are old Ballarat boys, as is Sir Bernard O'Dowd, poet and assistant, State Parliamentary draughtsman. Mr. H. E. Starke, the well known barrister, though born at Creswick, spent his boyhood in Ballarat. The Commonwealth Under Treasurer (Mr. J. R. Collins) is a native of Ballarat. Medical men among old Ballarat boys include Dr. Orr, of Collins street: Dr. T. E. Wills, of Malvern; Dr. H. E. Letcher, of Adelaide; Dr. G. F. Sleeman, of Creswick; Dr. J. H. Sleeman, of Portland; Dr. Gawne of Jeparit; Dr Fred Middleton, of the Ross Sea Antarctic Relief Expedition; and Drs. F. und H. V.- Bennett, of Prahran. Mr. A. A. Buley, formerly principal of Grenville College, where Mr. Justice Nicholls, Judge Eagleson, and Judge Wasley received their secondary education, is now on the staff of the Melbourne High School. Mr.D. Avery, of the Working Men's College-staff; Chief Inspector Fussell, Inspectors T. E. and J. J. Bothroyd and Mr. W. F. Gates (assistant chief inspector), of the Education department; and Mr. A.A. Peverill, chief clerk of the Lands department, are, old Ballarat boys, as well us the mayor of Prahran (Councillor Austin Embling), the Rev. S. Hoban, of the Central Methodist Mission, Sydney, and the Rev. M. Daly, Colac. Mr. William Davidson, formerly inspector - general of public works in Victoria, received his initial instruction in Surveying while a resident oí Ballarat, and the State income tax commissioner (Mr. R. M. Weldon) is a native of the city. Mr. J. F. Kirby, 'of Coleraine, who won the Melbourne Cup with The Parisian in 1911, was captain of the Ballarat Football Club in the seventies. Both Mr. Will Dyson, the artist, and Mr. E. Dyson claim Ballarat as their birthplace. Mr. Watkin Wynne, general manager of the "Daily Telegraph" newspaper in Sydney, in an old Ballaratian. He won the swimming championship of Ballarat in 1876, and the championship of Geelong by defeating Stedmun, on the Barwon River. Mr. Mcphan Ferguson, head of the Engineering firm which bears his name, was in business in Ballarat before he came to Melbourne. Ballarat men are conspicuous among members of the Stock Exchange of Melbourne. They include Messrs. W. J. Roberts (chairman). John McWhae. John S. Reid, Wallace Smith, John Rippon, A. E. and B. Millard, A. H. Tonkin, F. W. Holst, and J. Buchanan. Among other old Ballaratians may he mentioned Messrs- Alfred, Walter, and Frederick Sutton, of Suttons Proprietary Limited; Frederick and Maurice Cohen, of S. Cohen and Sons, hardware merchants; John Bailey, conductor of the Melbourne Choral Society: John West, secretary of the National Union; Hugh V. McKay, of the Sunshine Harvester Works; J.W. Kirton, formerly a member of the Legislative Assembly, and now secretary of the Master Bakers Association; Ex-Inspector Beckmann, of Warrnambool; Messrs. Hans Irvine, formerly member for Grampians in the House of Representatives; S. E. Figgis, secretary of the Colonial Gas Company, and a noted bowler in the Ballarat Cricket Club 33 years ago; Lieut. Colonel Wanniss, who had charge of a battalion in the First Australian Expeditionary Force; Captain D.J. Ham, who served through the Boer war; Major Jackson; and Messrs. J. IH. Dill and D. Murray, legal managers: E. Cocking. J. L. Anderson; James Scobie, the well-known trainer; Mr. H. Niven, (F.W. Niven and and Co.), and Mr. E. A. Bennett (Superintendent of the Homeopathic Hospital).
Miss Mary Gaunt, the novelist; the Lady Mayoress of Melbourne (Lady Hennessy). Ladv Irvine (wife of Sir William Irvine, K.C.). Mr. J.R. Trantham Fryer (Miss Bechervaise), and Mrs. J.J. Kingsbury (wife of a former Queensland Minister of the Crown, and now a Crown prosecutor) may also be mentioned as old Ballaratians. [10]

See also

Timothy Doyle

Benden Hassell

Peter Lalor

James Scobie


Further Reading

Corfield, J.,Wickham, D., & Gervasoni, C. The Eureka Encyclopaedia, Ballarat Heritage Services, 2004.


  1. Goulburn Evening Penny Post, 04 August 1906.
  2. Sydney Morning Herald, 14 June 1906.
  3. Wickham, D., Gervasoni, C. & Phillipson, W., Eureka Research Directory, Ballarat Heritage Services, 1999.
  4. Wickham, D., Gervasoni, C. & Phillipson, W., Eureka Research Directory, Ballarat Heritage Services, 1999.
  5. Report of the Board appointed to Enquire into Circumstances Connected with the Late Disturbance at Ballarat, John Ferres, Government Printer, Melbourne, 21 November 1854.
  6. Wickham, D., Gervasoni, C. & Phillipson, W., Eureka Research Directory, Ballarat Heritage Services, 1999.
  7. Goulburn Evening Penny Post, 04 August 1906.
  8. Bendigo Advertiser 14 June 1906.
  9. Sydney Morning Herald, 14 June 1906.
  10. The Argus, 3 March 1917

External links

Thesis by Nicola Cousen https://researchonline.federation.edu.au/vital/access/manager/Repository/vital:12694;jsessionid=B49F6CB9F90853440C285AD8872BD94F?site_name=Default+Site