Friday, December 15, 2017

A Christmas Gift from a Reader

A lovely letter has just turned up in my post box, almost like a Christmas gift, from a reader named Laurie Gallop who knew Nigel Boulton.

Naturally I had to ring him straight away to say thank you. Laurie's nephew recently bought him a copy of Brothers in Arms: The Great War Letters of Captain Nigel Boulton, R.A.M.C. & Lieut Stephen Boulton, A.I.F., having heard Laurie reminisce so fondly about his old family doctor, 'Dr Boulton'. Laurie thinks many more old patients of Dr Boulton's at Ryde would love to read this book, if only they knew of its existence.
Dr Nigel Boulton
Although he is 85 years old, Laurie also enclosed with his letter his own drawing of the Old Bank House at Ryde, copied from a picture in the paper. He says this building, on the corner of Church St & Victoria Rd, housed the Bank of New South Wales until 1914 and included a hitching rail for horse-drawn vehicles. Dr Boulton purchased the building in 1922 and practised there until after the Second World War. He then moved to a new home and practice in Blaxland Rd, opposite the tram terminus.
Old Bank Building, Ryde, drawn by Laurie Gallop, 2017
Laurie drew this picture especially for me, as a gift to keep. At this time of year, it's a Christmas gift. Drawing is his hobby, he says, as his health status means he doesn't get out much. He was never an artist himself but his father made his living teaching art at the East Sydney Technical College, a.k.a. the National Art School at Darlinghurst. Coincidentally, this means that my mother Julia Woodhouse was an art student of Laurie's father, around 1940.

On the phone Laurie described Dr Boulton as quiet and gentlemanly, but not without humour, and very well-trained as a doctor. Here's Laurie's letter:

Dear Louise 

I must congratulate you on your fine book BROTHERS IN ARMS. It has meant a lot to me, as it has filled a void in the life of Dr Nigel Boulton. 

Dr Boulton and Nurse Lane were present at my birth on the xxxxxx 1931. The now faded Birth Certificate has one error. The Register Clerk mispelt Dr Boulton's name as Dr Boutton. O well! 

I have some very close memories of Dr Boulton and I must say they are part of my regular reminiscent moments in life. I kept in touch with Dr Boulton up until his death, spanning over 35 years. He was a fine and capable surgeon, especially as a setter of broken bones. His concern for the welfare of his patients was legendary. 

I have always wondered about the family life of Dr Boulton in particular. BROTHERS IN ARMS says it all. It is so interesting to read those beautiful letters between their mother and her two heroic sons. Without BROTHERS IN ARMS many people like myself would never have known very much about the Boultons and what a loss that would have been. 

My parents were married in 1920 and they set up home in Meadow Crescent, Meadowbank, and there they raised five children. We were all born at home except my sister Clare who was born at Wollongong. Dr Boulton was no doubt assisted by nurse Black or nurse Lane on the other occasions. 

The whole family were treated by Dr Boulton at one time or another. He got me through pneumonia with the trusty sulphur drugs, along with home care from my good mother. This was during the Second World War. He also removed a Half Penny from my stomach, without surgery in 1934. I was playing with coins laying down on the floor. I threw them up without care, at age three. Down the Half Penny went. Dr Boulton arrived at Ryde Hospital in no time, and I remember this event as if it was only yesterday. [On the phone to me, Laurie said he remembered choking and foaming at the mouth, a white sheet being placed over his head, and an overnight stay in hospital, so he assumes he was chlorofomed and the coin was extracted from his throat with a long instrument of some kind.]

Dr Boulton took over some of Dr Gordon Smith's patients at his retirement, about 1935. I can remember the old Bank House about this time. Dr Boulton had some of his wartime souvenirs on the picture ledges in the waiting room. He later moved to nearby Blaxland Rd opposite the tram terminus. It was a two story brick building and he remained there for the rest of his life. 

Dr Boulton loved his aeroplane. He was reported flying it, "Barnstorming" the railway bridge and going under it one Sunday afternoon, to the thrill of the picnic crowds in the park. This was some time in the 1930s. [Note - This story came to Laurie from his parents. My research shows that Nigel obtained his licence to fly a Gypsy Moth from the Royal Aero Club of NSW in 1928 and he flew a B.J. Monoplane on the Sydney to Melbourne leg of the East-West Air Race to Perth in 1929. His brother-in-law Cleon Dennis knew the Kingsford-Smith family.]
Gypsy Moth Plane, picture from
I worked and lived in Ryde for 55 years, and I remember the good Doctor doing his rounds in his 1946 Ford MERCURY. It was a big powerful car and it suited his tall lean stature.
1946 Ford Mercury, picture from
BROTHERS IN ARMS has given us a wonderful insight into the Boulton family. It has added a rich chapter into the history of Ryde and its people. 
Cheerio for now 

NOTE: The book Brothers in Arms: The Great War Letters of Captain Nigel Boulton, R.A.M.C. & Lieut Stephen Boulton, A.I.F. recently rated very highly among all the books read by members of the Athenaeum Book Club in Melbourne during 2017. Hearing of that verdict was like another Christmas gift to me. The book's available in Australia via BookPOD and internationally via the online sources such as Amazon and Book Depository which are mentioned on my website. I hope everyone reading this post will enjoy some equally unexpected pleasures this Christmas and that the year to come, 2018, will be loving, healthy, safe and happy for you.

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