Dr Henry Croker Garde was a long term resident surgeon at the Maryborough General Hospital in Queensland. Born in 1855, he was a graduate of Queen’s University, Belfast and a prize winning Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. The doctor was well travelled, having spent considerable time as a ship’s doctor before settling in Australia. In 1886 he married Miss Ada Hall.
Irascible and slightly eccentric in appearance, Garde did not suffer fools lightly. However, he was a good man in a crisis. During Maryborough’s devastating floods of 1893 he risked his own life by saving a fellow resident, and was awarded a medal for bravery by the Royal Humane Society. In private life he was an astute judge and breeder of horses, and a pioneering motorist.
Between 1902 and 1904 Dr Garde was a member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly. Aged 60, he enlisted in WWI, serving on hospital ships at Gallipoli. According to his service record he was difficult to work with, but no doubt injured soldiers benefited from his surgical expertise. He returned to Maryborough and the hospital in 1916, medically discharged after contracting an infection following vaccination.
In 1930 Dr Garde made some sensational accusations against the hospital. The tabloid Truth newspaper was in its element;
In that bleak cemetery, where dead reputations are buried, there is another grave dug. Whether this grave shall house the shattered character of Dr. Garde, of Maryborough, or whether there shall be consigned to its clammy depths the once high reputation enjoyed by certain Maryborough surgeons and medicos, is a matter that the Government of this State must determine in the immediate future.
Allegedly banned and boycotted by fellow practitioners because he outraged the ethics of the medical profession by airing a grievance -real or fancied- through the public press, this eminent surgeon has set up against the Maryborough surgeons and medicos an array of startling charges which amount, in two instances, almost to indictments for manslaughter.
According to Dr. Garde, certain Maryborough doctors have frequently blundered and butchered patients, and, through incompetence, negligence and criminal carelessness – or all three – sent two persons mercifully to their graves, and others, less fortunate, to hobble out onto the streets, permanent cripples and permanent sufferers.
Here are some specific cases. Dear me, they do sound hard to believe;
Dr Garde passed away two years later aged 77. He was buried with his daughter Eileen, who had died as a young child. The names of his wife and surviving children do not appear on the headstone. Ada Garde died in 1945, but lies in a separate grave. Sadly, it seems there was a family estrangement.
NOTE – The charges of malpractice and negligence were emphatically denied by the Hospital Board. Dr Garde was ostracised by his outraged fellow doctors.
In a letter to the editor of the Maryborough Chronicle dated November 29 1930 he wrote:
Sir, re the finding of the Hospital Board that “All the charges are without foundation or truth”, I desire to say that the board could not have had time to make inquiries into all the charges; and I claim that all the charges are true and those made by me are only a few of the charges I can make and prove. I want a public enquiry, and not a one-sided, hole-and-corner one. I am, yours etc., H.C. Garde
No public enquiry was held, as the doctor refused to name individual doctors, nurses and patients.
His bitterness was expressed in an eccentric will. On the printed form he added some startling legacies in his own, sprawling handwriting. The Sun newspaper reported on the document as follows;
Spectacular in life, the doctor was just as spectacular in death. The will contains a most unusual bequest.
‘I give and bequeath to Dr…….the sum of two shillings for him to buy a rope and hope he may use it as it ought to be.‘
‘To the medical men who boycotted me without any reason, to Drs……. I leave my curse and hope any or either of them, will never have anything but ill-health and bad luck, they helped to kill my friend, Dr…….., the only gentleman of the lot, and have done their best to do the same to me.’
There were small bequests to his surviving children, but his widow Ada was not mentioned.
What a strange, tragic end to the life of a remarkable man. Rest in Peace Dr Garde.