Saturday, October 12, 2019

All in a day's work ... "Doctor, you are murdering me!" (Excursions into the Petty Sessions Part 3)

Another “medical man” with the first name of Charles, lived in the same town of Maldon and appears in the Victorian Petty Sessions registers. He was born around 1829 in possibly Ireland, qualified as a doctor in Glasgow in 1851 and must have travelled to Australia some time after that.

Apart from being the Complainant in some instances of unpaid debts to himself, Charles Henry Hardy also presided over sessions in his capacity as a Justice of the Peace. These included a campaign against local parents who had failed to have their children vaccinated against smallpox. 

Here is an extract from the Petty Sessions of 24th October 1862 in which Charles H. Hardy is the Complainant against two Defendants, John Williams and James Clark, both accused of "Neglecting to bring his child to be vaccinated", and both "Dismissed with caution".

Vaccination lance kit, c. 1860s
Wellcome Collection

But long before this - and like Charles Webster a few years later - see Excursions into the Petty Sessions Blog 1 and Blog 2 - in 1858 Charles Hardy was forced to defend himself against a charge of manslaughter: in this case when a woman called Bridget Noonan died in childbirth, allegedly as a result of his neglect.

The baby also died, apparently from a fractured skull due to rough instrumental handling in the birthing process, which is truly horrific for us to imagine today. The case was reported in much detail in the local newspapers and it comes with a warning that it is a particularly graphic retelling of what women had to endure in the mid-19th Century Gold Rush era in what were often very primitive conditions.

Even if Hardy was a respected physician in the district - and with the excuse he was suffering from an illness at the time - it is still difficult to read the paragraphs in which Bridget was treated appallingly and virtually abandoned while Hardy and other doctors argued about their fees and she screamed out in pain that she was being murdered. 

Hardy said his fee was 5 guineas, or around £500 or A$1,000 today, and even more and up to £25 (about A$5,000) if he was expected to stay, according to evidence given by the husband and mother-in-law of Bridget Noonan. It is doubtful that any husband or partner of a woman giving birth in a tent on the diggings at Sandy Creek would have had this kind of money readily to hand.

Hardy never had to face trial as the Attorney-General quashed the case. One can think what one likes about this, but Bridget Noonan never stood a chance when left to the mercy of money-grubbing doctors, class distinction or prejudice against poor (Irish?) people, not to mention the accused doctor probably having friends in higher places ...

Dr. Hardy's Case. — We are authorised in stating that the Attorney-General has refused to file a bill against this gentleman in accordance with the verdict of the jury in the case of Bridget Noonan, and it will not therefore come on for trial. Official intimation of the fact reached Castlemaine yesterday, and the witnesses either have, or will have within a day or so, notice that they need not attend the next Circuit Court at Castlemaine where this trial would have taken place.Tarrangower Times.

Rather than reproducing the full gory details of the case here, please read the newspaper reports in TROVE:-

The Charge of Manslaughter against Dr. Hardy

Interestingly, this second report contains additional evidence given by family members, John Noonan and his mother, which is not included in The Argus story, about the money being demanded and the terrible condition of poor Bridget who in her agony screamed that Hardy was murdering her.

Acquittal as above

Life on the Goldfields was never dull for a medical man. There are numerous news items featuring Hardy, the years 1857-58 being particularly busy and the violent, rough and ready nature of the region and the people who lived in it at the time are much in evidence in these cases:-

Sarah Thompson stabs her husband at Mia Mia

Sarah Malloy(e) murdered by her husband, John. 

Evidence given on a suicide and domestic violence case.

Drowned in a hole at the back of the Eagle Hawk pub.

Another inquest featuring those dubious purgative powders e.g. Jalap, so beloved of doctors of that era.

All in a day's work ... another inquest in Melbourne, "The Little Bourke Street" Murder

Hardy's name continues to appear in a number of inquests and other newspaper articles.

In 1874, he put himself forward for election as Honorary Physician to the Lying-in Hospital in Melbourne and one can't help wondering what Bridget Noonan's family would have thought about that. Advertisement, 23 November 1874, The Age. It is not known if he got the job, however.


Ladies and Gentlemen, -

I beg to solicit your Vote and Interest for the appointment as Honorary Physican to the Lying-in-Hospital.
I trust that my long connection with the Rotunda Lying-in-Hospital, Dublin, under my brother, the late Dr. Hardy during his residence there, as Assistant Master, as well as my large and successful practice in this particular branch of the profession will gain me your confidence and support.
I remain, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Your obedient servant,
111 Collins-street east, Melbourne
At the Athenaeum, Collins Street, at noon.

And this describes his appearance before the Select Committee on Vaccination
Hamilton Spectator 11 February 1882

When Hardy died aged 54 in 1883, he had lived at 190 East Collins Street, Melbourne. Given his dismissive attitude towards one poor woman in distress who died as a result of his action/inaction, it may seem rather ironic that his name appears as honorary surgeon for various charities looking after the lower classes such as Committee for the Refuge for Fallen Women and the Benevolent Asylum. One wonders if he ever remembered how he had failed Bridget Noonan.

Region of East Collins Street where Charles Hardy lived,
c. 1890

Extract from the Victorian Police Gazette in June 1879, on appointment of Hardy as Public Vaccinator for Melbourne:-

Hardy's Will and Probate of his estate are available to read online through the Public Record Office of Victoria or Find My Past, and they give full details of all his belongings including his surgical instruments, furniture, carriages, horses, etc., also his debts, right down to the butcher's bill. His house was mortgaged and the results of his estate would have been modest. In his Will, he requested that there no "black crape" or "bonnet" be worn on his account. He even made the news again regarding it.

His wife was Henrietta Edwards, and he had three sons, Frederick, who died when a baby, Samuel John, and Charles Henry William Hardy, also a doctor, and who served with distinction at Gallipoli in World War I.

Son of Dr. Charles Henry Hardy,
Brigadier General Charles Henry William Hardy
copyright Australian War Memorial

Typical 19th Century Medical Chest such as used by Dr Hardy and others.
This one includes 15 purgative and emetic medicines!
Copyright Wellcome Collection

No comments:

Post a Comment