The very beginning

As we enter into our 110th year,  we reflect on journey of health care in Berwick and those who were the driving force of health innovation and care. 

The hospital started in 1910 when Berwick Shire Council approved the registration of Nurse Dunphy’s Private Hospital, in Station Street (now Gloucester Avenue), Berwick. Nurse Grace Mary Dunphy established a convalescent and general nursing home called Shepton Private Hospital with Dr Percy Langmore as the Medical Attendant. The hospital then became St Leonard’s Private Hospital in 1924, Berwick Bush Nursing Hospital in 1939 before eventually becoming St John of God Berwick Hospital in Gibb street, Berwick. 

Dr Percy Langmore

Dr Percy Langmore was born in 1875 and died in 1972, arriving in Berwick in 1907. Dr Langmore was the inaugural Medical Attendant in 1910 and with Nurse Grace Dunphy, established Shepton Private Hospital.

Dr Langmore resided and practiced from his home at 26-30 ‘Doctor’s Lane’ (now known as Langmore Lane) from 1907- 1939. The doctor's surgery and residence were originally constructed c 1895-96 with 1920’s additions and a new waiting room built in 1965.

He came to Berwick as a bachelor, and in 1909 he married nurse Florence Ellson. Florence died in November 1912 when their son Leonard was only 11 months old. In 1920, he married Catherine McCallum, a friend of his first wife. Catherine took over caring for young Leonard (who later also became a very influential Berwick doctor). For such a fine man, and a doctor, it seemed unfair when Catherine developed cancer and died in 1928. He was said to have a full and valuable life, but a life filled with much sadness and loneliness. Much later, at the age of 72, he married Maybelle Haines, who shared his love of gardening and embarked on a personal program to plant trees in Berwick streets. His tree planting program took place over a period of fifty years which is still evident in the streets of the Berwick township.

Dr Langmore’s name is often recalled because in his life, he became a legend.

It was said that nothing would stop him from going to a sick person and that being paid was his last thought.

Dr Langmore was instrumental in laying the foundations for healthcare in Berwick.  He serviced a wide area, including Emerald, Gembrook and out into the Koo Wee Rup swamp, first in his horse and buggy over the rough ungravelled tracks that serviced as district roads.

He later bought a motorbike, then a motorised buggy and later a motorcar to do his rounds.

Nevertheless, he still maintained the horse and buggy for places that were difficult to traverse.

When the new Berwick Hospital was opened in 1953 it was named to honor Dr Percy Langmore. He was known to keep impeccable records and was a regular attendant at medical consultant meetings and medical lectures. Due to retire at the onset of WW2, Dr Langmore saw that he would be needed and kept on his 

service until the war ended, despite suffering greatly from arthritis. He retired at 72.

He was an example and inspiration to many. Deep Christian faith motivated his life and work. Peers said he was a very fine doctor.

Nurse Grace Dunphy

Not much is known about Nurse Grace Dunphy- the Sister who, alongside Dr Percy Langmore, signed for the original hospital registration in 1910.

Following her time at Shepton Private Hospital, c 1914, she took on a new role at ‘Kynaston’ in Caulfield which was a rest home for those who were suffering from a mental breakdown or recovering after operations or illness of any kind.

Nurse Kathleen Duigan

Nurse Kathleen Marie Duigan operated the Shepton private hospital in Berwick, working alongside Dr Percy Langmore and Nurse Florence Vines, c 1914-1920. Nurse Duigan had come from a medical family- her father had been a doctor, as was her grandfather. Kathleen Duigan's partner in the Shepton Hospital was Florence Vines. Florence and Kathleen had trained together at Ballarat. Nurse Duigan sold her household furniture in September 1920 according to an advertisement in the paper and moved from Berwick to the Malvern/Armadale region and died in September 1954, aged 69.

Nurse Florence Vines

Nurse Florence Vines operated the Shepton Private Hospital with Nurse Duigan. Florence joined the Australian Army Nursing Service at the age of 29 on June 25th,1915.
Her birth pace is listed as Geelong and she did her nursing training at the Ballarat Hospital with Kathleen Duigan.

She left Australia on July 17, 1915 on the HMAT Orsova. Sister Vines suffered from various illnesses including dysentry and attacks of rheumatic fever and returned to Australian in 1916 to convalesce, but went back on active service and left Australia again on June 12, 1917 for Salonika (now Thessaloniki) in Greece but was finally invalided back to Australia in April 1918.

Bush Nursing in Berwick by Eileen Williams
Article ‘Citizen of the Century’ - Pakenham Berwick Gazette. 11th February, 1993.  

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