Dr Frank Arthur Sweetnam

Frank Arthur Sweetnam

Frank was born on the 25 August 1859 at Schull Shanagarry Count Cork Ireland. His parents were Stephen and Maria Jermyn (Long) Sweetnam. Frank was the youngest son in the family. He followed in the family tradition and became a Doctor.

Frank’s brother William Francis who was also a doctor lived in Mortlake Victoria from the late 1870’s. Perhaps it was him who persuaded Frank to come to Australia and practice as a doctor. Frank arrived in Australia in January 1890 aboard the “Lusitania”. He took no time in registering as a medical practitioner which he did on the 7th February 1890. His qualifications were: L et L Mid. RCP et RCS Edin 1887 LRFPS Glasgow 1887.

Frank must have travelled to Penshurst and setup his practice rather quickly as it was only 24 days later that he got a call to attend the tragic rail accident where seven Navvies were killed. It must have been quite a shock for him.

The Argus (Melbourne), Monday 3rd March 1890

Railway Accident Near Penshurst..

A Contractors Engine and Truck Upset

Seven Navvies Killed On the Spot. Nine Others Injured. Penshurst Sunday.

At about 7 o'clock last evening an engine that was driving before it a truck belonging to Mr Neil McNeil, the contractor for the Penshurst and Koroit line of railway, came into collision with a bullock. The train was proceeding from Penshurst to Hawkesdale, and it is said, at a great rate, and was two miles from the former place. The truck was overturned, and the engine was thrown on to the track and off the line. The truck was filled with chaff, and there were about 30 railway navvies on it seven of the men were instantly killed, one poor fellow's head being severed from his body, and another being cut in two. The names of the men were, William Waters, James Stanley or Donnelly, John Dillon, James O’Brien, John Dunphy, Patrick McGee, and John O'Donnell They are all supposed to be single men. The following were also injured - Patrick Burns, Patrick Enwright, Stephen Daly, John Lewis, John Killeen, Frank Nevin, William Burns, James Moran, and David Page. The three first named were seriously injured, and were removed to the Hamilton Hospital in a special train today. The remainder are only slightly hurt, and will remain at Penshurst under local treatment. The engine was in charge of driver James Edward Simpson, the engine and driver being temporarily engaged by the contractor from the Railway department. Two of the deceased bear very slight external marks of injury, and the medical opinion is that they were possibly suffocated by the chaff.

On receipt of the intelligence Mr George, the manager for Mr. McNeil, had Dr. Sweetnam, of Penshurst, quickly in attendance, and took all suitable measures for the removal of the living and dead to Tilley's Hotel. Drs. Bennett and Robinson, of Hamilton, together with Dr Woodforde, of Penshurst, were summoned with all possible speed, and gave every attention to the injured men. The local police Constables, Hall and Miller, were also quickly on the spot, and rendered material assistance in preserving order and removing the bodies. Constables Lithgow and Hood were summoned from Hamilton, and they are busily engaged in collecting evidence for the inquiry, which is to be held at 9 o’clock tomorrow by Mr Bell, P M.


It was only 12 months after his arrival that he married Lillian Emily Macleay Innes

The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW), Saturday 21st February 1891

Sweetnam – Innes - January 10 at Penshurst, Victoria by the Rev. J. Wagg B A of Mortlake, Frank A Sweetnam L R C P et s Ed youngest son of the late Stephen Sweetnam M R C S Co Cork Ireland to Lillian Emily Macleay elder daughter of the late Ven. Archdeacon Innes of Hamilton Victoria and granddaughter of Mr J Hack, Manly.

Lillian Emily Macleay Innes was born on the 24th February 1872, Ballarat East, her parents were Gustavus Archibald Innes and Emily Cornelia Hack. Frank and Lillian had two children:

Nora Vivienne Sweetnam who was born at Penshurst on the 12th December 1891. She died on the 6th April 1892 aged 4 months and is buried at Boram Boram (Penshurst) cemetery.

Reginald Innes Sweetnam who was born at Penshurst on the 10th December 1894.

Dr Sweetnam attended many accident scenes to give medical attention over the years, this one was in April 1908.

The Argus (Melbourne), Wednesday 1 April 1908

Playing with Powder. PENSHURST, Tuesday.-While sitting in his bedroom last evening a youth named John Walter applied a lighted match to a quantity of blasting, powder. He was badly burnt about the face. His mother, who entered the room at his request to see how the powder would burn, was knocked down by the force of the explosion, and received severe injuries to the face and hands. Her spectacles saved her eyes. Dr. Sweetnam attended the sufferers.

This one was in July 1908.

Portland Guardian (Vic), Wednesday 8 July 1908,

Gun Fatality - A fatal accident happened at Penshurst on Saturday, the victim being Joseph Patterson, a well known grazier. Early in the afternoon deceased informed his wife that he was going shooting hares in a paddock near the house. Mrs Patterson spent the afternoon at a neighbour's, and on returning home was horrified to find the dead body of her husband near a fence close to the house. A double-barrelled gun was lying near the body, the left barrel having been discharged. The right trigger was at full cock. The charge had entered Patterson right side, and it is surmised that death was instantaneous. The accident appears to have been caused through the hammers getting caught in the wires of the fence. Dr Sweetnam expressed the opinion that death happened an hour previous to the body being found. Deceased, who was about 58 years of age, leaves a widow.

And this one in 1914.

Port Fairy Gazette (Vic), Thursday 17 December 1914.


William Shannon, who resides at Hurnhuth (sic), was badly gored by a bull on Saturday evening last. Dr. Sweetnam attended to the sufferer, who was removed to the Hamilton hospital. Mr. Shannon is about thirty five years of age.


Frank joined the army as a Doctor during WW1. The locals wanted to show their appreciation before he went by giving this valedictory farewell.

Hamilton Spectator (Vic), Wednesday 11 August 1915

Valedictory at Penshurst.

Presentation to Dr F A Sweetnam.

(From Our Own Correspondent.)

Penshurst, Tuesday.

About a hundred ladies and gentleman assembled at the Shire hall yesterday afternoon to say au revoir to Dr. F. A. Sweetnam, whose services have been accepted by the Defence department, and to present him with a small token to show the esteem in which he is held by the people of Penshurst and district. The gathering was a very representative one, and was presided over by Mr. D. Greig. Apologies were received from the Rev. T. Murphy, Messrs. Joseph Howard, James Howard, W. B. Richie, and A. Olle.

After a dainty afternoon tea had been partaken of, the chairman said it gave him pleasure to see such a large and representative gathering present to do honour to Dr. Sweetnam and his wife, and to testify to the esteem in which both were held.

He deeply regretted Dr. Sweetnam's departure from Penshurst, where he had laboured and given his best professional services for the space of over twenty years. It would be fairly acknowledged by all that he had discharged his gracious work of healing in a very conscientious manner. He (the chairman) was one of those who believed in giving honour where honour was due, and he did not believe in waiting until a man had passed away to express an opinion of his work.

While regretting Dr. Sweetnam's departure, they all rejoiced at the patriotic motives that had influenced him in responding to the call of the Empire as a medical man. Dr. Sweetnam already had a son in Egypt and he was bravely doing his duty in one of the hospitals there. It was their hope that the doctor and his son would be united in the same hospital. (Applause)

The Rev. R. A. Giles testified to the great esteem in which Dr. Sweetnam was held throughout the district. In the church the speaker represented, the doctor had attained the highest position, that of the people's vestryman, that it was possible for a lay-man to occupy. He had always found Dr. Sweetnam a thorough gentleman, and he felt that great as was the sacrifice the doctor was making, Mrs. Sweetnam was making an even greater one in letting both her son and her husband go to the front. He also testified to the splendid assistance he had received from Dr. and Mrs. Sweetnam in his clerical duties. Mrs. Sweetnam's work in connection with the Red Cross Society was a source of gratification to all, and it would never be forgotten. (Applause)

Mr. D. Walls, on behalf of the shire officials, referred to the excellent relations and friendly feeling that had always existed between Dr. Sweetnam and the municipal staff. He also paid a high tribute of esteem to Mr. Rex Sweetnam. Messrs. W. Rose, A. R. Ross, Rev. Parry, Crs. W. A. Kelly, and G. J. Chesswas also eulogised the guest, and referred to the unfailing courtesy extended to all by the doctor. It was their unanimous wish that he would safely return at the end of the period for which he had volunteered and settle down amongst them.

Mr. R. Aitken, in a few humorous remarks said he could testify to the popularity of Dr. Sweetnam as far as a medical man, whose duty it was to fill people up with medicine, could be popular. (Laughter) He expressed a high opinion of Dr. Sweetnam and his wife. (Applause)

Amid great applause the chairman asked Dr. Sweetnam to step forward. In a few well chosen words he presented the guest with a handsome gold wristlet watch and a small but tangible token of the esteem and respect in which he was held by all classes of the community. He trusted that when the doctor was far away from them performing the gracious duties of his office that it would help to remind him of the many sincere friends he had left behind him in the Penshurst district.

He trusted Dr. Sweetnam would be long spared to wear it, and assured him that they wished him from the bottom of their hearts. "God-speed and safe return to our own land." (Applause)

At this stage all joined in singing "For he's a jolly good fellow."

In responding Dr. Sweetnam, who was visibly moved, said he would be a heartless individual if he did not appreciate the many kind things which had been spoken of him and his wife that day. He thanked them sincerely for their great kindness to him, and would never forget them.

He also thanked them for their gift, which he prized most highly. It would never part from him and would be an heirloom in his family. (Applause)

Mr. Stephens moved a hearty vote of thanks to the ladies for the excellent afternoon tea provided, and which all thoroughly enjoyed. The motion was seconded by Mr. W. W. Rose and carried by acclamation. A vote of thanks, also carried by acclamation, was tendered to the chairman, and the singing of the National Anthem and three hearty cheers for the Empire brought a very successful function to a close.

The residents of Tabor and Croxton East held this presentation in October 1915

Hamilton Spectator (Vic), Saturday 30 October 1915

Presentation to Dr Sweetnam.

As mark of appreciation of his patriotism in relinquishing his practice in order to serve his country the residents of Tabor and Croxton East have presented Dr. Sweetnam, of Penshurst with a handsome suitcase and a “Relium” pocket outfit of surgical instruments. It. was hoped that, the doctor might pay a short farewell visit to Penshurst before leaving for Egypt, and that, a formal presentation might then take place. However, as he was unable to do so the presents were sent on to him at Melbourne. Dr. Sweetnam has acknowledged receipt of them in most appreciative terms, stating at the same time that he expected to be leaving Australia this week.


Military Service: Dr Frank Sweetnam applied for a commission in the Australian Army Medical Corp on the 17th August 1915. His date of appointment as Captain was Gazetted on the 19th February 1916 and he was appointed to the Medical Transport Unit as a doctor. His attestation papers showed that he had spent 6 months service at an AIF camp prior to enlistment, however it does not mention where.


HMAS Ulysses

He left Australia on the 1st March 1916 aboard the HMAT Ulysses as medical officer.

Shown left: The A38 ULYSSES was 14,499 gross tons. Passenger/cargo steamship (refrigerated) as built by Workman Clark, Belfast for the China Mutual SN Co, London, a Subsidiary owned by Alfred Holt (Blue Funnel Line) 1913. Twin Screw, triple expansion engine making 13.5 knots. Leased by the Commonwealth until 15th August 1917.

Note: the photo was taken on the day Frank left Australia.

Frank returned to Australia from Suez on the 22nd July 1916 aboard the HMAT Port of Sydney.

His appointment with the Army was terminated on the 23rd July 1916. There was no reason given for his termination.

The Penshurst Free Press recorded his homecoming.

Penshurst Free Press (Vic), Saturday 23 September 1916.

Doctor Welcomed

Dr. F. A. Sweetnam was welcomed home by a good number of town people at the Shire Hall on Wednesday, on his return from medical services with the Australian Forces. Cr. A. Olle occupied the chair, and the speakers were Messrs. D. Greig, J. G. Chesswas, D. Walls, G. W. Windsor, W. H.Mitchell, and the Rev. J. Murphy.

For the rest of war Dr Sweetnam supported many enlistment campaigns at Penshurst and in the last years he supported many repatriation initiatives.

He finally retired and left Penshurst in 1928.

Penshurst Free Press 16th May 1928. Valedictory. Dr. F. A. and Mrs Sweetnam were the guests at a farewell social in the Mechanics Hall last Wednesday. For 38 years they have both been highly esteemed residents of Penshurst and the whole district deeply regrets the severance of a deeply-rooted bond of affection. During that lengthy period the doctor has upheld the best traditions of the medical profession, his services being cheerily given at all hours of the day and night, and in all kinds of weather. Poor and rich alike were meted the same service and kindly attention and it is, therefore, no wonder that he carries with him the affection of hundreds and the esteem of every man, woman and child for many miles round. A very large and representative gathering was present at the hall on Wednesday night to honour the departing guests, and many were unable to secure seating accommodation. The decorations had been tastefully arranged by Mrs. Chesswas and assistants. Mr J. E. Grice presided in place of Mr. D. Greig, who was absent on holidays. Apologies for absence were received from Dr. and Mrs. Rex Sweetnam, Cr. W. A. Kelly, Mr. R. Linke, Mr. E. R. Twomey, Mrs Jack Twomey, Cr W.A. and Mrs Huf, Cr. R. and Mrs. Woodburn, Mr. W. Waller and Mr. G. W. Windsor, as well as telegrams from Mrs. S. Hudgson, Miss Greig, Mr. and Mrs. R. Aitken, and Mr. and Mrs. D. Greig. The guests of the evening were welcomed by the chairman and Mrs. Grice, and escorted to their seats to the accompaniment of "For they are jolly good fellows," which was heartily sung by the large gathering. An excellent musical programme was rendered, as follows: --Orchestral item, "Unus Dua," by Pastor Lutze, Misses Elva Lutze, Olga Nagorcka, Frieda Zeunert, Elsie and Ella Rentsch and Mr. Edwin Rentsch; solo, "Will Ye No Come Back Again," Mrs. Briggs; duet, "Absent," Pastor Lutze and Miss Nagorcka; solo, "Rosebuds," Mrs. R. A. Barker (en¬core, "The Fairy Pipers"); solo, "Salaam," Miss M. Carr (encore, "Dawn"): orchestral item, "Sleepy Seas"; solo, "The Birds Go North Again," Miss M. Carr; solo, "Love's a Merchant," Mrs. R. A. Barker."

During an interval in the musical programme, the following address, accompanied by a substantial cheque, was presented to Dr. Sweetnam by Mr J. G. Chesswas:—Dr. and Mrs F. A. Sweetnam,—On the eve of your departure from Penshurst it is the desire of the residents of the town and district that you accept the accompanying cheque as a token of the esteem in which you both were held during your many years residence in Penshurst. This token of esteem is accompanied by every wish which sincerity can dictate. It is hope of all that you both will long be blessed with happiness, prosperity and health in your new location. On behalf of the residents of Penshurst and district, J. E. Grice, chairman."

Dr. and Mrs Sweetnam have been actively associated with the majority of movements in the town, and the following speakers eulogistically referred to their work, at the same time expressing deep regret at their departure and extending good wishes for their future:—Rev. Bodley (Church of England), Cr. H. N. Beggs (on behalf of the Mount Rouse Shire Council, in the absence of the president, Cr. W. A Kelly), Mr. W. J. Archbold (Boxing Day Race Club), Mr. J, J. Collins (M.U.I.O.O.F.), Mr. J. G. Chesswas (I.O.R.), Mr. I. Gunn (A.N.A.), Mr. M. O'Leary (H.A.C.B.S.), Rev. Father Manning (District Nursing Association), Mr. C. Dean (Penshurst Football Club), Mr. H. C. Williams (Penshurst Golf Club), Miss Chesswas (A.W.N.L.), Mr. Broadbent (Methodist Church), Pastor Lutze (Lutheran Church), Mr. A. B. Ritchie and Cr. j. H. Murray.

Dr. Sweetnam, in responding on behalf of Mrs. Sweetnam and himself thanked the speakers for their many kind remarks and their valuable gift. He also stressed the value of the District Nursing Association and expressed the hope that it would prosper. In conclusion, Dr. Sweetnam thanked all who had made the evening such a great success.

At the conclusion supper, which had been provided by the ladies, was handed round. The secretarial duties were ably carried out by Mr. H. C Williams.

In the 1937 Electoral Roll, Frank Arthur Sweetnam, MD, his wife Lillian and their son Reginald Innes Sweetnam MD were registered at 412 Toorak Road, Toorak.

Frank and Lilian celebrated their Golden Wedding anniversary in 1941.

The Argus (Melbourne), Monday 20th January 1941

Doctors Golden Wedding.

The golden wedding will be celebrated to-day of Dr. and Mrs. F. A. Sweetnam, of Ringwood, who were married at Penshurst by Rev. J. Wagg. Dr Sweetnam is the seventh son of the late Dr. Stephen Sweetnam and Mrs. Sweetnam of Air Hill, Schull, Co Cork, Ireland . His six brothers were also doctors, four serving in the Royal Navy, and one in the Indian Medical Service. Dr. Sweetnam served with the AIF in the last war. Mrs. Sweetnam was Miss Lilian Emily Macleay Innes daughter of the late Ven. Archdeacon Innes of Hamilton, and of Mrs. J. O. Maxwell, of Penshurst.

Lilian Emily Macleay Sweetnam died on the 2nd July at Toorak, she was 70 years old.

The Argus (Melbourne), Saturday 4th July 1942

Sweetnam -On July 2nd at 53 Grange Road Toorak, Lilian Emily Macleay beloved wife of Frank Sweetnam (Privately cremated).

Dr. Frank Arthur Sweetnam died on the 9th March 1946 aged 86 years. He was the last in the line of the Irish born Sweetnam Doctors. Some of the next generation however carried on the tradition.

The Argus (Melbourne) Tuesday 12 March 1946

Sweetnam-On March 9 at Melbourne Dr. Frank Arthur Sweetnam late of Penshurst beloved husband of the late Lilian Sweetnam and loving father of Rex aged 86 years (Privately Cremated).

Franks probate notice lists three of his previous addresses.

The Argus (Melbourne), Thursday 4th April 1946

FRANK ARTHUR SWEETNAM, Formerly of 53 Grange Road, Toorak, and 43 Warrandyte Road, Ringwood, But Late of 22 Church Street, Toorak. Medical Practitioner, Deceased.- After 14 clear days THE EQUITY TRUSTEES, EXECUTORS, AND AGENCY COMPANY LIMITED, of 472 Bourke street, Melbourne, and Reginald Innes Sweetnam, of 412 Toorak road. Toorak, medical practitioner, the executors appointed by deceased's will, dated 27th August, 1942, will APPLY to the Supreme Court for a grant of PROBATE of the said WILL.

PLANTE and HENTY. 395 Collins Street, Melbourne, solicitors for the applicants.

by Ron & Val Heffernan, Mount Rouse & District Historical Society Inc.

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