Trentham to celebrate remarkable Dr Gwen

COMMUNITY: Kit Manning, Ethel Patton, Gwen Justice, Sharon Radau and Rod Justice at the Dr Gweneth Wisewould Memorial in High Street, Trentham. Photo: Dylan Burns
COMMUNITY: Kit Manning, Ethel Patton, Gwen Justice, Sharon Radau and Rod Justice at the Dr Gweneth Wisewould Memorial in High Street, Trentham. Photo: Dylan Burns

When doctor Gweneth Wisewould arrived in town on September 28, 1938, at 54 years of age, the people of Trentham weren’t aware of the treasure they had received. 

Wisewould hailed from Brighton in Melbourne, where she was privately tutored before undertaking her studies at the University of Melbourne. 

She was a resident at the Melbourne and Alfred Hospitals before working as a senior resident at the Queen’s Memorial Infectious Diseases Hospital, and then working in private practice in St Kilda and Elstenwick.

Wisewould went on to practice as a surgeon at the Queen Victoria Memorial Hospital for Women and Children and at the Alfred Hospital. 

Wisewould has been remembered by Trentham residents, many whom were young children when she was practising, as an unconventional doctor who did not conform to expectations. 

A female physician who wore slacks, drove a vehicle, was followed by three little dogs and had an interest in painting and theatre, she was a breath of fresh air in the country town. 

She is remembered as being personally frugal but exceedingly generous to others, going above and beyond for her patients, including those who lived on rural farms.

Many of her patients were animals, so not only was she the town’s doctor, talented surgeon and midwife who birthed many who continue to live in Trentham today, but she was also the town vet.

Her generosity often extended to omitting to charge for her services. 

After the death of her lifelong friend in 1953, Wisewould lived alone. Isabella Bell (Ellabelle), had accompanied Wisewould to Trentham, but had required nursing for advanced rheumatoid arthritis.

Wisewould died in 1972, aged 87 years. She became ill at a meeting at the Bush Nursing Hospital, where she performed what appeared to many to be medical miracles.

She practised as the district’s doctor until the day she died. 

Although it has been 80 years since Wisewould arrived in Trentham, she continues to be fondly referred to as the quirky yet admired physician who served the district for 34 years.

Trentham Police Officer, Leading Senior Constable Sharon Radau is the primary organiser of an exhibition celebrating the life of Dr Gwen at Trentham Mechanics Institute.

The exhibition, along with guest speakers, will run from 10am until noon on September 28 and will feature photographs, rare film footage and various writings. 

An ongoing display dedicated to Dr Gwen will be housed at Trentham Neighbourhood Centre throughout October.