This article was first published in the Community Newsletter No. 19, October 1994.
Local History by Chester Draper, Local History Correspondent, Whittlesea.
One of the most serious difficulties of our early settlers was getting a doctor when someone was very badly injured. Ordinary sickness, including childbirth, was usually attended to by housewives or neighbours, among whom were often found very skilful people. Home remedies were freely used. However, among the earliest settlers at Yan Yean was Dr. William Ronald who was born in Scotland in 1808 and came to Launceston in 1841. He and his wife settled on the banks of the Plenty between Yan Yean and Whittlesea on 1st March, 1842. They may have been in a group who overlanded from Sydney, taking three months on the journey.
Dr. and Mrs. Ronald built their house above the Plenty River near where Mr. Kelvin Thomas has his business. Dr. Ronald was continuously engaged in the practice of his profession until his death in 1882.
When the Reservoir was built Dr. Ronald sought an assurance that the riparian rights of those on the river would be protected. He obtained that assurance. (Riparian rights means that their supply of water cannot be taken from them). We read in a previous article about Mr. R.G. McClelland being taken to Dr. Ronald from Arthurs Creek when Mr. McClelland was terribly burned, and his wife and five children were burned to death in a bush fire. Dr. Ronald and his neighbours lost all their belongings in the same fire. Also, it is recorded in the inquest depositions that someone rode a horse to Yan Yean for Dr. Ronald when Henry Hurst was shot and killed by Bushranger Burke.
Again, when four Bushrangers – John Williams, Daniel Jepp, Charles Ellis and Martin Hogarty visited Yan Yean, Dr. Ronald was among those held up and robbed. (A posse was raised in Melbourne; one bushranger was shot dead, the others were captured and later hanged.)
The site for the Yan Yean Cemetery was donated by Dr. Ronald. He and his wife were buried there. My mother informed me that Mrs. Eliza Ronald taught her at Sunday School at Ronald’s house which was called “Williamsbrook”.* Dr. and Mrs. Ronald’s old home was later the home of their nephew, W. R. Mirrielees.
Another doctor of a bit later period was Dr. Dick who lived on top of the hill, South of the Doreen Store. Doctors Gully Road got its name from Dr. Dick.
* The author’s mother was Blanche Draper (nee Hurrey, 1880 – 1968)