Anne: Thank you everyone. Can you hear me clearly up the back? No problem? That’s great.
Okay, yes, as Christopher has said, I’ve decided to focus on one person today, and actually give a really full description and discussion about this particular person who absolutely fascinated me.
The British actor, Timothy Spall, playing an eccentric photo librarian in the British movie Shooting the Past, that screened in Australia about a decade ago, demonstrated that mining the past through portrait photographs, in order to tell the stories of ordinary people, can be astonishingly powerful and revealing.
As the film story goes, in trying to save an historic photographic collection from being broken up and sold, and to prove the value of the collection as a whole, Spall’s character, Oswald, presented the new American owner with intriguing stories put together by researching photos from all over the collection including finally, the history of the new owner’s own mother. The power of narrative through visual imagery.
The research into the backgrounds of the ten early pioneers in the historical section of Inner Worlds Exhibition, brought to light many little known but fascinating stories and unexpected connections between these men and women and their social and intellectual networks across Australia and Europe.
In a recent issue of the Gallery’s publication, Portrait, this particular one, I’ve actually written an article called Less Than Six Degrees of Separation. I mapped the unlikely links between the Hungarian anthropologist and psychoanalyst, Geza Roheim, a colleague of the psychoanalyst Clara Lazar Geroe, who appears in that section of the exhibition, and the émigré Hungarian sculptor, Andor Meszaros. He was the one that did that lovely medal of Professor Tasman Lovell. Through their shared love of competitive fencing, and this is not of the barbed wire type but rather the aristocratic sporting relic of the Austra-Hungarian empire in which the Hungarian Olympic teams excelled.
The process of trying to locate photographs of Geza Roheim, particularly during his time in Australia in 1929, proved challenging. It required the assistance of many academics, institutions in Australia, the US, Hungary and also Hungarian Embassy here. However, the result, a beginning, at least, is now a very useful archive of photographs accessible through the Lutheran Church archives in Adelaide.
Now a lot of the cross-references and unlikely linkages don’t necessarily make it into the catalogue entries. I’ve chosen one particular subject today, Dr John Springthorpe, to look at the links, his links, into the bohemian artistic scene in Melbourne, some of his family background, also his enthusiastic support for setting professional standards for many of the helping professions and his ongoing and dedicated support for better care of the mentally ill and later, shell-shock victims and repatriated soldiers. Let’s say it’s an attempt to actually flesh him out.
There’s also another reason for choosing Springthorpe. The Springthorpes have been the one family that I’ve not been able to make any contact with extent members. I’m hoping this talk might somehow trigger an association.
Like a number of the key people in the exhibition, John Springthorpe courted controversy during his career, and was not afraid to challenge orthodoxy and take on a fight in what was a fairly conservative sector. For a man of diminutive stature, Springy, as he was known, never did anything by halves. Major was his credo. There are slides coming, don’t worry.
Born in 1855 in Staffordshire, England, he immigrated with his family to Sydney, Balmain, in 1861. Educated at Fort Street Model School, he graduated as Dux of the school and was enrolled at Sydney Grammar in 1869. However, in 1872, the family moved to Melbourne, to South Yarra, and Springthorpe entered Wesley College as a Walter Powell Scholar. While at Wesley he befriended Edgar Ingliss who would also go on to study medicine at the University of Melbourne. He graduated in 1873 from Wesley as the best scholar preceding to University.
Clearly very bright and driven, Springthorpe excelled in his double degrees. He gained First Class Honours in his Bachelor of Arts in 1875 and again when he graduated with Bachelors in Medicine and Surgery in 1879.
Whilst an undergraduate, his parents and younger siblings returned to live in the UK in 1877. So only the three older brothers, Arthur, John and Frederick, remained in Australia.
Now he’s actually, in the front row, he’s the middle one with his head slightly down.
Now without family support, Springthorpe often visited the wealthy Ingliss family at their city home in Kew and their property in Gippsland. Here he would have met Edgar’s siblings, including one of his younger sisters, Annie Constance.
The Ingliss family made their wealth through managing a number of shipping routes between Melbourne and Gippsland and also overland freighting between Ballarat and the Gippsland ports.
The Ingliss’ were the first cousins of the well-connected à Beckett family. The father, William à Beckett, was the son of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria. The à Beckett women, mother and daughters, were all artistic, particularly Emma Minnie, who had private classes at Madame Pfund’s School, and in 1877, was attending the National Gallery School along with Arthur Merric Boyd, her future husband, Emanuel Phillips Fox, Rupert Bunny, Frederick McCubbin, Gia Follingsby, Tom Roberts, Charles Richardson and Bertram Mackennal. Now a lot of you will know that these are the primary Heidelberg artists.
Roberts and Richardson would regularly attend anatomy lectures at Melbourne University to attend their drawings skills. It was through the Ingliss / à Beckett family web that Springthorpe most likely met a number of these art students. He may also have encountered Roberts and Richardson the anatomy lectures. All of them were of the same generation.
The beginning of the 1880’s held great promise for these young Melburnians. All were profoundly influenced by the Melbourne Great International Exhibition of 1880. And I quote from a young writer, Henry Gyles Turner, “From that day forward, much of the narrow provincialism of the colonists vanished. The new chum, once the derided butt of the old identities, was no longer rudely stared at, and Collins Street began to take on a cosmopolitan aspect.
The vague notions of Victoria’s whereabouts and social conditions, which had hitherto prevailed on the European continent, had been replaced by knowledge and the little colony, with less than 800,000 inhabitants, had actually won some sort of standing in the regard of many leading foreign nations.”
The International Exhibition heralded in the era of marvellous Melbourne as a cosmopolitan city and for many of these younger men, kindled the desire for further study and experience overseas.
Springthorpe’s first position was a medical officer at the Beechworth Asylum until funding shortages meant that he had to leave the lunacy department.
In 1881 he moved to London where he worked in a number of hospitals and became the first Australian medical graduate to be admitted to membership of the Royal College of Physicians. On his return in 1883, he was appointed as pathologist at the Alfred Hospital, an outpatient physician at the Melbourne Hospital and in 1884 he was awarded his Degree of Doctor of Medicine from the university.
Between 1881 and ’82, the young artists Tom Roberts, Charles Richardson and Bertram Mackennal left for London and Europe. Roberts would return in 1885.
Emma Minnie Boyd, she had married Arthur in 1886, recalled in a letter to a relative, that she had advised Dr Springthorpe to wait for one of the Ingliss girls, as in marry. He and Annie obviously shared similar pursuits - he was a keen cyclist, president of the first amateur cycling body in Victoria, as well as a bushwalker.
He had two positions at the hospitals but for one so qualified and ambitious, he did not yet have the security of a four year tenure position as in-house physician at Melbourne Hospital, nor an equally important lecturer position in the medical faculty at the university.
In 1886 he asked Annie Constance Ingliss to marry him. She declined the offer and he withdrew, consoling himself that he would have to proceed with patience.
By early January 1887, Springthorpe was offered a position of lecturer in therapeutics, dietetics and hygiene at the university on a salary of £250 per annum. Emboldened, he approached Annie to marry him and she accepted. They were married on her 20th birthday, Australia Day, 26th of January and honeymooned in Geelong. Sorry about the terrible photos. It was the best I could do.
Springthorpe was 31 and they moved into a new house, Camelot, at 83 Collins Street, the genteel doctors’ end of the fashionable eastern end of the street. He had his consulting rooms on the ground floor - this is the really tall one - and living quarters above. Collins Street was the exclusive artistic hub of Melbourne City with galleries, photographic and artist studios.
The block between Swanston and Elizabeth Streets was the location for the finest drapers, milliners, tailors and music dealers. Upper Collins, from the GPO to Spring Street, included art dealers such as Freemans at No. 95, Fletchers at No. 87 and Isaac Whitehead’s Gallery and Framers at No. 78.
In 1885, Johnstone O’Shannessy’s most luxuriously furnished photographic salon opened at No. 55 Collins Street. This is Grosvenor Chambers.
And in 1888 the purpose-built artists studio complex, the first in Australia, Grosvenor Chambers, was opened at No. 9, near the corner of Spring Street.
One-third of all the members of the Victorian Artists’ Society had their studios in this section of Collins Street. Tom Roberts created the most elaborate studio in the aesthetic style, drawing on Asian influences and decor and light wicker work.
Marvellous Melbourne of the late 1880’s was also the site of the 1887 Grosvenor Gallery Inter-Colonial Exhibition and the 1888 Great Centennial Exhibition which attracted two million visitors and a significant number of them from overseas. These major events put Melbourne artists and collectors in direct contact with international artwork and design trends.
Collins Street and nearby locales were also the meeting places of many of Melbourne’s early gentlemen clubs. The very selective Melbourne Club was, and still is, on Collins Street. However, for the younger professional men with an interest in the arts, and a slightly more bohemian lean, the Yorick Club was the place. Most Yorickers were also members of the Victorian Artists’ Society and their smoke nights were usually held at Buxtons Art Suppliers and Gallery in Swanson Street.
Springthorpe was one of a small group of friendly and art-loving outsiders who joined in their merry evenings. Others included Springthorpe’s fellow Wesleyan Dux, Dr Felix Meyer, Professor Baldwin Spencer, the eccentric Professor of Music, GW Marshall-Hall - there’s a beautiful Streeton of him in the galleries - and Theodore Fink. All bright, intelligent self-made men.
Springthorpe began to build an art collection, mostly collecting the young artists of his own generation. He had commissioned Tom Roberts to paint his portrait in 1886 and his wife’s in 1887 as you can see, very sort of (12:23. Not only were the artists his friends, they were also his neighbours. He bought a number of the works from the famous 9 by 5 Exhibition, held at Buxton Galleries in August 1889, including his one by Charles Conder who had his studio in the Grosvenor Chambers, entitled Centennial Choir at Sorrento and note the verso - Bought from Charles Conder at the 9 by 5 Exhibition August 1889, JW Springthorpe.
In the first volume of his diaries, Springthorpe noted on the 24th of March 1886, and here I’m quoting from his diaries, “Tom Roberts is painting my portrait and this is his criticism.” So what follows is actually his reporting of what Roberts says to him about the portrait. “A face of which the photo would not show the real value. A most peculiar wash of colour. A lot of drawing in the face and some fine lines about the upper lip. A left ear that is perceptively bigger than the right. All together a very difficult subject.”
Springthorpe followed with his own observation of Roberts’ observation. “One, that if he had not found another way, would have made him think that he was losing his power because it was beyond him.”
Professionally, 1887 was a challenging year for Springthorpe. His stubbornness and refusal to submit to intimidation in the face of entrenched cronyism was very publicly displayed. It began with a report in The Age on 26th January 1887, his wedding day, and I quote: “At the meeting of the Melbourne Hospital Committee yesterday, Mr JS Butters gave notice of a motion dealing with a system of granting leave of absence to medical men connected with the Institution. The former arose out of an application for leave by Dr Springthorpe, who had taken his leave and made his application afterwards. He, (Springthorpe) suggested that Dr Ingliss (his brother-in-law) should act as his locum tenant but this gentleman, being a stranger to the committee, his services were declined.”
Don’t worry. The text from here will come next, tell you what you’ll see.
However, it was the novel manner in which he chose to promote himself to the governors and subscribers of the Melbourne Hospital, who every four years had to elect replacements for the inpatient physicians and surgeons that threatened to ruin him. It was a classic case of a challenge being mounted by the young Turks, including Springthorpe’s associates, Charles Ryan and George Thyme, against the old guard. That’s Springthorpe on the right-hand side, that’s Springthorpe in the background and this is Charles Ryan in the foreground. Most of you may remember that the daughter of Charles Ryan was May Casey, Lord Casey’s wife and also an artist and a great supporter of the arts.
Springthorpe issued a promotional circular to all those involved in the voting process. Certain members of the Victorian branch of the British Medical Association took exception to such promotion, and sent the offending circular to the Royal College of Physicians seeking disciplinary redress, without informing Springthorpe of either their action of the reason for it. He challenged their actions as unjust and injurious, and I quote:
“A jealous attempt to thwart his advancement by asking for the opinion of one of the most conservative bodies in England, upon one of the most democratic hospital elections in the world.”
Meetings were convened and both sides put their claims. Now this is the actual text that was below that one that you couldn’t read.
He was not cowered by the establishment’s attempts to control and exclude. He would certainly mount a strong and persuasive counter-argument, possibly verging on grandstanding, and Springy was elected as an inpatient physician, notwithstanding the action of the Medical Board that had accused him of this breach of professional etiquette.
The whole performance was repeated four years later in 1892 however once again, the Royal College of Physicians exonerated him.
In spite of the massive depression of the 1890’s, Springthorpe entered the 90’s in a strong professional position with secure income through his two posts - as a lecturer and also as a tenured in-house physician. He wrote and published papers, attended and officiated at several inter-colonial medical congresses and conferences.
In 1891 he travelled to Berlin to study and bring back the latest treatment for tuberculosis under the clinical bacteriologist, Robert Cock. Springy’s reports were widely published in the newspapers.
As his young family grew, he and a number of other art patrons supported struggling artists, either through commissions or purchases, or in providing financial assistance for them to travel, in the instance of helping the sculptor Bertram Mackennal return to England.
When John Longstaff returned to Melbourne in 1895, Springy commissioned a portrait of himself, possibly to celebrate his 40th birthday. Like the 1886 portrait by Tom Roberts, this commission is only recorded in his diaries. We do not yet know if either of these works still exist. The Longstaff did not appear in the Leonard Joel auction sale in 1934. There is a reference to a Tom Roberts portrait study in the sale list, but that’s all we have.
Now, I’ve included this image as it leads into the next part of the story. We do know that the artist, John Longstaff, knew that Dr Springthorpe owned an etching of this painting by Rossetti, and the figures and poses will become evident in the following slides.
However, his idyllic life came to an abrupt and tragic end ... his idyllic family life came to an abrupt and tragic end with the death of his wife following the birth of their fourth child, a son, Annis Guy, on Annie’s 30th birthday and their 10th wedding anniversary, Australia Day, 26th of January 1897.
With no immediate family of his own for support, the two eldest children went to live with their maternal grandparents in Gippsland and the baby, Guy, to his maiden aunt, Florence, this sister of Annie, in the Ingliss family home at Kew.
So began a four year grieving process - I’ll just go through the next one - during which he worked with John Longstaff to produce an In Memoriam book for himself, the children and the immediate family members. Designed by Longstaff, it contained poems, photographs, drawings and idealised memories of Annie and their life together and it contained a sepia photograph of Rossetti’s etching of Dante’s Dream which was the Tate image I showed earlier.
Although he had kept diaries since 1883, the pathos of his outpourings in his diaries for the next decade are a remarkable record of private masculine grief.
Following the In Memoriam book, Springthorpe worked through an extraordinary process of tangible memorialisation. The collaborative creation of what is known as the Springthorpe Memorial. In his own words, “I set about doing something. I compiled an In Memoriam and have planned a tomb that, without her name on it, will appeal to all true lovers who will see it for long to come.” He had transformed his private grief into a highly symbolic public memorial of love everlasting. This is at the Boroondara Cemetery in Kew, in Melbourne.
Unveiled on 2nd of February 1901 in the presence of the Mackennals who supervised the installation of the magnificent marble work, and just five days after the death of Queen Victoria, the memorial rapidly became a major public attraction. As the Melbourne correspondent for the Poverty Bay Herald gushed, “By far and away the finest monument ever seen in Australia. How the public does flock out by tram to see it. On Sunday afternoon there is scarcely standing room in the cemetery which is the only Melbourne cemetery with a pleasant outlook. Indeed, it has more than that. It has an expansive and lovely view of miles of park-like country towards the Heidelberg hills.”
The correspondent then goes on to make a further very interesting observation, “We haven’t got woman franchise yet in Victoria. If we had, Dr Springthorpe would be safe for any constituency in the country.”
The creative collaboration involved some of the best artists and designers of the period and the finest materials were sought.
Artist - John Longstaff, sculptor - Bertram Mackennal, architect - Harold Desbrowe-Annear, glass artist - August Fisher, bronze founder - James Marriot, garden designer - William Guilfoyl, who’s the curator at the Melbourne Botanic Gardens and later, landscape design by renowned horticulturist - Charles Loughman.
Springthorpe also engaged his friend, the classical philologist, Professor Tucker, to transcribe text from the Gospels into Greek. These appear on the inside pediments. Sculpthorpe, sorry, Springthorpe, in his choice of artists and artisans, desire to emulate the aspirations and work of the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood of painters and poets, art writers such as Ruskin, and the William Morris inspired arts and craft movement. This is glorious, I actually ... I did get the tram out and saw it and it is truly ... it is, I think one of the most important and major of Mackennal’s sculptures in Australia.
The only sour note was provided by The Bulletin. Mackennal had tried to warn his bereaved friend that so much symbolic text found on each pediment, architrave, the tomb and tower pavements, with quotes from poets such as Whitman, Browning, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, as well as the Greek transcriptions of St John’s Gospel, might be over gilding the lily. And quoting from The Bulletin, “Turning for a last look, the tremendous monument loads the emotions, insistent, almost blatant, one thinks dully of the dead woman, ten feet below, on whose brow it must press so heavily. Only its artistic beauty, only Mackennal’s consummate genius, could have saved it from descending to the level of a gorgeous advertisement.” Ouch.
Springthorpe lamented in his diary, “Poor me and great Mackennal. Yet much of it all is still mine, in all but execution and they still don’t know it.”
The monumental cost contributed to rumours. Figures ranging from £4,500 to £8,000-£10,000 had been quoted. In today’s currency, somewhere between $700,000 and $1.3M. His parents-in-law were critical of the cost and the very public display of wealth. In 1901 the Depression still gripped the city. One account claims that he had to re-mortgage his property twice and the debt took years to clear.
Springthorpe was recognised as a leading authority in the treatment of the mentally ill. He had been an expert witness in a number of insanity trials including the sensational Deeming case which had hit the international headlines. However, by August 1902 he was in the press with the lunacy department and it’s Chief Secretary firmly in his sights. The 1903 Journal of Mental Science reported, and I quote, “References frequently been made in these columns to the maladministration of the Lunacy Department of Victoria, chiefly owing to the division of authority and political interference. Recently matters have culminated in a most complicated asylum scandal,” as the newspapers term it, “and monstrous instances of political defiance of official experts.”
Dr William Beattie Smith, the Medial Superintendent of the Kew Mental Asylum, had resigned over the interference by the Chief Secretary of the Lunatic Department in inappropriately reinstating a medical officer who’d been suspended for suspected drug addiction. Springthorpe, as an official visitor, instigated his own investigation and called Dr Fishbourne as an expert witness on the management of lunatic asylums who condemned as subversive of discipline and injurious to the welfare of the institution, the reinstatement of the doctor in question.
All three doctors - Beattie Smith, Springthorpe and Fishbourne - were eventually appointed to a committee to advise the Chief Secretary and played their part in reforms to the Lunacy Act in 1903 and 1914. Significantly, the 1914 reform introduced voluntary treatment, 16 years in advance of English legislation.
As an official visitor, he was again in the press in 1907 complaining about overcrowding and the lack of proper care and treatment of patients.
Just over a decade after the death of his beloved Annie, Springthorpe decided to extend the memorial with re-landscaping of the grounds, including the creation of a rectangular pool, two seats, a sundial and commissioning two sculptures. He sought the advice of horticulturist, Charles Loughman, and engaged the young sculptor, Web Gilbert, to produce two works. One - and this is this one - a bronze casting of a brolga mother bird with her two chicks and a snake poised to strike. You can see the analogy with his wife about to be killed with her children. The other, a carved marble relief of a monk, based upon the Tibetan master in Rudyard Kipling’s Kim.
Although both works were completed in 1909, there is dispute as to whether they were ever positioned next to the reflective pool in the memorial. And I suspect events overtook this intention.
Charles Loughman, the horticulturist, was well-known to the Tuckett family, particularly Margaret Tuckett, who had in 1905 written a very popular and informative book on her splendid Victorian garden, called simply, A Year in My Garden. In 1909 the Tucketts had decided to sell the property, Omama, in rural Murrumbeena.
It’s quite possible that Springy had known Mr Tuckett, whose office was in Collins Street. Springthorpe would also have been aware of the Omama Gardens through the books, also through his friendship with Loughman and possibly through Tuckett. He was also a regular visitor in the area as he passed through Murrumbeena on his way to see his children in South Gippsland. And also, from 1907, his regular visits the Talbot Leprosy Colony, which he helped establish.
In 1909, the Omama Garden was sub-divided and Springthorpe purchased the house and garden and two adjoining blocks, totally four and a half acres. The two sculptors were relocated to the wild, contemplative section of the garden, just beyond the Torii Gates to the Japanese Garden. You can see the two Torri Gates here. And this is those two works in-situ in the wild part of the garden.
In 1909 the management of Melbourne Hospital gave Springthorpe ... 1910, I should say, the management of Melbourne Hospital gave Springthorpe the magnificent gates of the old hospital which then formed the entrance to the property which he renamed Joyous Guard, in keeping with his interest in Arthurian legend. Notice he called his first house Camelot.
In December 1909 he and his three children moved in. However, all was not blissful. His daughter Enid, now 20, shortly afterwards married an Englishman and spent the remainder of her life in England and his eldest son, Lance, bucking under the ambitions that his father held for him, fled and for 18 months remained unaccounted for. Springthorpe’s diaries record his devastation. In 1911, Lance wrote to his father that he was working on a property in the Darling Downs in Queensland and he did not intend to return.
His youngest son, Guy, attended the newly established Trinity College, funded in part by his uncle, Dr Edgar Ingliss, with his second cousin, Martin Boyd. Guy, of course, would go onto medical school and become a respected Melbourne psychiatrist; Martin Boyd, a writer and poet.
In 1913, Arthur and Emma Minnie Boyd purchased blocks abutting Springthorpe’s Joyous Garden for their son Merric. The property was called Open Country and a pottery kiln and studio were built.
The rural area of Murrumbeena was close to the Talbot Leprosy Colony in Clayton that Springthorpe had established in 1907 and where he remained an honorary advisor.
Epilepsy, which Merric Boyd suffered from, carried the same stigma as mental illness. Locating close to Springthorpe, who was their family physician, a cousin by marriage and a sympathetic expert in epileptic treatment, made sense to the Boyds.
During the next few years, following Merric’s marriage to artist Doris Gough, his parents and Doris’ mother both bought properties on either side of Open Country, creating a Boyd family commune. As you may know, Merric Boyd and Doris were the parents of Arthur and David, Guy, Lucy, Mary. That’s right. The Boyd family that we are all aware of.
In 1914, Springthorpe published his two-volumed Therapeutics, Dietetics and Hygiene, an Australian textbook, which became a bible of medical training for many years. It also contained a chapter on psychotherapy.
Now I picked this, because I remember when Christopher showed me this beautiful glarche that he’d gotten from the War Memorial of Springy, and just be chance, when I was doing a quick Google, I found this fantastic image which ... you can sort of see the linkages between the two and it generally shows actually how small he was, too.
When was was declared, Springthorpe joined up at the age of 59 as a Lieutenant Colonel, becoming a Senior Physician at No. 2 Australian General Hospital in Egypt. In his first published report to the Medical Journal of Australia from the warfront in 1916, Springthorpe noted the problem that shell-shock and neurasthenic cases continued to present.
And I’m quoting, “When you consider the hell of fire which they have endured, you can imagine the state of their nerves. Some could not speak, see nor hear for a month or more. Some had tremors of the whole body. Officers, whose courage could not be doubted, were unable to speak. I satisfied myself that men of 19 and 20 cannot stand physical and mental strain such as they were called upon to stand. I saw boys, not much over 17, and it is doubtful they will ever be the same again, owing to the shock and strain.”
It was probably this article that the army reprimanded him for. He was told not to write anymore articles. He had already caused consternation with his claims of serious mismanagement by the Red Cross and the commanding medical officers at the hospitals because of the lack of supply of comforts to injured soldiers. These had been extensively reported in the papers back home. He’s a bit of a media-tart, I think.
However, it was an open secret that owing to Springy’s persistence, and against the wishes of the British Headquarters staff, the death penalty for alleged cowardice on duty, often shell-shock victims, was never inflicted on Australian soldiers.
The British court-martialled 3,000 soldiers for cowardice, desertion and other crimes. Of this number, 346 were executed. A considerable number of these soldiers had been suffering from war-induced mental illness and had therefore been unjustly sentenced.
While on brief leave in Melbourne in 1916, he became engaged to Daisy Johnson, previously his consulting room nurse. They married hastily as he was called back to duty to return to Egypt.
However, once in Cairo, he found that he had lost his place and promotion and then was sent to No. 3 General Hospital in Abyssinia. His diary records his despair and anger. Virtually ignored, he was appalled at British mis-management and inefficiency and full of recriminations at being denied recognitional promotion and of being denied the opportunity to be of real service to the war effort.
To add insult to injury, in May 1917 he received a letter from the University of Melbourne, terminating his services after 30 years.
He was then ordered to the Repatriation Hospital in Dartford in Kent. Being so close to London, he was able to visit family and friends such as the Mackennals, was introduced to Ernest Rutherford and met Sir Neville Howse who invited him to prepare reports on shell-shock cases for the second inter-allied conference on the aftercare of disabled men in London, May, 1918. He began his paper to the conference with, “We entered upon this, the greatest war of all time, with a medical profession uninstructed in psychology and in most cases, unacquainted with psychopathic manifestations and their proper treatment.”
In Paris, he met Sir John Monash and was there for the Albert Armistice in November 1918.
It was Springthorpe’s articles in the Medical Journal of Australia on the pressing need for psychological assessment and treatment of shell-shock and importantly, the need for the medical establishment to recognise and provide proper psychological training for practitioners, that inspired younger serving doctors, such as Paul Dane and Roy Coupland Winn who are both in the exhibition.
In his lengthy article, War Neurosis and Civil Practice in the Medical Journal in 1919, he made the following plea, “Finally a few words on the civil treatment of disabled soldiers. Many went under strains for which they were untested and into environments for which they are unfitted, largely without any guiding or suitable line of treatment. Many are still in unsatisfactory condition, partly because their future remains still unsettled, but more, for want of recognition of their psychology and continued neglect of its requirements.”
This is he and his wife Daisy in front of the house, Joyous Guard.
On his return to Melbourne, although delighted to be back home in his garden at Joyous Guard with Daisy, his new wife and companion, his diary recalls his financial concerns. There was little private consulting work. He keenly felt his unpopularity with the establishment and he was made aware that his age was now an issue.
A short article in The Argus in early 1919 bears reading out in full. Its headed Age Moratorium, Dr Springthorpe’s Claims.
“In a letter from Dr Springthorpe to the university council which was read at its meeting yesterday afternoon, a claim was made that the war moratorium applied to age. Before going to the front, upwards of four years ago, Dr Springthorpe was lecturer at the university. For two years, though absent, he retained his lectureship. But then, having reached the age of 60, he was in, accordance with the university regulations, compulsory retired. He added in his letter that if allowed to continue to act as a lecturer he would be able to give the benefit of his experience to students. A roar of laughter greeted the reading of Springthorpe’s letters and no action was taken.”
Springy even asked his two elder children for financial help but this was not forthcoming. However, by the early 1920’s he was offered occasional lecturing and Keith Murdoch offered him a weekly column in The Herald.
He resumed his post as Visitor to Metropolitan Asylums and in 1924, at the age of 69, the university established a Faculty of Dental Science and appointed him as its inaugural Dean.
His diary also recorded visits from his neighbours, Doris and Merric Boyd, other artists and medical science friends. With age and increasing deafness, he traded sport participation for gardening. And he continued collecting art. As a Table Talk magazine article pointed out, the house was laden with treasures: Hysons, Norman Lindsays, Streeton, Conder, Roberts and including works by the Boyds - Arthur Senior and Penleigh.
In 1932, Springthorpe, at the age of 77, published a play he’d written entitled War’s Awakening. Aimed at a general audience, the play was his polemical vehicle to continue to push for greater recognition and treatment of shell-shock and respect for the sufferers. There is, however, no record of the play having been produced.
Springthorpe died in 1933 after a short illness and in 1934, much of his art collection and the house and gardens at Joyous Guard was sold. He house and great garden were demolished in 1935 to make way for suburban blocks. And with pressure for space, the trustees of the Boroondara Cemetery in Kew, reclaimed much of Springthorpe Memorials re-landscaped garden with its reflective pool. They no longer exist.
The great gates of the old Melbourne Hospital were donated to the local council and now form the entrance to Springthorpe Park which is next to the Boyd Reserve in suburban Murrumbeena.
Dr Springthorpe had, throughout his life, been a great instigator and support of all kinds of amateur clubs and professional organisations. One of the earliest members of the Wallaby Club, keen bushwalkers where he met and befriended RH Croll, President of the Amateur Cycling Club, a Yoricker in his early days and a habituate of the Melbourne network ... the bohemian network around Fazoli’s Cafe.
He was Editor of the Australasian Medical Gazette, which pre-dated the Medical Journal of Australia, helped Dr Felix Meyer set up UNA, a professional nursing journal and was, for a time, President of the Council of the Royal Victorian Trained Nurses.
He promoted the work of St John’s Ambulance Association and was active in repatriation support and month and infant welfare, and also, obviously, epilepsy, you know ... involved in quite a lot of things.
His contemporary, Felix Meyer, a fellow Dux of Wesley College, a successful medical specialist, great friend and fellow art patron observed of Springthorpe, “Throughout his career, independent thought an action and outspoken criticism were marked characteristics.” Clearly, Springy did not suffer fools. Meyer continue, “With his independent spirit went a tenacity of purpose which made him formidable for those who did not see eye-to-eye with him. Anything like an abuse or misuse of authority roused his fighting spirit. And having espoused a cause, he threw himself wholeheartedly into it. He had great humanity. The pain and suffering of others touched him and moved him to action.”
Christopher: Would anyone like to make a comment or ask a question in response to Anne’s presentation?
Female Speaker: That was wonderful. Thank you very much. I was wondering if you could give us some more information about his treatment, perhaps, of returning soldiers.
Anne: Not hugely.
Female Speaker: Did he treat returning soldiers?
Anne: Yes he did, actually. He did for all of his life, and I couldn’t tell you exactly what the treatments are. I’m not a doctor, I’m afraid. My Doctorate is probably that marvellously useless thing called Art History.
He did continue, and I know he was actually working at Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital, I think, when he returned as well. There’s another repatriation hospital in Brighton, the name totally escapes me, and I do apologise. I know Paul Dane was involved and I suspect Springthorpe might have been there as well.
Certainly, and I didn’t mention it in this talk, but actually in the bio. that I’ve written in the catalogue, he ... because he was actually Editor of The Medical Gazette, also contributed lots of papers to the Medical Journal of Australia. He was also aware of Freud’s, Havelock Ellis’ and Jung’s papers that were presented at the Australian Medical Congress in about 1911, so he’d read quite a lot of this material. So he was very familiar with a lot of these ideas. Certainly, they were employed in his chapter on psychotherapy in his textbook.
He did place a lot of value, I think, on the whole idea of the listening cure. And in fact, this is a term that comes up in a lot of their writings, that it became very important for a lot of these people that the doctors actually listened to what they were saying. I think its part of that process of allowing a number of these traumatised people to actually unburden themselves. But I truly must confess, I’m not an expert on it.
Male Speaker: (40:42)
Female Speaker: I’ll just, if you could ...
Anne: No, no, it’s ... great book. Actually, there’s a book that we came across, actually. In fact I was lent it by a friend of mine called The Dark Moment in Time. It’s interesting, there have been a number of researchers and academics writing a lot about the sort of cultural and social history, and certainly sort of psychoanalytic history of this period, and there is another book called A Dark Moment in Time which also looks at, I suppose, the sort of consequences, the huge consequences, the toll of the extent of shell-shock and how it impacted on Australian society; not just on the sufferers, but also their families and actually on society.
And what becomes evident, particularly with Springthorpe, Dane and Greg, particularly those three, is their struggle with a very, very conservative medical establishment that still very much believed in somatic physical cures and their struggle to sort of say, “Look we’re being ... this is an overwhelming thing that we’re actually dealing with and these are not physical issues we’re dealing with. We’re actually dealing with people who are deeply, mentally disturbed and have been traumatised and we have to find other kinds of solutions.”
And this is where, I think, a lot of the dream analysis as the idea of listening that came out of psychoanalysis ... I mean, a lot of their take on psychoanalysis is also very ... quite eclectic, highly selective. I don’t think Freud would necessarily approved, but in a sense they were, I suppose, putting together treatments as quickly as they ... or trying to come up with, sort of, solutions as quickly at they could do deal with these overwhelming well, epidemic, really, in one sense.
There’s probably psychoanalysts, psychologists, doctors here who’d be a lot more informed on this than I would be.
Christopher: Any other questions or comments?
Female Speaker: Did you find out information about the children? About what became of them?
Anne: Oh, look. This has been one of the most fantastic parts ... look, I get obsessed with things, and I like to really try and sort of get to the bottom and this is the one that’s alluded me. It’s really interesting.
I still, as I said, haven’t made contact with any extent members. I jokingly said to Chris at one stage that I was ambulance-chasing because there were sort of things that I became aware of. I did actually look at ancestry.com and there was an extraordinary series of exchanges but there were quite ... they were back in 2006 and the links were no long actually alive.
However, there was an extraordinary one between a Springthorpe woman in America, corresponding with a distant relative, in fact, not somebody from John Springthorpe and Guy Springthorpe’s family but from one of the other brothers, I think from Arthur Springthorpe. But for some reason, this woman, years ago had actually received a letter from Lance Springthorpe, now I think the letter was dated 1969 so we’re talking 40 years ago, where he’d obviously been contacted by another one of the extended family in America.
And the gist of it basically was, “I have, ever since I left,” I think he was 18, you know, “since 18 I have maintained no contact, at all, with my relatives and I have no intention of doing so.”
So, it’s kind of fascinating. I mean, I ... one gets the feeling ... I admire Springthorpe. I think he’s really quite something and one of the reasons I wanted to write about him because he’s a fascinating, complex character.
But also, the thing that really comes out is he’s obviously a very driven man and I’d say that ... I think also, it ... there is a tremendous sense of Greek tragedy with the death of his wife and the fact that he has no extent family. So basically, not only does he lose his wife, he loses his family. The kids go down to Gippsland and raised by their maternal grandmother. He does see them. He would go down every couple of weekends. But of course, he’s removed from that sort of contact and the baby is raised.
He would have probably had more contact with Guy, which is I think why they had much more of a relationship, because Guy was actually kept in town, in Kew, so it would have been much easier to have gone and seen him.
But it does seem that the ... that Lance, particularly, resented ... I’m reading between the lines here but I get the feeling that Lance sort of resented whatever expectations John Springthorpe might have had for him. Obviously someone who preferred to be on the land, because he’s registered ... in Springthorpe’s obituary in 1933 he’s registered as a grazier in Queensland.
I’ve not been able to track them down. I will say, the closest I’ve got, at this stage, and do forgive me, one is always sort of researching these things and I actually came across ... Guy Springthorpe, his son, had two daughters, Susan and Sonia, and Sonia Springthorpe, Sonia Hiam Springthorpe died about two and a half months ago, and just by chance I actually came across this reference and I felt ... I sort of felt, I’ll hold back for two months on this because I think it’s highly inappropriate ...
But I did actually write a letter. I rang up the funeral parlour and sort of said, “If I wrote a letter and put some information, would you forward it to the family?” And they said they would be very happy, so this is where we stand at the moment.
I would love to know, obviously from a collection point of view and from an art history point of view, I would love to know what happened to the Roberts and Longstaff portraits of Springthorpe. However, they remain a query at this stage.
Christopher: Sorry, one over here then perhaps at the front.
Anne: The lady in the middle? Yeah.
Female Speaker: Thanks. I gather you’ve read his diaries? I don’t know ...
Anne: Look, I’ve read some of his diaries. The issue was that the day I was actually ... or the period I could actually get down there, they ... the State Library, my luck, was actually closing for five days over Easter so I literally read through the first one, which was where I got that quote, that particular quote from Roberts. The others I actually just had to follow through on the notes. There’s actually a finder that’s been done so I was actually following through on that and I obviously had a detailed look at the In Memoriam book.
Female Speaker: I was just asking because I’m just thinking, listening to you about how you understand, how one understands someone like ... his capacity during the war, to understand the impact of war, and the kind of attack on the mind, the destruction of the mind and thinking in relation to that, and just trying to understand something of that history in him, particularly in relation to that, you know, the memorialisation of his wife ... There was tremendous idealisation of the Beatrice figure and so, just interested in what you might have picked up about his response to that death and loss and profound grief, presumably, whether that’s felt, articulated and whether you felt there was any connection between that and his developing interest in the mind and what is lost through the experience of war. That kind of intense experience that he’s reacting to.
Anne: Look, it’s interesting. I think he ... my sense is very much that he always was interested in mental illness. I think from the very early start there was something that was there. Certainly, and I notice Pat Jalland, and she knows a lot more about this than me, but certainly I would say that the depth of grieving and the way in which he worked through that process of his wife, and I think also of the loss of his children in that respect too, gave him a quite extraordinary empathy, and, you know, certainly it formed a lot, I think, of what he did and who he was after that.
It is interesting ... I did actually have a look through some of the diaries from the war period and they are written in the tiniest, the most minute pencil and certainly around the edges ... I actually could not, and I’m pretty good at sort of reading some doctors’ handwriting, but that one defeated me. It’s ... and there was a lot of, from what I can actually sort of see, a lot of it was actually detailing just the day-to-day stuff that he was actually observing, plus also his own inner feelings of, I think, feeling somewhat betrayed and ostracised He didn’t mind a fight and of course that, you know, you make enemies that way as well so I think that was definitely part of that process.
But, look, I think, I do think that ... that’s why I really wanted to sort of show those images of that memorial. It is remarkable. And for someone to have spent possibly $1M, who know, but you know, even it was $700,000, for someone to have spent that amount of money on his wife’s memorial ... it is quite a remarkable achievement but it also indicates quite an extraordinary and, I think, highly articulate sense of mourning and, I suppose, coming to terms with that.
Christopher: One more question down the front here and then we’ll wrap up.
Female Speaker: Did he ever work in England?
Anne: He did, he did.
Female Speaker: And where?
Anne: It’s interesting. In fact, he was there for two years from ’81 to ’83 and that was when he was the first graduate that was allowed into the Royal College of Physicians. And he worked in a number of hospitals, I think I might have even listed them in the other biop., and also when he ... in 1917-1918, he was in Dartford, in Kent, at the Repatriation Hospital there.