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DR. C. A. ERNEST SHEAF, SURGEON, TOOWOOMBA, HOSPITAL

The letter was sent to Dr. E. Sheaf, Roma (which was crossed out, and re-addressed to Toowoomba), Queensland, Australia. There were three stamps of Great Britain, a pair of the red ‘ONE PENNY’ and a single green ‘HALF-PENNY’ King Edward VII stamps cancelled STEBBING/ A/ OC 10/ 02. Beneath this there was an initial arrival postmark of the unframed ROMA/ A/ NO 14/ 02/ QUEENSLAND ( Figure 1).

The reverse had a total of 7 partial and complete postmarks, the most prominent was the Travelling Post OfficeT.P.O. cancel S & W. RY./ NO1 D 12 NOV 92/ QUEENSLAND (which should have read (19)02, and this largely overlaid and obscured by an unframed Type Dx(i) duplex of Cowan & Dell TOOWOOMBA with the numeral ‘214' alongside. As well there was an unframed ROMA/ A/ NO 13/ 02/ QUEENSLAND, and the other postmarks were illegible (Figure 2).

The Travelling Post Office  postmark is for the Southern & Western Railway No 1 and the 'D' denotes the down train, but the exact pattern of the present postmark does not conform to any of  the S & W. RY postmarks on p. 212 in the authorative Hugh Campbell's Queensland Postal History (1990) published by the R.P.S. of Victoria.

Dr. Sheaf’s full name was Charles Alfred Ernest Sheaf, but he was usually addressed as Ernest Sheaf. He passed his final medical examinations on May 13, 1871 and was admitted as L.R.C.P. Edinburgh (Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians) and L.R.C.S. Edinburgh (Licentiate of the Royal College of Surgeons), his home town was shown as Oswestry, Salop, Shropshire, England which borders Wales to the west. He had been a medalist in Anatomy and and physiology, and he was an assistant physician at the Royal Edinburgh Asylum for the Insane in 1873.

I am yet to find any earlier biographical details for him other than he was the only son of the late Samuel Sheath of Denleigh, at the time of Ernest’s marriage to Mary (Minnie), eldest daughter of Henry Watson, Millfield House, Newcastle-on- Tyne on April 3, year-date not found, at St. John’s, Edinburgh.

The shipping arrivals in Australia which appeared in the Brisbane Courier on the 19 November 1885 showed that Dr. Sheaf had come out to Queensland to lecture for the St. John Ambulance Association, and he came to practice his profession in Brisbane (specialty in the department of ophthalmic and aural surgery). He gave some lectures on ambulance first aid to the injured which were well attended. Avery good looking little boy submitted himself as a subject for the lectures. The earliest date I found him residing in Toowoomba, Queensland was in the Brisbane Courier on 15 June 1886 where it was recorded that ‘Dr. Ernest Sheaf M.R.C.P., F.R.C.S., etc, has been appointed to the charge of the hospital at Toowoomba, during Dr. Flood’s absence’.

He had inserted a Professional Notice in the Brisbane Courier on 27 April, 1886, which gave additional information on the next page as follows: POST OFFICE CHAMBERS QUEEN-STREET (Next door to the General Post Office). Consulting Hours: 9-11, 3-5 weekdays. SUNDAY CONSULTATIONS 2-5. Residence: Auverne, Wickham terrace, corner of Upper Edward-street. Patients suffering from Eye or Ear Affections are requested to call in the morning if possible. The body of the Professional Notice is presented as Figure 3.

The Brisbane Courier of 27 May 1892 in a long discourse with the heading ‘ THE BRISBANE HOSPITAL. THE VISITING STAFF AND THE COMMITTEE. THREE RESIGNATIONS’. A meeting of members of the medical profession was held in the chamber of the National Association of Queensland, Courier Building, last night, in response to an advertisement signed by Dr. Bancroft for the purpose of supporting a vote of confidence in Drs. Little and W.S. Byrne, whose services had been dispensed with as members of the honorary medical staff of the Brisbane General Hospital. Dr. Bancroft was voted to the chair and there were 18 further honorary medical staff in attendance. ‘Dr. E. Sheaf, of Toowoomba, telegraphed an expression of concurrence with the object of the meeting, and added that he did not understand on what principle the committee had acted’.

It was well known that Drs. Little and Byrne had been contending with the committee for the position in the hospital which the majority of those present wished – namely, the supervision and the entire responsibility for the treatment in hospital of the patients supposed to be under their care. There was 3 pages of discussion recorded in 2 columns, and I could not find a resolution of the concerns of the honorary physicians. Of interest, Dr. Sheaf was the only out of Brisbane doctor who sent a telegram of support for honorary hospital doctors.

The British Medical Journal on 3 March 1888 had an entry as follows: Dr Ernest Sheaf FRCS Edinburgh MRCP of Toowoomba has been appointed Justice of the Peace in the Colony of Queensland. In 1901, Dr. Charles Alfred Ernest Sheaf was a Municipal Health Officer, examined in Roma, having been called by the Queensland Government (presumably as an expert witness) concerning the administration of the law regulating the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquors in Queensland.

 

After almost a year of intermittent research I found Dr. Ernest Sheaf’s lectures given in 1882-84 listed at the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh Library and Archive ,which included: six on Elementary Physiology: examining the amoeba; examining blood and muscle; examining digestion; circulation and respiration; the skin; first aid to the injured; carrying the sick and injured (for males only); the tending and observing the sick (for females only); as well as copies the poems of C.A.E. Sheaf .

The only information of a personal family information found (other than his marriage detailed above) was that he had a son, Dr. Eric Walter Sheaf M.A., M. B., M.Ch. (Cantab.), Honorary Assistant Surgeon, Royal Surrey County Hospital, who died at the age of 91.

 
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