Dr Edward Drummond had undertaken his medical training in Edinburgh, and spent time in England and Italy. His entry in the 1886 Australian Medical Directory read ‘Formerly Physician Scots. Coll, Rome, Sidmouth Dispensary etc. ‘

He had recently arrived in Sydney from South Africa and was initially employed as a house surgeon at St Vincent’s Hospital.

Dr Drummond was employed at St. Vincent's Hospital.

Subsequently he moved to Croydon, becoming a general practitioner in the nearby suburb of Ashfield. In 1887 he wed Mary Gallagher, aged 31. The couple leased Esher, an elegantly appointed property in Ashfield’s Holden Street;

DRUMMOND – GALLAGHER – May 25, by special licence, at St. Patrick’s Church, Sydney, by the Rev. P. Le Rennetel, assisted by the Rev. P. Piquet, E, Drummond, M.D., M.R.C.S., Esq., of Croydon, N.S.W. to Mary, second daughter of the late Hugh Gallagher, of Stanmore. No Cards. (Sydney Morning Herald 28 May 1887)

The newlyweds had no financial worries. Dr Drummond was said to have been worth around £20,000, which included considerable property in Manly. In 1882 Mary had inherited £6,000 from her wealthy uncle, the Honorable Patrick Higgins, M.L.C. Soon after the marriage Dr. Drummond decided he would purchase Esher.

We have no description of Mary, but her husband was not the most dashing of men. He was 47 years old, just 5ft. 5in., stout, with a short neck and a long nose. He had grown a luxuriant mustache in an attempt to hide his decaying teeth. On the plus side, he dressed well and twenty thousand pounds would have been a compensation! Of course the cruel truth was that as a ‘spinster’ over 30, Mary could not be too choosy.

Mary’s money was in an account at The Commercial Bank in her own name, but in March 1888 her husband persuaded her transfer the money to his City Bank account. He said he could invest the funds at a far higher interest rate, and on that understanding she agreed.

The doctor was well respected in the community. He donated to various charities and was honorary surgeon for the Ashfield Fire Brigade. A local chemist said that he was always confident in dispensing medicines when he saw the initials E.S.D.

However, unknown to Dr. Drummond, his comfortable life was about to be turned upside down by a fellow medic.

Dr. H.A. Clowes had arrived from England towards the end of 1886 and not surprisingly the men moved in the same professional and social circles. Conversations with Edward Drummond about medical qualifications had left Clowes puzzled. He understood that co-incidences occur in life, but there was a limit, and he returned home determined to find some answers.


Dr Clowes wrote to another Dr Edward Drummond he knew, then living in Rome. His credentials appeared to be identical with the man Clowes had met in Sydney.

The response from Rome was startling. Dr Drummond said that back in 1876 he was absent in Germany and when he returned he discovered that his assistant, a man he knew as George Very Wood, had stolen his medical diplomas. He advised Edinburgh University, but when word was received that Wood had committed suicide no further action was taken.

Dr Drummond, or is it Mr Wood?

The Australian Medical Board was notified, and arrangements were made to investigate. Drummond was subsequently asked to appear before the board in Sydney, but this would never take place.


On October 11 1888 Mary’s brother Mr William Gallagher, received the following;

My dear Gallagher

When you receive this letter I shall have ceased to exist. For some time past I have contemplated suicide, and hesitated to commit same here, in order to avoid a scene. Consequently I took passage to Newcastle last night and disposed of my worthless body by going overboard. I would ask you to look after and take an interest in my wife. I leave everything here to her solely, and have left a will leaving to her everything I possess. I know you will carry out my wish as regards Mary. I would ask you when you receive this, to come out here and take possession of everything for her, and realize to best advantage to her as she may wish or dictate. The rent of the place is paid in advance to November 9 prox. There is a lease of three years to run. Should your people not care to carry out the lease I know the landlord (Friedman) will not press the matter under the circumstances. I herewith enclose an obituary notice which you may have inserted in the local papers in due course. Goodbye old man and believe me as always very sincerely yours, E. S. Drummond.

The enclosed draft obituary read;


On the same day Drummond wrote to his brother-in-law, he activated a plan of escape. He left home at 10.30am and completed his usual morning rounds. Afterwards he purchased a suitcase, then went to the bank and withdrew £6,000 in gold sovereigns. The money was all Mary’s. The fortune he claimed to have brought to the marriage was a complete fabrication. He then took a cab to the Westminster Hotel and booked a night’s accommodation. On the following day he caught the train to Melbourne and from there to Adelaide, where he boarded a ship to England.

When he failed to return home that night a worried Mary contacted her brother. It wasn’t long before the police were involved. They were shown the letter William Gallagher had received and a few inquires revealed it was simply meant to deceive, and to buy the bogus doctor some time.

In 1937 retired Police Officer Roche, who had been involved in the case, reflected on the difficult task of tracking him down.

I had an idea that somewhere, some cabman might have seen him, and I began a search to find such a man. I interviewed scores, day after day. It took me a week, but at last I found the man, the cabman, who had driven him to the Westminster Hotel. I inquired at the hotel. Dr Drummond had booked in as Mr Seaton.

When he left the next evening he had gone to Melbourne. Most criminals are fools. He actually booked on the express to Melbourne in the same name under which he had stayed at the hotel. We traced him through the railway booking office to Adelaide, where he had boarded the Steamship Hohenstaufen for England, via Colombo. Had he travelled by train by any other than the name he used at the Westminster Hotel we would have been held up in our investigations. (Truth October 31 1937)

Westminster Hotel, where Dr Drummond stayed under the name Mr Seaton.

A cable with details of the case and a description of the wanted passenger was sent to police in Columbo by the Governor of New South Wales, Lord Carrington.

When the Hohenstaufen docked, police boarded the ship and arrested the man travelling as Mr Seaton. He was in a first class cabin, with the suitcase of sovereigns under his bed.

On November 3 the Governor received the following, rather startling return cable;

Drummond arrested, but died immediately. Money secured. Await orders. It is the opinion of the police authorities here that Drummond was prepared for an emergency, and that on the police proceeding to arrest him on board the Hohenstaufen he at once took a dose of poison. (The Age November 8 1888)

So after pretending to commit suicide in 1876 and again in October 1888 the wretched fellow really did it….or so everyone thought. Newspapers were full of the dramatic finale, but some days later the truth emerged.

When a post mortem was performed in Colombo not a trace of poison could be found. It turned out that while accompanying police to deposit the gold in a bank, the so called Dr Drummond complained of illness and collapsed. He died a few minutes later from a massive heart attack.

In December Mary was issued with a decree by the Supreme Court allowing the £6,000 in Columbo to be paid to her.



For a full account of the arrest and Drummond’s death, CLICK HERE

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