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Dr Taylor Downie takes over as doctor

April 26, 2019

Scotsman Dr Taylor Downie (1861-1939) became visiting doctor to the Rushall Park village in 1888. He replaced Dr Valentine Browne, the Association’s first honorary medical officer.

He had professional rooms in Collins Street as well as a practice in Queen’s Parade, Clifton which he established in 1887.

Little is known about Dr Downie and his relationship with Old Colonists’ Association other than from the Minute Books. In these we learn that his relationship with residents and Council was not always smooth sailing. For instance, in the May 1935 Minute Book, a resident complained that Dr Downie had failed to visit her since her return to her cottage after a prolonged stay in hospital. “These little homes are a paradise when you are well and able to look after yourself, but God help you when you are ill.”

On the other hand, when Downie made several suggestions to improve the general health of residents, he was rebutted. One notable example of this was in early 1914, when he recommended that a cooking range be installed in Sumner Hospital so all patients had one hot meal a day. The Council rejected the idea as ‘impracticable.” Later in the year, he revisited the idea, saying to Council that he would contact a caterer in Clifton Hill to provide a hot meal a day. Despite an offer a year later from Mrs Treasure of Clifton to supply five or more gallons of soup at 21s 2d a pint each day, no resident took the offer up.  The experiment was abandoned.

Dr Downie was Medical Officer at Rushall Park during the 1919 world influenza epidemic.

Upon his retirement in 1935, he was replaced by his son, Dr Ewen Downie  M.D., F.R.C.P., Physician to the Alfred Hospital, Melbourne.

Outside the Old Colonists’, Dr Downie married Miss Katie Smith, of Murphy Street, South Yarra, and there were two children, Janet Katherine Maude and Ewen Thomas Taylor.

He held an honorary position at the Royal Women’s Hospital from 1896 through to 1910.  According to “The Book of Remembrance”,The Royal Women’s Hospital, Melbourne, 1956.[1] He was appointed Honorary Consulting Physician after 15 years as Honorary Midwifery Surgeon. Noteworthy was his design of a modification of the obstetric forceps (The Medical Annual 1908. P. 641), the characteristic of which was a handle placed at right angles to the shanks to provide easier traction.

Dr. Downie died on September 24th, 1939.

[1]Book of Remembrance, 1956 – 1975; Royal Women’s Hospital Archives, page 41


Volunteering is important to Deb, enabling her to contribute in the aged care sector. “I love it when the residents get downright cheeky. I love it when we get a bit too loud with laughing."

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