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Doig, Keith McKeddie (1891–1949)

by Arthur E. Brown and Archie S. Anderson

Keith Doig, n.d.

Keith Doig, n.d.

photo supplied by Jonathan Brown

We are indebted to Dr. Arthur E. Brown for the following appreciation of the late Dr. Keith McKeddie Doig.

Keith McKeddie Doig, of Colac, Victoria, died at Lorne on January 3, 1949, three months after the onset of severe illness while he was at work. He was born fifty-seven years ago at Nathalia, where his father was a school master. He entered Geelong College on a scholarship and left his mark on the college life, both in athletics and in work, becoming dux of the school the year he left to pass into Ormond College of the University of Melbourne. Here again he left the impress of his personality, both in scholarship and athletics, and he took a leading place in the organized social life of the college. He remained an enthusiastic member of the old students' associations of both school and college for the rest of his life. After a brilliant medical course he qualified in 1914. In 1915 he entered the Australian Army Medical Corps, his major war service being as medical officer to the 60th Battalion, in which he formed many lasting friendships; later he was posted to Number 1 Australian General Hospital at Rouen, where he shortly became registrar and continued his genius for making lasting friendships. His health suffered badly under the strain of his battalion life, but he returned and took up general practice in Colac in partnership with me in March, 1920. About the same time he married Miss Lewis Maffra Grant. His married life, as well as his professional life, was extremely happy. He had four children, two of whom, Dr. R. K. Doig and Dr. W. G. Doig, followed him in his profession. Professionally he made himself greatly loved by the people among whom he worked, and on the day of his funeral the streets were lined by men, women and children, of whom all had had some cause to be grateful for his life among them. His interest lay on the medical side of his work, and he became a Member of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians in 1942. 

Keith Doig was one of those medical men whose impact on his fellows has always been strong and lasting. Wherever one went one met men who remembered him, whether from boyhood days at Nathalia, school days at Geelong College, university days at Ormond College, or those days of the first World War when he made himself so much loved by his colleagues of the 60th Battalion. I have found, when travelling in any State in Australia, from Queensland to Western Australia, that I would be certain to meet somewhere men of his own age who would eagerly claim acquaintance with him and speak of their memories of him with appreciation and affection. Even one afternoon when I was in the theatre at the Middlesex Hospital in London some ten years ago, an entirely unknown man, hearing Victoria mentioned in conversation, asked me did I know Keith Doig, and proceeded to speak of him in the same manner. And it is an experience that few of us can claim that, ever since the war days, both his personal batman and his medical sergeant kept up with him an uninterrupted Christmas exchange of letters, while the former travelled a long distance to attend his funeral. 

Such a man must inevitably find the responsibilities of practice weigh on him by reason of the closeness of his human contacts. It may illustrate what his work meant to him when I relate that, on one occasion not so very long ago, it was semi-officially suggested to him that, if he would only concentrate entirely on his medical work, he would be welcomed as a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, of his membership of which he was very proud. His comment to me when we discussed it was: "Of course I should love to be a Fellow, but how could I turn down my mids.?" Such men die early, as he did. The human coronary blood supply has its limits, and it can only sustain a certain amount of concentrated responsibilty. But one such man who dies untimely is better for the world than many of us others who cannot achieve his high standards, and so live longer. 

Dr. Archie S. Anderson writes: From time to time in our profession, as in other walks of life, there occur individuals of such strength of character and warm humanity that our highest ideals are, for them, but the ordinary rules of everyday conduct. During their lifetime we less vertebrate ones find refuge in the shelter of their companionship. After death their memory steels our courage 'when the "descensus Averno" becomes perilously "facilis". They are the Mr. Standfasts of our Pilgrim way, and it is they that we must seek to emulate if we are to save our souls alive even in the Slough of Nationalization. They are to be found, not only among the specialists and acknowledged leaders of the profession," but, probably in greater numbers among the great body of general practitioners. Arthur Wilson and  John Green are examples of the former, Keith Doig of the latter. 

It is hard to realize that "Keddie" Doig is dead. To those of us privileged to be his fellow students in Ormond College, his name must ever recall virility, energy and leadership. On the oval he was the dynamic and inspiration of the many teams he led with such conspicuous success. In the classroom and ward his keenness and common sense were a constant stimulus to his fellows. In the social and community life of the college his was the controlling mind, shaping college policy and encouraging others to accept and support his own wholesome standards of life. He was the leader, always the leader. Never before have I met, never again do I expect to meet, one so born to lead. But "Keddie" was no "stern, strong, silent man". To see him, one of a group round a study fire, resting on his shoulder-blades, his feet on the mantelpiece, industriously blowing smoke-rings at the ceiling, was to experience something of his simple-hearted good-fellowship, the sharing of which was the rich treasure of his friends. And, in later years, to meet him in his home amidst his family was to see "Keddie" at his most lovable best. It is hard to think of him as dead. It is wrong to do so, for, even for those who cannot accept the Christian hope, "the whole earth is the tomb of brave men and their story is not graven only on stone over their clay, but abides everywhere, without visible symbol, woven into the stuff of other men's lives", and the spirit of "Keddie" still lives: in the lives of his team mates, for whom he will ever be the beloved captain; in the minds of his colleagues, for whom he clothed their highest ideals in the rich humanity of his example; and in the hearts of his friends, for whom he will always be an imperishable memory. This is the rich heritage he leaves to his family, and this it is which will sustain them even in their deep sorrow.

Original publication

  • Medical Journal of Australia, 9 March 1950

Additional Resources

Citation details

Arthur E. Brown and Archie S. Anderson, 'Doig, Keith McKeddie (1891–1949)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/doig-keith-mckeddie-15951/text27183, accessed 18 October 2019.

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