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Notable South Australians/Dr. Robert Gething

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Dr. Robert Gething

WAS born at Newport, Monmouthshire, in 1826, and received his early education at the local Grammar School; transferred to King's College, London, and became a medical student. Obtained the diploma of the Royal College of Surgeons and of the Apothecaries' Hall, and subsequently gained the Doctor of Medicine degree of the University of Edinburgh, at the early age of 23. His exceedingly youthful appearance prevented his commencing the practice of his profession at once, and his health not being good decided him on travelling. After visiting Western Australia, China, India, and Java, and returning to England, he resolved to visit South Australia, and arrived here in February, 1854. About this time one of the medical men at Port Adelaide died, and this afforded an early opportunity for Dr. Gething to commence practice. He was appointed Health Officer in succession to Dr. Duncan in 1878. How much he was appreciated will be best shown by a quotation from the obituary notice in the press on his decease, in October, 1883:—"A dark shadow has fallen upon Port Adelaide in the death of one of its foremost and most valued citizens, Dr. Gething. The blow is one that is keenly felt in many a South Australian home where the name of the true-hearted, genial doctor had become a household word. His removal from amongst us cannot alone be regarded as a painful domestic bereavement, or even a local misfortune; it is a great national loss. Placed by his eminent attainments in the first ranks of his profession, Dr. Gething devoted his talents to alleviating the sufferings of others, and in his efforts to minister to them entertained no thoughts of self. Summer and winter, day and night, sunshine or rain, he was ever the same, ready to obey the call of duty, to which he made himself the absolute slave. His energy was enormous and his labour herculean, which it seemed as though nothing in the form of work could daunt or subdue. Alas! though the noble spirit was thus willing, the flesh could not withstand the severe strain upon it, and the universal mourning to-day, as the mortal remains of the indefatigable toiler are borne beyond the reach of toil, is the sacrifice at which society has received services which it has been the lot of few to render. There are few of whom it would be more difficult to write an obituary record than Dr. Gething. His kindly face, his frank, impulsive, but hearty, genial manner, his generous disposition are so familiar to all Portonians that they need no mention. Of some we may charitably say, 'De mortuis nil nisi bonum'but in the present case we need plead for no such charity from man. To err is human, for none are perfect; but his failings were such as still more endeared him to those around him. His epitaph is written in the tears of those who knew him, and in the gloom in which more than a whole town has been plunged. He has gone from amongst us. No more shall his kindly face and cheery manner carry comfort to hearts sick with sorrow and suffering, and infuse sunshine into the gloom of the chamber of sickness; no more shall the poor find him ready to minister to their ailments with his skill, and aid them freely with his purse; no more shall we have the benefit of his valued counsel,—a deep grief has fallen upon us; yet the dark cloud is illumined with a silver lining. In sorrow for our loss we may desire consolation by contemplating the noble life so bravely lived, and by the knowledge that amongst all sorts and conditions of men not one will be ready to breathe one unkind word, or cherish aught but loving thoughts of Robert Gething. In his charitable acts the doctor was always assisted by his wife, and by those whom they helped the two were regarded as one kind assistant. Hundreds of pounds have been raised and subscribed by his wife and himself in special cases, and it was only necessary for the charitably-disposed to find that Dr. Gething favoured any object to insure its success. Except, however, in public subscriptions, his good deeds were not noised abroad and known only to those whose calling or chance brought them in contact with the poorer classes." It remains but to say that he was most anxious for the proper representation and protection of his profession in South Australia, and worked earnestly to secure a Bill for this purpose. Though called away before this end was attained, it is hoped the advance he made may be followed by others, and result favourably. A memorial amounting to a considerable sum was raised for the purpose of founding a University Scholarship, which was to take the form of a prize, to be given to the most successful student of medicine in the district of Port Adelaide, and belonging either to St. Peter's or Prince Alfred's College.