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Colquhoun, Dr Keith Gemmell (1887–1963)

Keith Colquhoun, n.d.

Keith Colquhoun, n.d.

Keith Colquhoun was born in Bendigo, the son of Dr Archibald Colquhoun, superintendent of Bendigo Hospital. He graduated from University of Melbourne in 1909 and was admitted to the MD degree in 1913. In 1914 he was assistant to Dr Legge in Swan Hill, when the European War came. He answered to the British War Office call, and saw service as a battalion medical officer in Belgium and Macedonia and also in Port Said. In 1918, when the war ended, he studied in Paris and London.

Returning to Melbourne he worked with Herman Lawrence – a doyen dermatologist of that era – and in 1920 was appointed dermatologist to the Repatriation Department, holding that post until 1960. Returned soldiers received his kind and skilled attention. He had been there with them, did not forget, and through the years, they remembered him. An experienced spot diagnostician, he was skilled in the use of radium. His peers elected him president of the section of dermatology at the Australian Medical Congress in Adelaide 1937. During the Second World War he was appointed a specialist dermatologist as a wing-commander in the Royal Australian Air Force.

Keith could move with the changing fortunes of two World Wars. Midst the bigotry that plagued Melbourne in the twenties and thirties, he was ecumenical enough to take an honorary post at St Vincent's Hospital, Melbourne, 1926-39. To students he was laconic, a relief from verbose teachers. He had a style about him. His manners, clothes, house and car (a Rover) belonged to a way of gracious living, which he knew and earned through his life. He saw Australia as an amalgam of people from many places, with many traditions, but always and forever indebted to the British way of life, the Westminster style of government, English common law and English manners. He fought for those, his favourite things.

Like his forebears from Scotland, his home was his castle. Living in South Yarra, he called his house 'Luss' after the small village of that name on the shores of Loch Lomond. That was Colquhoun country, whence descendants spread to many parts of the world. For a time he was the chief Colquhoun in Victoria, expecting, commanding and receiving the clan respect which was his due. The well known painter, Archie Colquhoun, was his cousin. Cricket and the turf were his theatre. On Sundays he took fluids only and spent time in his tree-lined garden. Beds of roses in the lawn and bearded iris blooms along his drive were an introduction to the house. Here, and on the walls of his consulting rooms in Collins Street, he displayed his collection of Australian paintings and scattered Persian rugs upon the floor.

In 1933 he married Dorothy Newton Candler. They had no children. In his last years he was stricken by a stroke. From his own address to the Medical Congress in Adelaide in 1937, referring to physicians of the past, may I quote: 'And so may we remember those physicians who strove with great purpose and succeeded in placing dermatology on the stable basis of recognition which it enjoys today'.
 

Original publication

  • Medical Journal of Australia, vol 2, 1963, pp 205-06

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Colquhoun, Dr Keith Gemmell (1887–1963)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/colquhoun-dr-keith-gemmell-18503/text30173, accessed 21 November 2017.

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