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Stawell, Sir Richard Rawdon (1864–1935)

Sir Richard Stawell, president-elect of the British Medical Association, and one of the greatest physicians in the Commonwealth, died on Thursday. A month before Sir Richard Stawell had suffered a seizure and had collapsed at a meeting of the committee of the Royal Melbourne Hospital. The funeral, which was private, was held on Thursday afternoon. A brief service at the Fawkner Crematorium was conducted by Archbishop Head In the presence or members or the family and intimate friends.

For more than 30 years Sir Richard Stawell was a distinguished member of the medical profession in Melbourne, and he had been selected to be president of the British Medical Association for 1935-36, the year in which the association will hold its annual meeting in Melbourne. A few weeks ago he gave his consent to nomination as a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, the highest honour which can be conferred upon any physician.

Born at Kew in 1864, Sir Richard Stawell was a son of the late Sir William Foster Stawell, one of the most brilliant members of the Victorian Bar last century, who became Chief Justice or Victoria. Sir Richard Stawell, was educated at Marlborough College (England) and at the Hawthorn Grammar School, Melbourne. He entered the University of Melbourne in 1880, and he obtained the degrees of doctor or medicine and bachelor or surgery. After having graduated with honours, he became a resident medical officer at the Melbourne Hospital, now the Royal Melbourne Hospital. Later he became resident medical officer at the Children's Hospital. He travelled abroad with Dr. Jeffreys Wood, and with him continued his post-graduate work on the Continent and in England and the United States, taking special Interest in the diseases of children. He obtained the diploma of public health in London.

After his return to Melbourne Sir Richard Stawell was appointed to the out-patients' staff of the Children's Hospital, and his work was of such high order that he soon became one of the leading specialists in diseases of children. In 1892 he became an honorary physician, and his excellent clinical teaching attracted a large number or students to his classes. It soon became apparent that he was a clinical teacher of conspicuous ability, and in response to many requests he sought a wider field for his teaching by joining the staff of the Melbourne Hospital first in the out-patients department and later as senior indoor honorary physician. His clinical teaching became known in the medical schools throughout the Common- wealth and it was common for visitors from other States to attend his clinics. He was regarded as being one of the best clinical teachers Melbourne had ever had and clinical teachers of to-day employ his methods as a model.

From 1919 until 1924 Sir Richard Stawell was physician to in-patients and he then became consulting physician to the Melbourne Hospital. He became a member of the committee in 1905 and was a member of the committee at the time of his death. In 1928 he was elected chairman of the committee. He did much important work during a period of many years as chairman of the house committee.

Upon the outbreak of the war Sir Richard Stawell volunteered for service with the Australian Medical Service and he accompanied one of the first contingents of Australian troops to Egypt. For about a year he was engaged in special services at Mudros where he held the rank of lieutenant-colonel. He returned to Australla toward the end of the war and he was appointed to do special work for returned soldiers at Mont Park. He was also appointed by the Repatriation Commission as a member of the medical advisory committee of the Repatriation Department, the final court of appeal in decisions concerning the award of war pensions. He gave valuable service to the Commonwealth Government, and for his work as a member of the committee he received the honour of Knight of the British Empire in 1929.

For many years Sir Richard Stawell was an active member of the council of the British Medical Association, and at one time he was president of the Victorian branch A few months ago the general council of the British Medical Association in London appointed him president-elect for the annual meeting for 1935 which will take place in September in Melbourne. In conjunction with other members of the council, Sir Richard Stawell had done most of the organising work for this meeting at which more than 300 delegates from abroad will be present. About 18 months ago his work for the medical profession was recognised by the establishment of the Sir Richard Stawell Oration. The first oration was delivered by Dr C. Bickerton Blackburn of Sydney. Sir Thomas Dunhill, of Harley street London, surgeon to His Majesty the King who was one of Sir Richard Stawell's pupils has been invited to deliver the second oration during the congress of the British Medical Association. Sir Richard Stawell was the first president of the Association of Physicians of Australia. He played an important part in the work of Trinity College, at which he was formerly a student.

A man of great charm, Sir Richard Stawell was loved by everybody with whom he came in contact. He was an excellent public speaker. He was generous, and his house was always open to distinguished visitors from overseas as well as to Australians. Apart from his practice and his hospital work he had many interests He was a director of the National Mutual Life Assurance Society and a member of many clubs, including the Melbourne Club of which he was president when the club entertained the Prince of Wales on his visit to Australia. When a student he was an excellent tennis player, and at one time he was a member of an intercolonial team. He was very fond of fly-fishing, and with the former Federal Attorney-General (Mr J. G. Latham KC) and other members of the Bench and Bar in New South Wales and Victoria, and several doctors of Melbourne he made an annual visit to the Upper Snowy River. He was a keen golfer and until his last illness he played regularly at the Royal Melbourne links.

Sir Richard Stawell practised in Spring street for many years and he was regarded as being one of the leading authorities on nervous diseases in Australia. He married in 1907 a daughter of the late Mr H. J. Connolly of Bungamero Station, near Wangaratta.

Sir Richard Stawell leaves a widow, a son—Mr John Stawell who is a fourth year medical student at Trinity College and two daughters one of whom Miss Elizabeth Stawell is engaged to a son of Sir Robert Garran and will travel to London shortly to be married. He leaves also a brother Mr William Stawell a legal practitioner in Melbourne and partner in the firm of Malleson, Stewart, Stawell and Nankivell.

The funeral was directed by A. A. Sleight Pty. Ltd.

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Citation details

'Stawell, Sir Richard Rawdon (1864–1935)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/stawell-sir-richard-rawdon-8633/text27318, accessed 24 October 2017.

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